A Day Contemplating Analytics


It has been a delightful day here today.

I have found myself thinking about and discussing analytics for much of the day.

I was fortunate to have lunch with two of my PhD students, Dr. Dennis Bryant and Dr. Ron Smith. Each Wednesday we have an unmeeting at the Mizzuna Cafe at the University of Canberra. Ron is a regular, this was Dennis’s first unmeeting with us. Chris Barnes and Mark Gawler were with us too.

Today’s unmeeting discussed Dennis’s research into students’ failing learning journeys which merged with Ron’s research about winning performance in football. The combination of failing and succeeding led to an extended conversation about pedagogy.

Earlier in the day I had posted about Performance Universals in which I was working through some ideas prompted by a paper at the #Ascilite2016 Conference that has been running in Adelaide from Sunday until this afternoon. (My notes as a remote participant following Twitter feeds for three days are here.)

My interest in the conference was twofold: I was keen to learn more about participants thoughts on educational technologies; and to follow conversations about Learning Analytics stimulated by the one day workshop organised by the Australian Learning Analytics Summer Institute.

At some point I would like to explore the connections between the burgeoning field of learning analytics, performance analysis in sport and sport analytics. There is so much to share.

The day was wrapped by following up on a link recommended by Darrell Cobner. He suggested that I look at Nick Clarke’s post Analytics is not just about patterns in big data.

I found time to tweet two quotes the post:

Nick’s post led me to a second post written by him earlier in the year. It has the delightful title Hyenas, lions and city lights – accurately measuring behaviour is rarely straightforward.

In the post, Nick argues for the rehabilitation of the image of the hyena. I thought his points were a great way to end my luxurious day:

Limited seeing leads to unreliable believing, an important lesson for our data-driven future.

The secret is to collect enough of the big picture alongside your targeted measurements, to establish the full context. When I built a data-driven condition monitoring system to combat poor train reliability, it wasn’t enough just to measure data feeds from the suspect components. It needed additional feeds to establish the different operating states of the train, such as accelerating, braking, or coasting, as well as its location on the network. Only then could I have a broad enough picture of the real environment of my subject.

… and to do so with such a delightfully crafted narrative.

Performance Universals


I have been following the Twitter feed from #Ascilite 2016.

The conference is sharing innovation, practice and research in educational technologies in tertiary education. It is being held in Adelaide, 27-30 November.

Early on in the feed from the conference, I noticed Chad Gladovic’s picture from Ryan Baker’s keynote:


By coincidence, as Ryan was speaking and Chad taking the picture, I was compiling my data from Round 4 of the W-League.

After 16 games:


Both sets of data set me off thinking about cultural universals (memories of my early experiences of sociology often send me off thinking about the social construction of reality).

Donald Brown (1991) proposes that cultural universals are “those features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exception”.

I think my data are short of the ‘no known exception test’ but they do raise for me some important questions about learning and coaching in sport as well as about learning and teaching in tertiary education.

Geoffrey Lloyd (2010) notes in his discussion of universals:

the way a person reasons reflects their attitudes and character, the kind of person they are, itself the product of a complex of factors, biological ones, no doubt, as well as those relating to upbringing and social acculturation.


In the background, and often in the foreground, of my thinking is the debate about Charles Reep’s analysis of football performance.

Whenever I see debates about Charles’ work, I recall Penelope Brown and Steven Levinson’s (1987) discussions of politeness in which: we are assuming that the mutual knowledge of members’ public self-image or face, and the social necessity to orient oneself to interaction, are universal.

I wonder too if the presentation of universals helps us clarify our own thoughts about behaviours such as … being inducted into a course of study or developing game understanding to dominate football contests.

Photo Credit

Another ALMA antenna (European Southern Observatory, CC BY 2.0)

Curating (some) activity at #ascilite2016

I have had a fascinating morning as a remote participant in the Twitter sharing of events at #ascilite2016.

I am delighted that so many participants at the conference are sharing their experiences and insights.

I have a very personal curation of the tweets here. I am mindful that to date I have few links to the VR and AR sessions on day 2 or to the publications workshop.

Wherever possible I have tried to add additional links.

I have not attended an ASCILITE conference but admire immensely the expertise and energy that comes together each year.