My name is Keith Lyons. I am a Professor of Sport Studies at the University of Canberra.

I think of myself as an educational technologist.

Clyde Street

Social Presence



I am continuing to develop an open course in Sport Informatics and Analytics.

I am thinking more and more about the possibilities of engagement with and within this course.

This week some links shared by Stephen Downes and one from DERN have sent me off to contemplate social presence in open courses.

Perhaps I am inclined to do this because of my comfort with the nurturing and social reform models of teaching discussed by Tony Bates this week. Tony suggests:

Of all the models of teaching these two are the most learner centred. They are based on an overwhelmingly optimistic view of human nature, that people will seek out and learn what they need, and will find the necessary support from caring, dedicated educators and from others with similar interests and concerns, and that individuals have the capacity and ability to identify and follow through with their own educational needs.

I have been thinking about modular and non-linear opportunities to support motivated, self-organised learning. I am trying to balance the disposition to learn with the design of content.

Edynco’s learning maps started me off thinking about the form the content might take.

MIT has been grappling with the content issue too.

The final report of the Institute-wide task force on the future of MIT Education envisions “a future that includes a wide array of options where traditional plans may be offered alongside new paths, and where online tools enable modular and flexible learning opportunities that enrich the overall MIT educational experience”.  The report addresses modularsation in Recommendation 7.

The way in which students are accessing material points to the need for the modularization of online classes whenever possible. The very notion of a “class” may be outdated. This in many ways mirrors the preferences of students on campus. The unbundling of classes also reflects a larger trend in society—a number of other media offerings have become available in modules, whether it is a song from an album, an article in a newspaper, or a chapter from a textbook. Modularity also enables “just-in-time” delivery of instruction, further enabling project-based learning on campus and for students worldwide.

Last week, I wrote about conversation, conviviality and focused attention in synchronous learning environments.


This week Karen Kear, Frances Chetwynd and Helen Jefferis’  (2014) have encouraged me to think about how we connect in these environments and share personal information. They observe:

we should think of social presence as ‘a dynamic sense of others and relationships with them in mediated environments’ (Kehrwald 2010. p. 45), rather than something that can be easily conveyed via a static personal profile.

In his paper, Ben Kehrwald (2010) shares a continuum of social presence


In a separate presentation, Ben suggests the following to support students on this continuum:

(a) provide models of good practice in online communication, including the cultivation of social presence

(b) motivate learners to establish and cultivate a positive social presence

(c) create explicit opportunities for the establishment of online social presence

(d) generate interpersonal interaction that supports ongoing demonstrations of presence and the development of relations between individuals; and

(e) structure relatively low-risk experiences from which learners can learn to both convey an ongoing social presence and read the presence of others.

I like point (e) in particular.


My course will have a number of community drivers. This week’s links from Stephen and DERN have helped me think more about how these drivers might operate to develop a sensitive, inclusive approach to anyone keen to explore informatics and analytics.

Photo Credits

London Marathon #51 (Michael Garnett, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Conversation (Maria Rosario Sannino, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Help is on the way (Cory Doctorow, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Conversation and Conviviality in Informatics and Analytics



I am writing a course at the moment.

It has two forms. One is as an open online course in Sport Informatics and Analytics. The second is as a component of a new Master of High Performance degree at the University of Canberra.

I have been thinking a lot about engagement in both forms of the course. I keep returning to a conversation between Howard Rheingold and Alan Levine to help me clarify the significance of students meeting in a physical space in synchronous time as structured exposure to ideas and practices as well as in asynchronous time and virtual space.

Whilst pondering these issues, I have been following Tony Bates’ discussions of Teaching in a Digital Age. A recent post notes “the need for frequent interaction between students, and between teacher and students, for the kinds of learning needed in a digital age”. Tony suggests that this interaction “usually takes the form of semi-structured discussion”.

Tony spends some time looking at how connectivist Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) facilitate discussion. He observes that these MOOCs do have some form of “loose central structure” that uses transmissive communication. He proposes that subject experts need to support learners to develop “deep, conceptual learning”. These experts:

clarify misunderstandings or misconceptions, to provide accurate feedback, to ensure that the criteria for academic learning, such as use of evidence, clarity of argument, etc., are being met, and to ensure the necessary input and guidance to seek deeper understanding.

He concludes his discussion with the role seminars play in this learning and understanding.

One of my hopes for the course I am writing is that it can be scalable from macro-sharing to micro-learning opportunities. I trust that the approach to the course is sufficiently invitational to support self-organised learning and conversation. One of my roles will be to facilitate these conversations.


Rebecca Croxton (2014) emphasises this facilitation role. Her research notes the importance of student-teacher interaction in the persistence of on-line learning. She points to:

  • active, socially engaged learning
  • the centrality of student-teacher communication
  • purposeful, meaningful interaction

as critical to student persistence.

These arguments have taken me back to Ivan Illich and conviviality in order to explore the relationships between “persons, tools and a new collectivity”. Conviviality is “individual freedom realized in personal interdependence”. Social arrangements in a convivial society “guarantee for each member the most ample and free access to the tools of the community” and limit this freedom “only in favour of another member’s equal freedom”.

I have taken from his argument that an equitable society promotes learning, sociality and community and uses communication tools to do this. Richard Kahn notes that these tools:

work to produce a more democratic and sustainable society that is “simple in means and rich in ends” and in which individuals can freely communicate, debate, and participate throughout all manner of a cultural and political life that respects the unique “balance among stability, change and tradition.”

Matt Bower and his colleagues have reported on how blended synchronous learning can contribute to this educational vision. Their report identifies the effectiveness of linking remote and face-to-face students in live classes.

Their conclusion returned me to another aspect of Howard Rheingold and Alan Levine’s conversation. Howard suggested that Alan is a pedagogical technologist. Matt and his colleagues draw attention to the centrality of pedagogy in blended learning:

it is important to not attribute the success of the learning experience to the technology itself. As was apparent in all of the case studies, the teacher and the quality of their pedagogical practices was the main determinant of the student experience. To that extent, teacher practice, development and support should be the primary focus of any blended synchronous learning initiatives. (2014, p.178)

I am hopeful that both forms of the course I am writing will be framed by good pedagogical practice, nourished by conversation and conviviality. There is an increasing number of guides as to how this is becoming more possible and how a community driver might use an approach that is “simple in means and rich in ends”.


Photo Credits

Shanghai Basketball Statue (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Adults on Kid Sized Stools (Michael Coghlan, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Screen Grab (Tom Purcell, CC BY-NC 2.0)


The day after I posted this, The Conversation discussed ‘What makes a good teacher?’ One of the panel responding to the question led me to Parker Plamer’s The Heart of a Teacher.





I am very interested in the ways writers use the Medium platform.

Today, I received an alert that extended my interest.

It was a link to a post by Gilad Lotan.

Gilad discusses social networks and “the art of personalizing propaganda” during the Gaza conflict.

He notes:

Not only is there much more media produced, but it is coming at us at a faster pace, from many more sources. As we construct our online profiles based on what we already know, what we’re interested in, and what we’re recommended, social networks are perfectly designed to reinforce our existing beliefs. Personalized spaces, optimized for engagement, prioritize content that is likely to generate more traffic; the more we click, share, like, the higher engagement tracked on the service. Content that makes us uncomfortable, is filtered out.

I found Gilad’s use of visualisations to be very engaging. I went away thinking about this point:

A healthy democracy is contingent on having a healthy media ecosystem. As builders of these online networked spaces, how do we make sure we optimizing not only for traffic and engagement, but also an informed public?

Photo Credit

Twitter and UNWRA school bombing (Gilad Lotan)



AS0000154F06 Primary school children, sports day

A friend shared with me a poem, Life Cycle, by Bruce Dawe.

We had been discussing growing up around and in sport. Bruce’s poem is about Australian Rules football in Victoria.

Two verses struck me in particular:

They will not grow old as those from the more northern states grow old,
for them it will always be three-quarter time
with the scores level and the wind advantage in the final term,

That passion persisting, like a race-memory, through the welter of seasons,
enabling old-timers by boundary fences to dream of resurgent lions
and centaur-figures from the past to replenish continually the present

I read this  just before two coaching friends shared with me a link to a New York Times’ article, All Played Out, written by Ron Turker.

In the article, Ron discusses injuries to young sportspeople. He notes:

The landscape of youth sports has changed markedly in the last 20 years. Free play, where children gather after school, pick a game and play until called in for dinner, is almost extinct. Highly organized and stratified sports have become the norm. Time, place and rules are now dictated to our kids rather than organized by the kids.

Ron is a paediatric orthopedic surgeon. He reports that:

More juvenile athletes are coming in with repetitive stress injuries (both physical and, in a sense, emotional) that were once rare. Now children show up in my office repeatedly with vague aches and pains, usually in different locations and hard to diagnose but often relieved with a few weeks of rest. By the third visit, I catch on and ask whether they truly enjoy their full-time commitment. If given the emotional space, the kids will often reply no. They just want a break.

He discusses parental pressure on young players and the myth of sport scholarships. Towards the end of a wonderfully clear article he observes:

We buy the hype about scholarships to college, but the numbers don’t support the athletic route to money. Despite what your “professional coach” tells you about your child’s athletic prowess, it isn’t possible to tell if your 12-year-old has the right stuff to be a college athlete. Very few scholarships are full-ride packages; most don’t come close to covering the cost of college. But when I tell parents that their kid’s chance of scholarship money is less than 2 percent, they shake their heads in sympathy for the other 98 percent.

I am at a loss as to how we have traded playfulness for early specialisation. Perhaps it is because I am from a world that was described by Bruce Dawe and remembered from a different cultural perspective by Ron.

Photo Credit

Primary school children (Duncan Hall, CC BY 2.0)


Glasgow Wrap



The XXth Commonwealth Games have concluded in Glasgow after eleven days of competition.

Thirty-five countries shared 1385 medals in 261 medal events. David Katoatau was one of the gold medal winners. He secured Kiribati’s first Commonwealth Games medal as the winner of the 105kg weightlifting competition.

Australia started and ended the Games with gold medals. Anna Meares won the Women’s 500m Time Trial in the first medal event in track cycling. David Palmer and Cameron Pilley won one of the last gold medals in the Men’s Double Squash.

England was the top placed team at the Games. It is the first time Australia has not been number one in gold medals won and total medals won since 1986 (in Edinburgh). The Australian team did win 137 medals (49 gold) in Glasgow compared to England’s 174 (58 gold) (). England had a very strong second week at the Games and overtook Australia with eighteen gold medal performances in gymnastics, diving and boxing.

Australia dominated in week one of the Games with outstanding performances in cycling and swimming. Emma McKeon won six medals in swimming (four gold and two bronze). She was a member of the Women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team that broke the world record on the first night of competition in the pool. This world record swim is a remarkable achievement. It broke a 2009 record set by swimmers wearing polyurethane suits.

Australia’s success in cycling and swimming extended to the Para sport events included in the Games. Two of the Para swimmers, Rowan Crothers and Maddi Elliott, set world records in winning their events. Maddi was Australia’s youngest swimmer at the London Paralympics in 2012.

Australia’s Athletics program at the Games started with a remarkable win for Mike Shelley in the Men’s Marathon and a very strong third place finish by Jess Trengrove in the Women’s Marathon. Thereafter seven female athletes won gold medals in track and field. In addition to the very public success of Sally Pearson and the drama surrounding her victory, Alana Boyd, Dani Samuels, Kim Mickle, Eleanor Patterson, Angie Ballard and Jodi Elkington became Commonwealth champions. Angie and Jodie won their medals in the Para classes.


Eleanor Patterson won the high jump in Glasgow. She is in her final year at school and is from the Gippsland town of Leongatha. Like many of the athletes in the Australian team, Eleanor has made long journeys to training with her family. The romance of the Games is that these journeys lead to remarkable places and performances. Another athlete from a rural community, Laura Geitz, captained the Australian netball team to the gold medal in netball.

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games set new standards of competition. A number of sports stepped up their performance to meet the challenge. Australian shooters secured six gold medals in Glasgow. Divers and gymnasts found the competition very strong and will aspire to do better in Brisbane in 2018.

The Games ended with three gold medals in team sports. The Australian women’s hockey captain, Madonna Blyth, scored the decisive shoot out goal to defeat England. Her fortitude under pressure would have been highly regarded in shoot outs in other sports. The men’s hockey team won convincingly against India. They have won every hockey gold medal since the sport entered the Games in 1998. The women’s netball team won their final against New Zealand to regain the gold medal after twelve years.

The last time the Games were held in Scotland in Edinburgh in 1986, the hosts finished sixth out of twenty-seven teams. This time Scotland has had a very good fourth place finish from seventy-one teams with 19 gold medals in a total of 53 medals.


The Games move to the Gold Coast in 2018. It will be interesting to see how Australia responds to hosting the Games. Glasgow has shown that there is a very important place for the Games in the sporting calendar particularly as a way of inducting young people into international competition. Glasgow’s success in encouraging volunteering is a beacon for the Gold Coast too.

The competitive nature of these Games has done a great deal to highlight the benefits of holding a quadrennial multi-games event. Most people understand that achievements in the Games must be kept in context. Within them there are world-class performances and achievements whilst at the same time they give nations with limited infrastructure and funding the opportunity to compete. There will be homecoming parties all over the Commonwealth, many of them will be in rural Australia. All of them will have lots in common with David Katoatau’s return to Kiribati.


Photo Credits

People Make Glasgow (Cameron King, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Glasgow Green (Closing Ceremony) (Alex Slaven, CC BY 2.0)

Alana Boyd (Marc, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Storm Clouds gathering out at Allora (Matthew Paul, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Note: an edited version of this post appears in The Conversation.

Being a Coach




This morning, I received a link to an article in The Atlantic.

It was written by Chris Koentges and was published earlier this year (19 February).

It is a fascinating account of coaching. The focus is Urpo Ylönen (Upi), a Finnish ice hockey goaltending coach.

Game Understanding

Urpo is seventy-one years old. Chris discusses Upi’s development as a coach in a way that has powerful messages for all coaches.

I enjoyed learning about Upi’s early days playing ice ball in the street in unstructured play and thought this positioned him well to be one of those ice hockey goalkeeper’s without a face mask. The absence of a mask encouraged Upi to try to catch the puck as often as possible rather than blocking it. Chris noted of Upi:

  • “The stick he built had an unorthodox angle that allowed him to crouch closer to the ice … keeping him balanced and mobile”.
  • As he was “comparatively small, he relentlessly practiced his skating”.
  • He copied “all the older goalies, picking up pieces of their game and making them his own”.

He was the goaltender for Finland for 14 years.

Becoming a Coach

Upi was invited by the Finnish Ice Hockey Association to develop an national goaltender coaching system. Each region in Finland has a goalkeeper coach and Upi’s model has been adopted in other countries. His approach is based on the goaltender staying between the net and the puck.

The puck handler wants to outwait you. Wants you to lose mobility, to fall for any one of an endless series of fakes, so that you go down on the ice and abandon your form. The job gets more complicated when you add a second, third, fourth, and fifth skater to the attack. The goalie needs to keep track of each body, all the while focusing on the one with the puck. Some of these skaters will drift into seams beyond your field of vision; others will plant themselves right in front of you to screen your view entirely.

Upi emphasises the importance of the goaltender skating and catching the puck or deflecting it at an angle away from the goal crease.

Chris illustrated Upi’s coaching with a discussion of Miikka Sakari Kiprusoff. Miika worked with Upi from the age of 12. His training prioritised hand-eye coordination … “controlling the puck and feeling it”. They played badminton to emphasise footwork and lateral movement (and subsequently wrestling).

Upi worked with Miikka and other goaltenders on mind set. “We catch the puck from everywhere—and it might even come to your head. You can take it with your head. You don’t close your eyes, you don’t be afraid.”

This mind set is focussed on long-term flourishing and encourages a “more patient and inclusive style of youth coaching in Finland”.

I think Chris makes a profound point about coaching when he writes of Upi:

Eventually, I realized his deepest purpose: to ease the fears of any human being who would subject himself to such a calling (goaltending).


I am delighted I received an alert (from John Kessel) to this article. I do think there are important cultural issues embedded in Upi’s coaching. But I believe there are some very important generic issues here too.

I am particularly interested in Upi’s understanding of the essence of goaltending and his identification of first principles.

I sensed from Chris’s article that Upi had remarkable observation skill that seemed to amplify his inner calm. He knows goaltending and locates it into a much wider awareness of game playing.

Perhaps I am attracted to his coaching because i grew up with unstructured play too. Street football in a rough laneway gave me confidence in proprioception as well as perception … and possibly my own passion for coaching.

I followed up on Chris’s writing and found this image of Terry Sawchuck:


The photograph was taken in 1966. A make-up artist and doctor recreated the 400+ stitches he had received in 16 years of goaltending.

This convinced me of Upi’s mission (even in an era of protective masks) to ease fears whilst being able to coach a very different approach to goaltending.

There is lots to learn here.

Photo Credits

Miika Kiprusoff (James Teterenko, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Terry Sawchuck (Ralph Morse, Getty Images)




Conversation Pieces



I have had an opportunity to write a number of articles for The Conversation in recent months.

These include an item about the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

I wrote about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil too.


The football posts included:

Photo Credits

Queen’s Baton Relay Renfrew (Paisley Scotland, CC BY 2.0)

Panorama Maracana Stadium (Jimmy Baikovicius, CC BY-SA 2.0)

It is Personal



An alert from OLDaily on 16 July sent me off to look at personal (rather than personalised) learning environments.

Stephen Downes has shared two recent presentations that explore personal learning. As usual with Stephen’s presentations, I was fascinated by his synthesis of ideas.

In Beyond Free (8 July 2014), Stephen points to “a world of free and open resources” that include:

This is an abstract of the talk:

As the concept of ‘open learning’ has grown it has posed an increasing challenge to educational institutions. First admissions were open, then educational resources were open and now whole courses are open. Proponents moreover are demanding not only that open learning be free of charge, but also that the resources and materials be open source – free for reuse by students and educators for their own purposes. This formed the basis for the original design of the Massive Open Online Course as a connected environment in which participants created and reused resources. In such a learning environment, the provision of education moves beyond the programmed delivery of instructional resources and tasks. Education is no longer ‘delivered’ (for free or otherwise) and instruction is no longer ‘designed’ in the traditional sense. Institutions are no longer at the centre of the ecosystem; their value propositions are challenged and new roles for professors and researchers must be found if they are to survive. In this talk Stephen Downes outlines the steps educational institutions must take to remain relevant: embracing the free and open sharing of knowledge and learning, underlining their key role as public institutions, and engagement in the lives and workplaces of people in the community.

 In Beyond Institutions (9 July 2014) Stephen emphasises the self-organisation of personal learning. It is what I think Stephen calls elsewhere, prosuming (students produce and consume their own education. They access experts and learning resources directly, and organize these themselves. They form their own communities, work at their own pace, and share extensively with each other).

This is an abstract for the presentation:

In a networked world people become less and less dependent on institutional learning begin to and begin to create their own learning. This creates challenges for institutions, but it also creates challenges for students. In the past, personal learning has been represented as a form of autodidacticism where students either read books at random in the library or at best studied programmed education texts and videos. Today personalized learning is supported using adaptive learning and interactive digital resources. Neither offers what we would call a complete learning experience, as we know there is a social and supportive dimension that must be included. The challenge is to design learning systems that are supportive without asserting control, providing access to a wide range of resources from multiple institutions, but in addition, scaffolding frameworks, access to social and professional networks and support though personal and mobile computing devices, devices and tools, and in workplace systems generally. In this talk Stephen Downes discusses developments in a personal learning infrastructure and outlines how professionals, as both teachers and learners, can take advantage of them.

I finished my reading with a look at some of Alan Levine’s work cited in one of Stephen’s slides.

Alan is discussing his work on the Thought Vectors site with the Living the Dreams: Digital Investigation and Unfettered Minds course facilitated by Virginia Commonwealth University.

I thought this was a great way to finish this skywriting journey. It underscores for me how self-organising, personal learning can flourish through the connections we make as learners.

Photo Credit

Alan Kay and Doug Engelbart (Jean Baptiste, CC BY 2.0)



Super 15 Rugby: End of the Regular Season



I tracked the teams in this year’s Super 15 Rugby competition in relation to their 2013 ranking at the end of the regular season.

The 2014 looked like this:

Super 15 Regula 2014

The legend for this approach:


The Waratahs defeated six higher ranked teams from 2013 on their way to topping the ladder in 2014. The Highlanders overcame their lowly finish in 2013 with seven wins against higher ranked teams. The Force and the Hurricanes recorded seven wins over higher ranked teams too.

The Reds and the Cheetahs did not retain their 2013 ranking, losing nine times and eight times respectively to lower ranked teams in 2014.

Photo Credit

_DSC1120 (mckennadt, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)



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