Blogging 2010: Celebrating and Recognising Reciprocal Altruism

I was fascinated to read about this year’s nominations for the Edublog Awards.

There are thirty-one nominations for the Individual Edublog Award.

Always Learning
An A-Z of ELT
Cool Cat Teacher
Dangerously Irrelevant
dy/dan
Educational Origami
Free Technology for Teacher
Kevin’s Meandering Mind
iLearn Technology
Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom
Jane’s eLearning Pick of the Day
Kalinago English
Kirsten Winkler
Langwitches
Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day
Learning with ‘e’s
Moving at the Speed of Creativity
Never Ending Search
Not So Distant Future
Pair-a-Dimes for your Thoughts
School Finance 101
Science Teacher
SpeEdChange
Speech-Language Pathology Sharing
Spencer’s Scratchpad
Teacher Reboot Camp
The Innovative Educator
The Principal’s Page
Think Thank Thunk
Weblogg-ed
What Ed Said

There are thirty-four nominations for the Best New Edublog Award.

About A Teacher
bcnpaul1′s blog
Be Cunning and Full of Tricks
Blogging through the Fourth Dimension
Box of Chocolates
Comments4Kids
Connected Principals
Culture of Yes
Digital Dervish
Educating Grace
Eliterate Librarian
Emma Herrod
Experts and Newbies
Hack Education
ideaconnect
InterACT
Inter.Connect.Ed
Language Garden
Libraries and Transliteracy
New City Arts
Michelle’s Musings
MrK’s Professional Reflections
Quantum Progress
Reflections of a teacher and a learner
Teaching Literacy in the Early Years
Speech Techie
The Nerdy Teacher
Think Thank Thunk
Turklish TEFL
Upside Down Education
Venture Pragmatist
Walt Gardner’s Reality Check
Webb’s Wide World
Whose Learning Is It Anyway?

Voting concludes shortly and am keen to find out who has set THE standard in the twenty-three award categories. I was interested to see that the twenty-third category is a Lifetime Achievement Award. There are some incredible bloggers here.

Alan Levine
Alec Couros
Bernie Dodge
Chris Betcher
Chris Lehmann
Dan Myer
Danah Boyd
Doug Johnson
Gary Stager
Gavin Dudeney
Howard Rheingold
Ira Socol
Jane Hart
cybraryman1
Joseph Pisano
Joyce Valenza
Karl Fisch
Kevin Honeycutt
Kyle Pace
Larry Ferlazzo
Linda Yollis
Richard Byrne
Scott McLeod
Sean Banville
Sir Ken Robinson
Steve Hargadon
Sue Waters
Vicki Davis
Wesley Fryer
Will Richardson

There are twenty-four nominations for the Best Resource Sharing Blog:

Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org
Art is Messy
Bits and Pieces places
Box of Tricks
Bright Ideas
Continuous Everywhere but Differentiable Nowhere
doug – off the record
El escaparate de Rosa
Free Technology for Teacher
I Hope This Old Train Breaks Down
iLearn Technology
InTec Insights
Jane’s Pick of the Day
Kirsten Winkler
Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites Of The Day
Librarian in Black
Moodle News
Moving at the Speed of Creativity
Nik’s Quick Shout
Prekinders
SCC English
Teacher Boot Camp
Technology Tidbits
The OLDaily
The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness
Think!
Videoonferencing Out on a lim
Web 2.0 Classroom Blog

I am surprised constantly by the reciprocal altruism of the blogosphere and am in awe of the contributions all of these nominees have made to 2010. It is very obvious to me that I have a lot of catch up reading to do.

Do People Who Have Lost Their Voice Have To Do It?

Introduction

I undertook three years of fieldwork in two schools in the mid 1980s as part of my part-time PhD studies in the teaching of boys’ physical education in the secondary school. Other than a chapter in a book of readings edited by Andrew Sparkes (1992) the only account of my work is in the thesis (1989).

The thesis raised some sensitive issues and with the agreement of those in my fieldwork I placed a voluntary embargo on publication. Twenty-one years on all those involved have moved from the fieldwork schools and I would like to share some of the contents of the thesis as a way of exploring qualitative enquiry in physical education.

Telling Tales From The Field

When I came to write up my thesis all those years ago I tried to explore the process of writing an ethnography too. I was fascinated by the debate going on in the discipline of anthropology at that time and was particularly interested in John Van Maanen’s approach in Tales From The Field (1988). His text has become a classic reference and I bought one of the first copies on sale in the United Kingdom.

I pointed out that John Van Maanen’s monograph is founded on the belief that:

The joining of fieldwork and culture in an ethnography entails far more than merely writing up the results culled from making friends, staying sane and healthy, worming one’s way into back regions and taking good notes in the field. (1988:6)

He challenged the persistent conviction among social scientists that “the problems of ethnography are merely those of access, intimacy, sharp ears and eyes, good habits of recording, and so forth” (1988:6). In making his case he argued that:

A culture or a cultural practice is as much created by the writing (i.e., it is intangible and can only be put into words) as it determines the writing itself. (1988:6)

In the thesis in my account of the teaching of physical education, I posed as problematic the documentary reality presented to the reader. My intention was to develop an account of the writing process that moved on the debate about qualitative research in the study of physical education. Like John Van Maanen I contended that not to pose ethnographic writing as problematic “reduces ethnography to method” (1988:6).

Emboldened by John Van Maanen and excited by writing I used insights gained from Elliot Eisner, Jeanne Favret-Saada, Wolfgang Iser, Miller Mair, Charles Olson, James Spradley and Willard Waller to re-present my fieldwork.

My PhD is based on five physical education teachers in two schools. Three teachers taught in a state secondary school (Bridgetown) and two taught in an independent school (Riverside). The schools were located in close proximity to each other and were separated by a chain link fence. Their proximity enabled me to explore Alan Tomlinson’s observation that:

Physical Education, if it is to be more than a set of taken-for-granted activities and values or a crude form of social control, must be studied and, if necessary, made and re-made as a significant element in our wider culture. The way forward, I believe, is to reject any notion of objective, value-free study of isolated ‘variables’, and to make connections between the different aspects of our social lives and cultural experience. (1982:53)

There are a total of two hundred and sixteen pages of tales from the field for the five teachers. I have a separate chapter for what I termed Noises Off (inspired by Michael Frayn) for the voices of pupils, headteachers and other teachers on the staff of the two schools. Here I share a story from one of the lessons taught by one of the teachers, Ed, at Bridgetown School.

Do People Who Have Lost Their Voice Have To Do It?

On a bright but cold Spring morning, I am sitting outside the changing rooms used by Bridgetown School for its games’ lessons. The changing rooms are off site and, depending on the motivation of teachers and pupils, are between five and twenty minutes’ walk from the main school site. During my fieldwork I have arrived usually first at the changing rooms and awaited the arrival of teachers and pupils. This is the case this morning. I am waiting for Ed and the second year boys for heir double lesson of rugby union.

The first pupils start to drift in some five minutes after my own arrival. From my seat outside the changing rooms, the postilions of the main group of boys are visible on the approach road to the playing fields. Shortly after this first sighting, two pupils arrive on the same bike (the kind made popular by the film E.T.). One is riding whilst the other (Ritchie) perches expertly on the rear spindle which seems customised for this kind of transport. As the bike is parked, two pedestrian pupils arrive and the four set about devising games to pass away the time until the arrival of other pupils and Ed. Such creative playful activity characterises much of the waiting time pupils have at the Bridgetown games’ field.

On this occasion the two walkers play a game of ‘splits’ with a penknife whilst the bike riders set about a game of pretend shooting and gun fights. As the boys play near me I take it that my presence is not intrusive and that the daily business of play can take its course.

Some five minutes after the ‘official’ start of the lesson (9.30 a.m.), the main group of boys in the class can be heard on the approach road. With the prevailing weather conditions conversations and some singing are audible. The second years are on their way!

Two minutes later they are at the changing rooms and some of the pupils, with whom I have a nodding acquaintance, greet me and I them. Small groups form and I assume that these cohere around friendship preferences developed inside and outside classrooms. It is a time for banter and informal game playing. Some boys decide to climb nearby trees and I am prompted to think about some of the ethological literature I have read about the social behaviour of primates. A grounded member of the troop tries to sell me a rather grubby Smurf sticker ‘for charity’. I decline his invitation because of implausibility (clearly marked on the sticker is advice on dental hygiene) and lack of ready cash. I make both these points to him and he moves off to try his sales pitch elsewhere.

Nearby, a pupil I recognise as a regular non-participant in the formal physical education curriculum, is chatting with a small group of friends. This pupil, Stuart, is small and bespectacled and is talking about his and others’ recent ‘escape’ from the top ability group in the second year games’ course. He opines that “The top group think they’re it” and this draws from one of the group the comment that “Yeah, if you miss the ball they tell you off”. As this conversation ends they start to offer me a variety of excuses for not taking part in today’s lesson. Ultimately, only Stuart sticks to his non-participant role.

Ed arrives sixteen minutes after the ‘official’ start of the lesson. He reports that he  has had to organise cover for another PE teacher who is away ill and adds “What a way to start the day.” He unlocks the changing room doors and encourages the boys to change quickly. As he does this the tree-climbers rush back to collect their discarded kit bags. Ever hopeful some of hem ask “Can we do football?”

One of the pupils tries to negotiate his non participation in the lesson by asking “Do people who have lost their voice have to do it?” Neither the pupil nor Ed seem aware of the paradox of this clearly audible question. Ed treat this question and others with a cultivated deafness that is the hallmark of a teaching tradition focused on a curriculum model that provides curriculum content regardless of consumer preference.

Meanwhile, other pupils are engaged in the variety of routines that mark one of the unique aspects of the physical education lesson: undressing in public. The changing room is cold and windowless. On this occasion the floor is clean as it is the first lesson of the day, and fairly pristine feet come into contact with the cold concrete floor. At this time of day hopping around is due mainly to the temperature of the flooring and the imperfect balance prompted by forcing feet into football socks. Later in he day, boys will be hopping around trying to shake off the chewing gum-like pieces of mud that will find their way into the changing room regardless of each teacher’s exhortation to remove boots at the door. (This exhortation leaves those pupils without football boots who contrive to slip and slide their way through outdoor PE lessons with a semantic escape.  They have no boots to take off.)

The ritual of public undressing proceeds at a variety of speeds. The first to change today are those enthusiastic to get started and those who have come to school with their PE kit on under their school uniform. The motive for this latter group appears to be a desire to participate although a small number of boys use it as a way of dealing with (not) undressing in public.

Ed gives a rugby ball to those who have changed quickly. They go outside and start an impromptu game. I pump up some rugby balls for the lesson and decide to observe from a distance today. As pupils change into their kit they go out onto the pitch and engage in varying forms of activity, some related to rugby others more to do with continuing conversations and news-swapping.

Twenty-four minutes after the ‘official’ start of the lesson, Ed leaves the changing room, calls the group into him, says a few words and sets of with them for a warm-up run. Two slow changers are left behind. Ritchie, who has given Ed a verbal excuse for non-participation ( a sprained ankle), runs after the group in his school uniform. Ed demonstrates exercises in the course of the run. The two slow changers, both wearing track suits, catch up with the group by careful orienteering.

Discussion

I thought this account might be an interesting point to start a discussion about ethnographic accounts of teaching in general and physical education in particular. On this day, as with most days, I had a notebook with me to record events and to write down verbatim utterances. Throughout the fieldwork I did not take the role of a teacher and each PE teacher explained to the pupils that I was there because I was interested in PE.

I tried to get to lessons ahead of pupils as my own career as a PE teacher had made it clear that pupils’ enthusiasm for PE was measured very well by eagerness to get ready. The off-site fields created significant logistical problems for teachers at Bridgetown and I was keen to monitor the impact of this on pupil engagement in lessons.

I wrote this account a week after the lesson and continued to work on it throughout my fieldwork. I do not make any claims for this being a representative lesson for all PE teachers. As with much ethnographic writing I am interested in how it resonates with readers. It is a narrative that I hope offers moments of recognition whilst having within it some important issues to explore for teaching and learning in physical education.

References

Lyons, K 1992, ‘Telling Stories from the Field?: A Discussion of an Ethnographic Approach to Researching the Teaching of Physical Education’ in Research in physical education and sport: exploring alternative visions, ed A Sparkes, Falmer Press, London, pp. 248-270.

Lyons, K 1989, A Sociological Analysis of the Teaching of Boys’ Physical Education in the Secondary School. Ph.D thesis, University of Surrey.

Tomlinson, A 1982, ‘Physical Education, Sport and Sociology: The current state and the way forward’ in Physical Education, Sport and Leisure: sociological perspectives, ed I Glaister, Glaister, Milton-under-Wychwood, np.

Van Maanen, J 1988, Tales From The Field, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Photo Credits

LSE Sports Day

Two Boys Playing Leapfrog

Edging to Open Learning in Open Spaces

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Ballarat to discuss Edgeless Challenges and Opportunities. I have been thinking a great deal about learning spaces and the function (rather than the form) of the university of late. In part these thoughts have been stimulated by the University of Canberra’s development of teaching and learning commons.

This week I have been overwhelmed by the number of connections I am finding in relation to open learning and sharing. Some of these connections include:

many universities have an educational technology department that is focused on PD. Research institutes devoted to understanding the intersection of education, technology, systemic reform, and pedagogy are less rare. Several years ago, Phil Long (CEIT) and I discussed the need for a collaborative network of research labs/academies/institutes that were focused on researching learning technologies, not solely on driving institutional adoption. Perhaps it’s time to revisit that idea.

  • Discovering A.K.M. Maksud’s 2006 paper The Nomadic Bede Community And Their Mobile School Program after listening to an interview with Irene Khan. Boat schools bring a different perspective on edgeless learning opportunities and mobile learners. (Sharing this paper with a colleague brought me Simon Shum and Alexandra Okada’s paper Knowledge Cartography for Open Sensemaking Communities (2008) from the Journal of Interactive Media in Education and from another colleague Kenn Fisher’s discussion of Mode 3 Learning: The Campus as Thirdspace.)

  • Finding Cisco’s paper (June 2010) on Hyperconnectivity through a Diigo link. Hyperconnectivity is defined as:

active multitasking on one hand, and passive networking on the other. Passive networking consists largely of background streaming and downloading. Ambient video (nannycams, petcams, home security cams, and other persistent video streams) is an element of passive networking that opens up the possibility for the number of video minutes crossing the network to greatly exceed the number of video minutes actually watched by consumers.

  • In the past year, the Cisco paper notes that:

it has become clear that visual networking applications are often used concurrently with other applications and sometimes even other visual networking applications, as the visual network becomes a persistent backdrop that remains “on” while the user multitasks or is engaged elsewhere. This trend accompanies what is sometimes called the widgetization of Internet and TV, as network traffic expands beyond the borders of the browser window and the confines of the PC.

Traditional approaches to community regeneration which define communities in solely geographic terms have severe limitations. They often failed to deliver on key social capital improvements such as improving trust between residents or fostering a greater sense of belonging.

In this report we argue for a new approach to community regeneration, based on an understanding of the importance of social networks, such an approach has the potential to bring about significant improvements in efforts to combat isolation and to support the development of resilient and empowered communities.

  • Noting in Harold Jarche’s post Innovation through network learning that he now takes for granted his “network learning processes, using social bookmarking; blogging and tweeting, and these habits make collaboration much easier”. He observes that:

However, these habits and practices have taken several years to develop and may not come easily to many workers. One difficult aspect of adopting network learning in an organization is that it’s personal. If not, it doesn’t work. Everybody has to develop their own methods, though there are frameworks and ideas that can help.

All this before I started exploring the treasure trove that arrives in my in box each day from Stephen Downes! Early on in the week I noted Stephen’s comment on Education and the Social Web: “A theory of connections can’t be just about forming connections; it has to be about the organization, shape and design of networks of connection, patterns of connectivity. And to me, this means that we need to design learning systems to meet personal, not political, social or commercial, objectives.” Later in the week in a discussion of two MOOC posts, Stephen suggests that: “It’s about attitude and approach. If you’re looking for someone to tell you how it works, you will find a MOOC confusing and frustrating. But if you take responsibility for your own learning, you will find any connection in a MOOC either an opportunity to teach or an opportunity to learn. No instructions necessary.”

This week has underscored for me the rich possibilities that can occur in shared spaces. My thoughts keep returning to Dharavi and the opportunities for personal wayfinding in shared spaces that afford a collective, connected experience too. I am very hopeful that the University of Canberra’s Commons ideas can stimulate innovative use of place, space and time and lead to an exciting edgy practice.

Photo Credits

Kaptai Lake

Hole in Wall

Moodle on the Move

Postscript

A day after posting this I received a link to a delightful flash mob video. I wondered if open learning spaces might stimulate this kind of event.

Other Links

2nd Annual Learning Commons Development and Design Forum, 30-31 March 2011, Brisbane.

  • Learning Commons strategy and organisational structures
  • Planning and design
  • Case studies and best practices
  • Digital information and technologies
  • Online resources