Cirrus 111208

This week I found links to:

The TL Virtual Cafe’s Open Mic with Joyce Valenza that attracted 138 participants. Gwyneth Jones was the moderator.

Andrew Preater‘s discussion of ethnographies of next-gen catalogue users.

Phillipe Blanchard’s discussion of shared goals for sport.

I expect current sport industry leaders to engage in attempts to master all kinds of data necessary to increase their legitimacy on one hand and become the ultimate storytelling platform for their sport and the other hand.

Phillipe points to a Claire Ritchie observation:

For a modern global sporting event, not having a fully functional communications infrastructure capable of withstanding an invasion of the world’s leading opinion forming sports journalists, legion of tweeting athletes and smartphone addicted spectators is akin to not filling the Aquatics Centre swimming pool with water.

Claire provides an insight into the infrastructure in place to support the London Olympics:

  • WAN, MAN, LAN and TV and broadcast services.
  • 80,000 voice and data outlets, 16,500 fixed telephone lines, 14,000 mobile SIM cards, and 1,000 wireless access points.
  • The London 2012 Games website ready for 12 billion page views.
  • Six Gigabytes of multimedia data every second generated by 14,000 cable TV outlets, 20,000 accredited media personnel, and Live Site screens in UK city centres
  • High demand for data transfer with such things as real time video streaming

The core communications network has:

  • 160Gbps between POPs and 20Gbps delivered to each of the venues.
  • A dedicated communications network for Olympic Broadcaster Services London (OBSL), the host broadcasting organisation for the London 2012 Games.
  • High Definition (HD) images shared with billions of viewers.
  • A massive fibre ring around the Olympic Park in East London, and communications arteries that will reach out as far as Hampden Park in the north, the Millennium Stadium in the west, Weymouth in the south, and Hadleigh Farm in the east – an estimated total of 94 separate competition and non-competition venues throughout the UK.
  • All joined together with enough cable to stretch halfway from Beijing to London.

I listened with interest to Emma Marris‘s discussion of The Rambunctious Garden on Radio National’s Counterpoint program and thought about eco systems and learning.

Humans have changed the landscapes they inhabit since prehistory, and climate change means even the remotest places now bear the fingerprints of humanity. Emma Marris argues convincingly that it is time to look forward and create the “rambunctious garden,” a hybrid of wild nature and human management.

I heard about Nicholas Gruen’s Wellbeing Index via ABC666 and liked the points made about human capital:

One of the nation’s most valuable assets is not its physical assets, like buildings and machinery, but its human capital – the knowledge and knowhow embodied in our people. Education is the key driver of improvements in human capital.

The same ABC666 program brought me news of the canberra lab too.
canberralab is … the actualisation of a latent desire of a group of young architects to establish a discourse within Canberra’s design community. Through building a platform to critique/discuss/discover Canberra’s built environment the CL zine will foster and encourage an exoteric dialogue between architecture, design and art. More than that though, CL is about understanding Canberra… why it is the way it is, what works, what doesn’t …
Interspersed with these items were some great leads from Stephen Downes and OLDaily. I liked his links to sharing and friction, curation and new technology in research in particular.
Photo Credit

Live Blogging Synchronous Sharing

Reading Stephen Downes’ OLDaily is akin for me to entering Aladdin’s Cave.

My day starts with Stephen’s newsletter and a piccolo latte.

Yesterday I enjoyed Stephen’s post on How to Get the Most out of a Conference and followed up on his link to Matt Thompson’s post 5 reasons to liveblog instead of live tweeting.

I liked the detail in Matt’s post.

I am keen to blog about the talks, workshops and conferences I attend. I do so out of a sense of privilege and of a commitment to open sharing. I use my WordPress blog for my live blogging and tweet briefly about a topic or a speaker. Last week, for example, I attended the Launch of the Human-Centred Computer Laboratory at the University of Canberra and made a small number of tweets with #HCCL.

Matt suggests that live blogging:

  • Enables attention and engagement
  • Encourages writing
  • Is a service

(I have condensed his list of five characteristics to three.)

For my part live blogging is an ethnographic activity. It is an an opportunity to share a cultural context and whenever possible to provide thick description. It is an opportunity for reciprocal altruism too. A commitment to connected sharing. Thirdly, I do think that it is a phenomenographic activity. It is a personal opportunity to observe and share particular events.

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