Bridging and Connecting at #SAC16



A friend, Chris Barnes, is a panel member in a session at Friday’s Asia Pacific Analytics in Sport Conference (#SAC16) in Melbourne. The aim of the panel session is to discuss directions in sport technology research.

Chris is a member of a panel that includes Allan Hahn, Tino Fuss, Daniel James and Stephanie Kovalchik.

Chris and I met yesterday. Our conversation about the conference in general and the panel in particular sent me off to reread a William Geoghegan paper from 1994 and to look at a George Couros blog post from earlier this week.

George’s post encouraged me to think about the bridges we build between each other’s views and William’s paper directed me to contemplate how we connect between and within organisations to support technological and methodological change.


I am hopeful that the diversity of interests and experiences will lead to a lively discussion and perhaps some disagreement about trends in research.

In his discussion, George Couros observes:

One of the things I tell participants in my sessions is to not disagree with me after the day, but during. It only helps myself, and the room, to truly grow.

This he suggests enables him to build bridges not walls.

George quotes Sean Blanda “We should all enter every issue with the very real possibility that we might be wrong this time” (original emphasis).

Sean adds:

But we won’t truly progress as individuals until we make an honest effort to understand those that are not like us. And you won’t convince anyone to feel the way you do if you don’t respect their position and opinions.

I have not participated in a panel discussion for a long time. I hope Chris enjoys building bridges with his panel colleagues.



There will be a diversity of interests at #SAC16. In addition to bridge building there will be opportunities to connect. Both activities take me back to William Geoghegan. The title of his paper is Whatever Happened to Instructional Technology?

I think it gives a great insight into technological innovation and adoption.

William starts with a reflection on instructional technology:

Despite massive technology expenditures over the last decade or so, the widespread availability of substantial computing power at increasingly reasonable prices, and a growing “comfort level” with this technology among college and university faculty, information technology is not being integrated into the teaching and learning process nearly as much as people have regularly predicted since it arrived on the educational scene three or four decades ago.

I wondered what this might mean for the embedding of performance monitoring and analytics in sport.

In one part of the paper, William addresses unrealistic expectations. He notes:

bringing even a relatively simple instructional application to the degree of completeness and stability necessary for broader dissemination can require at least three years of development and testing


for most instructional applications the elapsed time from initiation of development to successful distribution has typically ranged from five to more than ten years. There has also been a failure to appreciate the impact that fast-paced changes in information technology have had upon the longevity of necessary skills, the cost of upgrading hardware and software, and even the design and implementation process itself.

To this he adds human factors as a limitation on innovation and adoption.

The model that we have most commonly used for supporting the development of instructional technology – with its focus on technical support for technically “literate” faculty who often have strong track records of success in this area – may be well suited to the characteristics and needs of technologists, of technically inclined faculty innovators, and even technology vendors. But it is ill- adapted to the interests and needs of mainstream instructional faculty, whose concerns lie more with the teaching, research, and administrative tasks they have to address than with technologies that, at best, may assist in addressing them. The mismatch, in fact, may be so great in many circumstances as to alienate mainstream faculty from the more technically inclined early adopters, opening a gap between the two so great as to reduce or eliminate the likelihood of mainstream faculty actually adopting instructional technology for their own classroom use.

William contrasts early adopters of technology with early majority adopters.


I think these characteristics are present in organisations today. It will be interesting to learn how the entrepreneurial drivers of the technology space work with and support the intrapreneurial drivers within organisations.

I imagine the meeting of both worlds and the governance issues to be addressed at #SAC16 will come to consider William’s conclusion:

Technology in the service of ineffective teaching will do nothing to improve the quality of instruction; it will simply perpetuate and even amplify poor teaching. Likewise, good teaching can often be enhanced by even simple technology, wisely and sensitively applied. In either event, the process begins with teaching; technology comes second.

This for me leads to a profoundly important discussion about what is to constitute performance in the short, medium and long term … and how might the technologies and methodologies that so fascinate us become invisible.

Photo Credits

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge (Wessex Archeology, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Tightrope walk at Wembley Stadium (Simon Chapman, CC By-NC-ND 2.0)


Connecting 131022


This month, I have been making a conscious effort to write about connecting.

This week, I have found three posts that have encouraged me to think about I connect.

I saw a number of links to Bill Johnston’s Attributes of Thriving Online Communities and was pleased I followed up on them. Bill shares these characteristics of a thriving community.

I like the way the list flows from value to growth and responsiveness. I see elegant experience as a key to the thriving of communities.

Bill’s list took me back to Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John Smith’s (2009) approach to connecting. They suggest that learning “always involves who we are, what we do, who we seek to connect with, and what we aspire to become.

My experience of CCK08 transformed my connecting practices and aspirations. The second post this week that helped me think about connecting was Stephen Downes’ news of an interview with The Times Higher Education Supplement about Massive Open Online Courses. Stephen shared his transcript of the interview. It includes this observation:

Thousands of people have been working for many years toward free and open learning, and we’ve done so out of the conviction that it makes sense not just from the perspective of social justice but also from the perspective of public economics.

Stephen added:

MOOCs are the first step in something much more interesting. Once we take seriously the idea that learning – even higher learning – ought to be open to all, we are led to rethink much of the traditional mechanisms of education, and begin to think of means of extending it from the traditional classroom to all aspects of life. Learning becomes in the future something much like the written language is today, a powerful means of personal advancement and individual fulfillment.

Bill and Stephen’s posts positioned me to appreciate the third post that linked to connecting this week.

George Couros considered whether we should consider the distinction between “Connected Educator” or “Educator that Connects”?. He argues that educators should connect. He adds:

That being said, I have also learned that there are many ways that people connect (I have no idea how to use Google+ the way that I know how to use Twitter), and that people are on different timelines in their learning.  That has to be respected.  As everything, this journey to get people “connected” should be differentiated, but it can be dangerous when we use it as an adjective as opposed to a verb.

I hope my October posts are examples of a verb. I take George’s point that isolation is a choice that educators now make.

I do think connecting is fallible, emergent and daunting. Each of us makes sometimes informed and sometimes opportunistic decisions about not connecting.

Bill’s elegance, Stephen’s openness and George’s differentiation are excellent supports for anyone thinking about connecting.



Photo Credits

Scaffolding (Rongem Boyo, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Young couple looking at a traveling map in a convertible car (Biblio Archives, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Connecting 131014

Some days it really pays to scroll down a page.

This morning I was scanning through my daily Conversation alert and saw news of Rob Brooks’ latest post.


Rob started his post thus:

Hasn’t Malcolm Gladwell had a busy fortnight? His latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, shipped on the first of October. And the deluge of reviews washed out a flood of anti-Gladwell bile. He’s an unusually polarising author, Gladwell. And it looks like some of the criticism has stung.

Thereafter he synthesised a number of contributions to the Malcolm Gladwell discussions.

I really enjoyed the way he did this.

I was delighted that he introduced me to Andrew Gelman and his thoughts on over-smoothing. I should have anticipated that the lead contributor to the Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science blog would have a very distinctive take on smoothing and over-smoothing.

I spent much of the morning and two cups of coffee reading through and thinking about some of Andrew’s other posts. How did I miss out on his writing for so long?


His short post about visualisation introduced me to Dean Eckles, Alex Dow, Lada Adamic, and Adrien Friggeri. A post written in September shared how to set up just-in-time teaching assignments. I liked the way Andrew introduced Vince and his approach to setting up on-line just-in-time assignments.

Whilst contemplating the diversity of Andrew’s interests, another morning alert through brought me to Jen Jack Gieseking. By this stage I was primed to read about data visualisation. Jen Jack helped me think about my aspiring interest  in visualisation with her post Opaque is Being Polite: On Algorithms, Violence, & Awesomeness in Data Visualization.

The introductory paragraph in her post is:

Data visualizations are fantastic stuff. Social network analysis, graphic analysis, video, spatial analysis, images, and all other types of #dataviz increasingly capture the imagination and inspire as a way to represent the oft mentioned big data. The failure of many of these new software and analyses in the hand of new, excited scholars and hackers and other excitable folks means that their meaning is often…opaque. Oh, let’s be honest, opaque is being polite. I am sharing these thoughts because while many of you are concerned with the data in big data, I want to turn your attention to the algorithms within and how they mask meanings in many ways.

Jen jack introduced me to Kate Crawford. I would like to join the conversation at the table about algorithms. Andrew and Jen Jack (“data is swell but the algorithms are next and very much up for grabs. However will you join in the conversation to shape them? I look forward to seeing you at the table”) have given me a great lead to do so.

As well as being very late on meeting Andrew, Jen jack and their friends, I appear to be two millennia behind Cicero. I like Tom Standage‘s proposal that “social media does not merely connect us to each other today—it also links us to the past”. Reading about Cicero’s web as one of many historical antecedents of today’s social media reminded me of the remarkable Republic of Letters.


My morning’s reading concluded with George Couros‘s observation:

Being connected does not make you a great teacher, but in the long run, it can sure help.  If you truly believe that “the smartest person in the room, is the room,” doesn’t it make a difference on how big your room is?

And with Sue Waters’ discussion of Digital Curation: Putting the Pieces Together.

We are living in an era of content abundance. It’s now about finding and putting content into a context, in a meaningful and organised way, around specific topics.

I am awe struck by the sharing that goes on daily. After a day like today, I am hopeful that my big room has a large table to join the conversations Andrew, Jen Jack, George and Sue are having.

Photo Credits

Table, Hampstead Heath ( Nico Hogg, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Dinner conversation (-Ant, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)