Sharing insights and decision-making experiences

Braidwood is my St Mary Mead and Lake Wobegon.

It is a place where I can ponder events way beyond this small rural New South Wales town and connect with them through events in the town.

This weekend, the Braidwood Festival has been helping me reflect on thoughts about insights and decision-making shared by Jacquie Tran.

Jacquie’s presentation, From insights to decisions: Knowledge sharing in sports analytics, has stimulated lots of interest and conversations. One of the observations Jacquie has made is:

Enter Braidwood into this conversation.

This weekend, the Festival of Braidwood has included an airing of quilts, an Art on the Farms exhibition, and open gardens. All of these have a synchronicity with Jacquie’s discussion. I have two examples from the weekend to illustrate the points Jacquie is making.

The first is from on of the exhibits, an upholstered chair by Heidi Horwood.

In the exhibition catalogue, Heidi writes:

The chair was found in a shed on a farm in Braidwood in a state of considerable disrepair. Many of the fabrics that make the patchwork in this project are very old and sourced in Braidwood. … I love the sense of history in old chairs and imagine the comfort they have brought.

The second is from a the Linden Garden at Jembaicumbene. The gardeners there have transformed the garden in five years. They have planted trees, herbaceous borders and found ways to manage limited resources in a windswept location.

The garden draws inspiration from landscape designer Nicole de Vesian, who at 70 translated her experience as a designer for Hermes to create her garden, La Louve in Provence.

I hope both examples add to the conversation Jacquie has started about insights. In both of them there is a bisociation occuring. Arthur Koestler said of bisociation “The discoveries of yesterday are the truisms of tomorrow, because we can add to our knowledge but cannot subtract from it.”

Having a sense of who we were and who we are gives us opportunities to consider how we will be. I see this a profoundly shared experience.

I wonder what you think.

Photo Credits

Braidwood (Jack Featherstone)

Jack Bourke shearing (Katie Lyons, Art on Farms)

Chair (Heidi Horwood)

Linden Garden (Braidwood Open Gardens)

Bedervale (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Coaches as Technologists

I am writing this post in the delightful seaside town of Grange-over-Sands at a time when I should be meeting friends and colleagues in Doha, Qatar. My flight to Doha from Manchester was cancelled yesterday due to the most natural of events, the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, an Iceland volcano.

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Part of my time in Doha was going to be spent talking with coaches about technology and I think events in Iceland are a great reminder (if we needed reminding) about how basic we can be to support learning.

My thoughts about coaches as technologists are focussed on four themes and these were to be the basis of my conversations in Doha. Coaches as:

  • Educational Technologists
  • Users of Commercial Technologies
  • Users of Free Resources
  • Technology Developers

Educational Technologists

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Coaches facilitate learning and improve performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources. As such coaches (like teachers) are exemplary educational technologists. In this context coaches use “an array of tools that might prove helpful in advancing student learning” and educational technology is characterised by a broad definition of the word technology (material objects such as machines or hardware, and systems, methods of organization, and techniques).

I was going to exemplify this broad approach to educational technology with reference to, Katie Buckley, a PhD scholar in the National Institute of Sport Studies at the University of Canberra. In 2009, Katie worked with twelve football coaches (Australian Rules and Rugby Union) in four clubs. She noted that:

Coaches used their voices more than 20 dB louder than an everyday conversation. In some circumstances, this was over 40 dB louder. This louder volume occurred both indoors (meetings and indoor training) and when outside. Coaches used their voices around 20% of the time across training environments. This is comparable to other occupations that rely on their voice throughout the day (such as preschool teachers – 17%). This amount of voice use is considerably more than many other occupations, such as nursing and speech pathology (which range from 5-7%).

Katie concluded that:

This research showed that coaches are heavily reliant on their voices for success in their jobs. Despite not having considered their voices at work before, coaches were able to reflect on many aspects of their voice use. This included what impacted on their voices and what they found helpful to alleviate voice symptoms. However, they were generally unaware of why these strategies worked. They did not know how to prevent voice problems from developing. With greater knowledge about what impacts on their voices and how to use them effectively, there is good potential for coaches to improve their vocal health.

Discussions about coaches and technology almost always overlook voice and the organisation of training environments. I was hoping to draw out some of these ideas about the learning environments coaches create with a discussion of:

Users of Commercial Technologies

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Many coaches are innovators and early adopters of technologies. In the last two decades there has been an explosion of commercially available products that have interested coaches. In my Doha discussions I was going to look at:

  • Game and technical analysis
  • GPS tracking devices

These two categories exemplify the application of a particular kind of technology to sport. This SlideShare account shares some of the broader technology issues.

I think a discussion of the the paper by Randers, M. et al (2010) is an effective way to combine a discussion of game analysis and GPS tracking. The paper includes as authors Esa Peltola and my PhD colleague, Adam Hewitt. The paper concludes that “Our results show that the four systems were able to detect similar performance decrements during a football game and can be used to study game-induced fatigue. Rather large between-system differences were present in the determination of the absolute distances covered, meaning that any comparisons of results between different match analysis systems should be done with caution”.

I think this conclusion raises some great questions about automated data collection and the coach’s eye. It offers and opportunity to to explore the role augmented information plays in feedforward.

Users of Free Resources

Since late 2007 I have been exploring the possibilities of using cloud computing resources to share information openly amongst the coaching community. I was keen to develop the ideas I presented in Spotting (2009) and A Fourth Age of Sports Institutes (2009).

I am keen to explore how coaches and sport organisations with limited funds can develop a strong digital presence. As a case study I was going to present the work of my colleague, Leigh Blackall. He has the delightful role of Learning Commons Coordinator in the National Institute of Sport Studies at the University of Canberra.

Technology Developers


Just before my visit to the United Kingdom en route to Doha, I had an email from a coaching colleague in Australia. The coach had seen a paper by Ian White (2010) that described the development of “a potentially useful methodology for the capture, production, dissemination and viewing of stereoscopic video images using existing, low-cost technologies.” The coach picked up on the final sentence of the abstract to the paper “Applications in education as well as vocational and sports training are self-evident (coach’s emphasis).”

The coach’s enquiry is a great example of what Arthur Koestler called bisociation. Creativity in coaching is often made possible because  a coach joins unrelated, often conflicting, information in a new way.

Conclusion

I thought this fourth characteristic of coaching behaviour, technology developer, might be a good focus for all four characteristics of a coach mentioned in this post. I was keen to discuss in Doha how each coach develops his or her own learning environment. I do think that one of the next great developments in coaching, coach education and development will be the personalisation (individualisation) of coaching pathways and wayfinding. I imagined there to be a real workshop flavour to this part of my discussions.

I started this post with the report that a force of nature had prevented my travel to Doha. I am now using a digital technology to share in asynchronous time ideas I would have presented in synchronous time. My work is exploring how we can support each other even though we may be separated by thousands of kilometers and living in different time zones. I see this to be the digital dividend of our time and an approach that can support and develop conversations between colleagues with shared interests. I cite the example of CCK08, a connectivism course in 2008, as a guide to what can be achieved in this way.

I hope you find this post of interest wherever and whenever you read it. If Grange-over-Sands has a beach I am off to it!

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Coaching, Composition, Ecology and Big Pictures

Last week I was involved in a lot of discussions about coaching and coach development. For years I have been thinking about the vision that links people after reading an Arthur Koestler paper in the late 1980s entitled The Vision that Links the Poet, Artist and Scientist.

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This week I have been thinking about the links between coaching and composition following a Graham Abbott program about Mozart. In 1788 he composed his last three symphonies, 39 (in E flat), 40 (in G minor)  and 41 (in C). In his analysis of these three symphonies Graham Abbott suggests that one refers back to the whole of Mozart’s work, one emphasises Mozart’s present occupations and one holds within it the next century of classical music. I was wondering if that is what great coaches do too in their coaching. Do they have three concurrent rhythms running through their work: the biography that positioned them to coach in the here and now and that allows them to envisage performance that can be?

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By coincidence the Hubble Telescope was in the news last week. I wondered if coach education and development might set some Hubble type aspirations:

  • NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is back in business, ready to uncover new worlds, peer ever deeper into space, and even map the invisible backbone of the universe.
  • With its new imaging camera, Hubble can view galaxies, star clusters, and other objects across a wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. A new spectrograph slices across billions of light-years to map the filamentary structure of the universe and trace the distribution of elements that are fundamental to life. The telescope’s new instruments also are more sensitive to light and can observe in ways that are significantly more efficient and require less observing time than previous generations of Hubble instruments.
  • Hubble also is now significantly more well-equipped to probe and further characterize the behavior of dark energy, a mysterious and little-understood repulsive force that is pushing the universe apart at an ever-faster rate.

If this kind of vision is what coaching is about then I think coaching is about first principles too. I wondered if the insights coaches have match those of a soil scientist like Christine Jones and an innovative farmer like Cam McKellar who appeared on Radio National’s Bush Telegraph program. If you have an opportunity to listen to the podcast then it will sound very familiar to coaches interested in grassroots development!

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I am hopeful that the visions held by composers, astronomers and farmers can enrich our thinking about coaching.

Photo Sources (The Commons)

The St Raphael Team

An Orchestral Practice

Hubble Image

Planting Tomatoes