Wandering and meeting Sarah, Edouard and Ludovico

This week, I found a link to David Ranzolin’s The Data Analyst as Wanderer: Pre-Exploratory Data Analysis with R. In it David considers “answering questions about the data at two junctures: before you know anything about the data and when you know only very little about the data”.

He used metaphor of wandering to discuss data analysis. He observed “data analysts may wander but are not lost. This post is for data analysts ready to wander over their data (with R)”.

David’s questions are:

  1. What is this?
  2. What’s in this?
  3. What can I do with this?

These sprang to mind when I found Sarah Milstein’s How to Fail When You’re Used to Winning (A guide for managing morale while pushing for innovation). In her post, Sarah observed:

Innovation is a buzzword for our era. It evokes the promise of profiting tomorrow from today’s changes in technology. The word innovation implies a clean, crisp path. That’s a lie. In fact, innovation requires enormous amounts of failure — which then presents leadership challenges.

She adds:

But any team that must experiment constantly will fail a lot, and repeated failure almost always depresses people. (Original emphasis)

This part of her post struck me forcefully:

a certain amount of failure is inevitable. Accountability lies not just in individuals taking responsibility, but in teams having a consistent way to learn from those episodes. (Original emphasis)

Sarah concludes her post with this exhortation:

Your path to succeeding at failure and maintaining morale will not be linear. You’ll stumble along the way and find yourself wanting to pretend you didn’t just trip. But stick with it. Teams that can maintain good spirits during hard times tend to win, and nothing feeds morale like success.

Waldemar Januzczak was the guide in my next phase of wandering. Here in Australia they re-showed his 2009 documentary on Edouard Manet. In part of the documentary he discusses Manet’s Old Musician painting with Juliet Wilson-Bareau. Juliet pointed out Manet’s techniques in the picture and his ability to create texture in his composition.

One example was the shoes of the two young boys:

Juliet’s observation was that by rubbing the existing paint of the shoes rather than adding white, the picture takes on a different perspective.

Juliet’s knowledge of Manet made this granular insight particularly powerful and sent me off thinking about how each of use sees nuances in performance and the data of those performances. She returned me to David’s three questions for wanderers: What is this?; What’s in this?; What can I do with this?.

Fortunately, Ludovico Einaudi was there to help me with these contemplations. One commentator noted of him “For Einaudi, composition can happen in different ways. He improvises at the piano, invents melodies in his mind, but also hears them during his sleep”.

Daniel Keane (2017) said of Ludovico’s music “Throughout its course, one is never sure whether one is listening to something very old or very new.”

I think this sentiment resonates with our experiences of data wandering and why David Ranzolin’s prompts are so helpful.

Photo Credit

Le Vieux Musicien (The Yorck Project, public domain)

Riding a wave

I was introduced to Pauline, a NSW bus driver this morning thanks to an alert from my wife, Sue.

The introduction was through a delightful article by Jock Serong about Pauline Menczer’s induction into Surfing Australia’s Hall of Fame.

There are some sentences in Jock’s story that made a strong impression on me:

Pauline Menczer, the woman who had the world at her feet back in 1993, loves her job. Living in nearby Brunswick Heads with her fiancee Samantha, she has achieved a rare measure of peace for a retired athlete.

… a career that was built on perseverance, as much as talent.

One of four children raised by a single mum at Bronte, she was bitten hard by the surfing bug at 13; collecting aluminium cans, baking cakes and selling toffees through her high school to raise the money to get to competitions.

Pauline won the world amateur championship in Puerto Rico in 1988. She was 18. Five years later she won the world professional tour championship.

There is a great end to Jock’s article:

Surfing might finally be handing Pauline Menczer the respect she deserves. But meanwhile, it’s hit 2.45pm and Pauline needs to go. She’s got a bus to drive.

I was delighted to be introduced to Pauline. I am sorry I had not learned of her story earlier. I missed Joanne Shoebridge’s (2017) alert to Pauline’s omission from the Byron Bay honour roll.

In that article, Pauline observed of the absence of women from the honour roll:

I do care about the younger generation coming through, and there could be some young girls coming through and they look up at this wall and see a lot of men, and the women that they idolise aren’t there, so what’s that telling them? That they’re not worthy?

We should listen more to our bus drivers when it comes to the essence of egalitarian sport. The one from Brunswick Heads has a world of experience to share.

Photo Credit

Pauline in 1996 (Daily Telegraph)

Pauline (Surf Australia)

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)