Thinking about analytics

A line in Colin Beer’s Learning analytics and magic beans (1 March 2018) “Learning analytics requires a learning approach …” sent me off thinking about how discussions about learning analytics in education might facilitate conversations about analytics in sport.

I produced this slide deck to think out loud:

Photo Credit
Making Sense Of The Data: For You And Your Coach (Jacquie Tran, 2014)

Thinking about course design

I have been thinking about designing University courses in an age of open educational resources.

My particular interest at the moment is the combination of data science and sport analytics.

I keep returning to the idea of a ‘pedagogical technologist‘ able to offer ‘structured exposure’ to learners who might not otherwise choose to attend university. I see structured exposure as the key here if we are to offer a service to students in an institutional setting.

My inspiration is Alan Levine.

In 2014, Howard Rheingold described Alan as a pedagogical technologist “an architect of open, connected learning systems that enable students to take power over and responsibility for (and joy in!) their own learning”.

Howard added “Many people have something to say about what to do with the educational opportunities afforded by digital media. Fewer can persuasively articulate a case for specific pedagogies that digital media enable”.

I think Alan does this profoundly well.

Howard observed “while schools no longer have a monopoly on learning because free digital media can be used to learn anything, knowing what to learn, how to learn, what questions to ask, isn’t a given, even with the savvy online self-learner. The role of the instructor has not gone away, but it has shifted …”

This shift came to mind this morning when I read Bharath Raj’s How to play Quidditch using the TensorFlow Object Detection API.

I wondered how I might engage students like Bharath should he want to extend his domain knowledge to sports other than Quidditch as he guided his readers “through creating your own custom object detection program, using a fun example of Quidditch from the Harry Potter universe! (For all you Star Wars fans, here’s a similar blog post that you might like)”.

In his post he noted:

My motive was pretty straightforward. I wanted to build a Quidditch Seeker using TensorFlow. Specifically, I wanted to write a program to locate the snitch at every frame.

But then, I decided to up the stakes. How about trying to identify all the moving pieces of equipment used in Quidditch?

I though any design for learning I might propose would need to be profoundly personal. In this case, I wondered how prospective students might be introduced to object detection in sport using Bharat’s blog post as a problem finding start to a learning journey that encompassed first principles and granular detail.

I thought I might extract some provocations from the post and suggest students go back to some early work by Janez Pers and his colleagues (2002) and on to some of the more recent ‘ghosting’ studies of basketball and football.

This could become a spontaneous hackathon. At the University of Canberra, for example, I imagine this being facilitated by Roland Goecke in ways that underscored the power of structured exposure.

I hope students and teachers would have personal and shared learning journals that make transparent the emerging understanding about big things and small things. In doing so, we would all be moving toward a world that will be rather than a world that was.

I sense that pedagogical technologists are at home in this world of emerging performances of understanding. It is a fallible environment that demands institutions themselves become much more agile and much more imaginative in ways that courses are designed and assessed.

Photo Credits

Music abducted me (Carlos Romo, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Alan Levine on/of the web (Kristina Hoeppner, CC BY-SA 2.0)

A model Fenway Day (Brian Talbot, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Thinking about unmeetings

Stefanie Butland has been writing about unconferences.

In November, she shared six tips for running a successful unconference.

An ‘unconference’ has no schedule set before the event. Participants discuss project ideas online in advance and projects are selected by participant-voting at the start.

Stefanie’s six tips are:

  • Have a code of conduct.
  • Host online discussion of project ideas before the unconference.
  • Have a pre-unconference video-chat with first-time participants
  • Run an effective ice breaker
  • Have a plan to capture content
  • Care about other people’s success

Stefanie notes that Aidan Budd and his colleagues (2015) have a list of ten rules for organising an unconference.

In a second post in December, Stefanie wrote about the value of welcome in preparing new community members for an unconference.

An unconference of 70 participants had 45 people attending their first unconference. Stephanie wrote an introductory email to these 45:

Stephanie used the free Calendly tool to schedule meetings. She sent some questions in advance of the online conversations ( and used a Google Form questionnaire to compile responses (individually and collectively).

The online conversations enabled Stephanie “to prime people to connect on day-one of the unconference with others with similar interests or from related work sectors”.  She noticed that: immediately after our conversation, first-time participants would join the online discussion of existing project ideas, or they themselves proposed new ideas. My conversations with two first-time participants led directly to their proposing community-focussed projects – a group discussion and a new blog series of interviews!

She added:

An unexpected benefit was that questions people asked me during the video chats led to actions I could take to improve the unconference. For example, when someone wanted to know what previous participants wished they knew beforehand, I asked for and shared example resources. One wise person asked me what my plan was for having project teams report out at the end of the unconference and this led directly to a streamlined plan (See Six tips for running a successful unconference).

I think Stephanie’s posts are great resources for anyone contemplating an unconference or hackathon. Earlier this year, I was involved in a hackathon in Ireland (#abbotsthon17). One of the issues that did arise then was how to connect a community that was emerging.

Stephanie’s introductory, welcome email resonates strongly with my interest in first-in-family initiatives in higher education. It resonates too with Nancy White’s stewardship practices.

From each of these inspirations, I am very clear about the importance of inducting people into a community and supporting them once they have made the decision to engage (or even participate peripherally).

Photo Credits

Stefanie Butland (Twitter)

P1580274 (David Haberthür, CC BY-NC 2.0)