#coachlearninginsport: seeing patterns

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I was thinking about visual and digital literacy last week.

It started with the discovery of two blog posts by Brian Prestige on data visualisation. In one of these posts, Brian notes:

we process visual elements 60,000 times quicker than text and we have a predisposition to search for patterns in everything we see.

He adds:

By visualising our data in a cohesive manner we are able to not only deliver our insights, but also engage the coaches, support staff and players in a way that the data is not only understood, but is also acted upon.

In his second post, Brian suggests that this story sharing can be supported by three characteristics:

  • Contrast
  • Directed focus
  • Making the obvious … obvious

One of the issues Brian raises in this post is the use of colour in data visualisation. I have been experimenting with colour palettes for some time.

I realised how far I had to go in my understanding of colour when I found Eddie Bell discussing his work at Lyst. His video is 13m 34s in duration. I think the video has the insight that Brian discusses in his posts.

Brian works with The Information Lab. His work and Eddie’s role at Lyst have really encouraged me to think much more about augmenting coaches’ observations through crafted visual stories about data.

Coaches see patterns in behaviour. They have their own story to share and develop.

News of the Spatial Reasoning Group in Canada led me to think about the patterns coaches see. The Group is researching “the ability to recognize and mentally manipulate the spatial properties of objects and the spatial relations among objects”.

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I wondered if an awareness of each coach’s spatial reasoning abilities might lead to even more bespoke story sharing by those who have the responsibility to visualise information for coaches (this was Brian’s role at Bolton Wanderers before his move to The Information Lab).

My thinking about this story telling was pushed further by a link to the Knowledge Synthesis project in Canada. The project is exploring better practice in the teaching of data literacy. I wondered how do we prepare coaches to make sense of data that are visualised and shared as a story. The project’s questions are good #coachlearninginsport questions:

  • What data skills are required to be data literate?
  • How are these skills taught?
  • What are the best practices that we’ve established after decades (and centuries) of teaching students to work with data in various forms?

The Knowledge Synthesis project suggests that data-literate individuals “have the knowledge, understanding, and skills to connect people to data”. Such literacy, they suggest is the precursor to data fluency and data mastery.

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Richard Martin has provided a thought-provoking prompt in this discussion of visual and data literacy. In his discussion of the guides in a digital age, he observes:

People are looking to others to guide them, to help them navigate the complexities of a networked world. The edges between virtual and physical, online and offline, inside and outside, are blurring. All is liminal, fuzzy, ill-defined. Bridge builders are required. Mapmakers too. Explorers who will simplify and translate what they discover, laying out suggested paths for others to follow.

I see this to be a wonderful opportunity for coach learning environments. Brian and Eddie have guided me to a new level of thinking about the possibilities for visual and digital literacy.

I understand that I have many more possibilities for hooking attention and triggering learning. I do need to think even more about the stickiness of ideas. Holly Inglis has looked closely at how neuroscience might helps us to think critically about how ideas might be understood, remembered and have lasting impact.

Advances in neuroscience are indicating how little time we have to connect an audience with a message. Some research suggests that if we are unable to connect with an audience in as little as ninety seconds we lose our opportunity to share. Visual stimulation can slow this disconnect down. I think a compelling narrative can do that too.

I hope that by sharing better practice in coach learning, we might have a sport equivalent of the Knowledge Synthesis project.

Collectively we could travel with coaches to the edge described by Richard Martin:

Throughout the history of humankind, our explorers, scientists, inventors and artists have constantly reshaped the boundaries between the known and the unknown. … Their endeavours help simplify the chaotic for the rest of us. They overlay new patterns that they have recognised, erect signposts and markers to guide us, beacons to light our way.

I am particularly interested in the simplifying chaos part of this quotation. Each of us has the ability to do this but in a digital world we can get some help from friends.

This simplification can work across a whole sport system as well as within a single team learning environment.

Imagine how we as a community of practice could provide examples of better practice in response to this Knowledge Synthesis question:

How are new ways of learning and teaching fostering greater knowledge and competency in critical and analytical thinking, problem-solving, communication of complex ideas and data, data collection methodologies, data management, data policy, data sharing, and evidence-based decision-making?

Photo Credits

Simplicity is hard (Will Lion, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Traffic sign (Pavel. P, CC BY 2.0)

Minimalism (eLKayPics/Lutz Koch, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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