Mark Upton wrote a post this week titled KPIs, Comparative Coaching & Classrooms.

In September, Mark and Ric Shuttleworth will begin facilitating conversations about ‘relearn Team Sports’.

I think their six-month journeys with coaches will be fascinating.

In his post, Mark wrote:

My own experiences and observations suggest there can be a disproportionate amount of time analysing, editing and preparing video clips for the “classroom”, in comparison to the time spent thinking about and designing purposeful (perhaps even creative!) on-field activities and sessions.

In October, I am presenting at the HPX 2017 Knowledge Exchange Conference in Dublin. In addition to a one-day hackathon for performance analysts (#abbotsthon17), I am presenting in a technology strand on the topic of ‘Are we there yet?‘. In it I hope to be addressing the issues Mark raises generally in his work and in his post specifically.

His post and the preparations for the October conference have taken me back to work that engrossed me in the 1990s. David Perkins and Tina Blythe from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education helped me think critically about putting understanding up front in my teaching and coaching.

In a 1994 paper, David and Tina share their performance perspective on understanding. This perspective proposes that:

understanding is a matter of being able to do a variety of thought-demanding things with a topic … and representing the topic in a new way. (1994:5)

And that:

understanding is being able to carry out a variety of “performances” that show one’s understanding of a topic and, at the same time, advance it. (My emphasis.) (1994:6)

They add that “the mainstay of learning for understanding must be actual engagement in those performances”.

An understanding approach in Project Zero comprised four key concepts:

  • Generative topics
  • Understanding goals
  • Understanding performances
  • Ongoing assessment

This teaching for understanding approach:

is meant only as a guide, which keeps the focus on understanding while allowing teachers room to design units and courses that suit their particular styles and priorities as practitioners in their disciplines. (1994:7)

I see this approach to be connected closely with the conversations Mark and Ric will have with the coaches that join them on their relearn journeys. I imagine the conversations might explore how teachers and coaches constructively align how they create opportunities for performances of understanding that are tested in authentic ways in training environments.

Photo Credits

Over there (Dean Donaldson, CC BY 2.0)

relearn Team Sports (Mark Upton)

Times Square tilt-shift (zonalpony, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Designing and Supporting Coaches’ Learning Experiences


Yesterday, I received an email from a friend who is a Coach Development Manager for a national governing body in the United Kingdom. The email was sent to other friends in similar roles.

The email was:

I am in the process of selecting an online coaching resource and I am currently in conversations with ******. We are unable to design and develop our own personal hub due to cost. Within your sport I recall you having some type of online coaching hub. I guess my question centres around, does it get used by the coaches? Have you been able to track the usage of the resource? 

Designing and Supporting

My friend’s email started me off thinking about designing and supporting learning experiences … and the role digital stewardship might play in the work of Coach Developers or similar roles with different titles.

By the time I managed to reply in Australian time, my friend had received three replies from his UK network in the email group. Two replies discussed the merits of proprietary platforms provided as a fee for service. A third mentioned the interest coaches had in a crowd sourcing platform, Edufii. He had facilitated the group that now had 1000 members participating in a free version of Edufii. Each day, coaches in the group shared links, practices and experiences.

In the original email, my friend wrote “We are unable to design and develop our own personal hub due to cost“. This set me off thinking about the Coach Developer as a steward of a self-organising learning community that could address personal learning journeys … and develop a resource that was integrated into each coach’s personal learning environment.

As I was contemplating this I received a timely reminder that design-thinking might help us transform the role of Coach Developer to one of Learning Experience design. The reminder came in the form of a post from the Precious Design Studio, Designing with Meaningful Data

The post includes this paragraph:

To become better designers, we need to leave our comfort zone, dive into worlds that might look daunting from the outside. When thinking about designing with real, meaningful data, we shouldn’t look for convenience. We should always strive for challenges and use our curiosity to comprehend the growing complexity that surrounds us.

I wondered if a community of Coach Developers and Educators might share their experiences so that we might “dive into worlds that might look daunting from the outside”. And in diving, become advocates withing our organisations for a dynamic learning environment.

My reply to my friend’s email pursued this part of the opportunity facing him … and us as a community of practice. I looked at free resources to support a “personal hub”.

My Reply

You wrote “I am in the process of selecting an online coaching resource…”

It sent me off on a day of thinking and reflecting on the answers you had received.

My immediate thoughts were about commercial platforms and free platforms. I have been seeking free options for a long time. This approach requires you or the community of coaches to be caretakers (digital stewards) and raises for me the role coach educators play in a digital environment.

The Edufii Magic Academy is a fascinating example of how a self-organising group of coaches can start to share openly. Each coach becomes a harvester and the 1000 coaches in the group benefit from crowd sourcing. With a list this big you have to manage the email alerts you receive. The participants in the list become curators and aggregators of resources.

I have been involved in some Basecamp lists too. Like Edufii, I think its functionality is intuitive. I have used it as a free service as a teacher and a learner. In one of the lists, I have tried to be a driver (as in the Edufii example). I reply to anyone who responds to my sharing and have found this opens up some great 1:1 conversations.

Other options I have explored include the aggregator Scoop It. I use the free version to aggregate items about high performance sport. You customise your search terms and I have set mine up to post to Twitter too.

I think blog pots are helpful and if they have responsive design they become particularly readable on mobile phones. Clyde Street is my scrapbook of ideas on teaching, learning and performing (this posts an alert to Twitter too).

I have been researching podcast options too and have found Audacity helpful in the past. More recently, I have looked at some of the functionality Anchor offers. I am thinking that a coach educator podcast in English traffic conditions will be particular helpful. Imagine if the members of this email group provided a short podcast every couple of months about what is going on in their world … what an incredible resource we would have.

I use some of the Google tools too … for wikis, reading lists and presentations. They are saved in The Cloud. I have collected them in a free Github account.

As I am writing this I am thinking that we could share all our resources!

For the last few days I have been experimenting with MailChimp to see how learners might pull resources. MailChimp gives an automated email option that triggers an email when the reader is ready. I think this is going to be particularly powerful for microcontent of all kinds. I am designing a pre-workshop example of MailChimp for an unmeeting workshop (#Abbotsthon17) in Dublin on 5 October. (If you would like to find out more about autoresponders I have this post to share.)

I do apologise for a long email. I have focused on free options.

I do see the role of coach educators changing in digital habitats. For me the trade off between off-the-shelf software as a service and an agnostic open educational resource approach is the role each of us will play as connectors with coaches’ personal learning journeys. It will change the way the work and connect.

There is so much collective wisdom in this group that we could create a remarkable knowledge exchange to share with our communities.

Best wishes from Braidwood

Asynchronous Communities

I have spent much of the last decade thinking about how we create open learning environments. I understand that some organisations have funds to pay for fee-for-service platforms. Others do not. My post addresses this  latter group.

However, I find it immensely exciting that a whole community of coaches could access resources when the time is right for them. I see enormous opportunities for organisations to invest in and become organisations that learn.

The Coach Developer as Digital Steward can use asynchronous resources to connect groups and stimulate 1:1 conversations. Increasing use of artificial intelligence systems will mean we can make these relationships even more personal.

How will we adapt Coach Developer roles that are future looking in a digital world? I do think it starts with our comfort zones and our willingness “to leave our comfort zone, dive into worlds that might look daunting from the outside”.

Photo Credits

Autumn view of the playground (Peter Gyöngy, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Earthmovers (Dean Donaldson, CC BY 2.0)

Discus (Kwan Cheung, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


I have used three Creative Commons images to illustrate this post. Each is a tilt shift image. I think this is a good way to talk about a change in focus and the scale of the worlds we inhabit.