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Reflecting on a presentation on learning to students at Oxford Brookes University
Fig.1. Rescue having failed a 4 tonne whale is dragged from Stinson Beach.
As a student on Oxford Brookes University’s online course ‘First Steps into Teaching and Learning 2014’ here in week 4 we have been challenged to consider an experience from teaching or being taught and in a five minute presentation reflect on this.
My interest is teaching postgraduates and/or ‘in the workplace’.
I should be feeling I’ve stumbled into the right time and place with this one having just given a ten minute presentation online as part of the Open University Masters in Open and Distance Education module H818: The Networked Practitioner, however with that one, despite every expectation to exploit my love of and experience with linear and interactive media I resorted to a Powerpoint. I needed to improve the script up to the line and this offered the flexibility I could not have had with a Prezi or video. There were too many cumbersome technical barriers and trips that I wasn’t happy to pursue or risk.
What I’m doing here is thinking through a presentation I need to prepare. Sharing this, if and where feedback can be garnered, then informs the decisions I take.
My immediate idea, often my best, is to do a selfie-video talking to camera while hurtling around a roller-coaster at Thorp Park. It would sum up the terror, thrill, highs and lows of taking a day long workshop with a class of some 40 year 9s (12/13 year olds) in a secondary school that had/has a checkered history.
The second idea, to change the setting radically, would be a workshop with nine on creative problem solving – the objective was to come up with answers to a messy problem, though the motivation to be present for most was to experience a variety of creative problem solving activities that I had lined up. This nine in an organisation, included MBAs, prospective MBAs, a senior lecture, junior and senior managers and officers: colleagues and invited guests from different departments. This example is probably the most appropriate.
A third might be something I attended as a student – apt because doing this in 2009/2010 in part stimulated me to take an interest in learning: I wanted to know what was going wrong. Here we had prospective club swimming coaches doing everything that was unnatural to them – working from a hefty tome of paper, sitting through a lecture/seminar and expecting assessment to be achieved by filling in the blanks on course sheet handouts. This from people with few exceptions who left school with few or no qualifications – often troubled by Dyslexia. They were swimming coaches to dodge this very kind of experience. It was, you could tell, hell for some. The misalignment could not have been greater. Here the immediate visual image, apt given the subject matter, would be to watch a fish out of water drown – or nearly drown and be rescued. What really grated for me in this course was the rubbish that was taught – too many gross simplifications and spurious science.
Based on the above I should challenge myself to do the video as I need to crack loading and editing. The fish out of water, whale actually, I can illustrate from photographs and the experience this summer of being present as a 4 tonne whale beached and drowned on Stinson Beach, California (See Fig.1. above).
Making swim coaching a tad easier with SwimTag
Fig. 1. A plethora of session plans – what a year of elite swimming training looks like
Swimtag today, skitag tomorrow
Serendipity had me click on Swimtag and I’m hooked – as a swimmer and coach, but for the purposes of this note as a prospective PhD student looking for a research project for the next three years.
Fig. 2 . Swimtag
My interest is in e-learning, sport and virtual assistants / augmented learning.
Armed with a set of swimtags I’d like to research their use with a range of swimmers: masters, elite athletes, learn to swim and swimmers with disabilities. We have all of these in our 1000+ member swimming club Mid Sussex Marlins SC. Early days – I have only just completed a Masters in Open & Distance Education and am tentatively speaking to potential supervisors at the Open University, Oxford Internet Institute and Web Sciences at Southampton University with a view to submitting a doctoral research project in the next couple of months.
My vision is how swimtag becomes as commonplace as swim goggles, then translates into other sports and other fields, including business, but also as a potential prosthesis for people suffering from dementia or memory loss so potentially tied into other data capture devices.
I am seriously looking at funded PhD research for the next 3/4 years.
I am interested in e-learning, so Learning & Development particularly for v. large organisations. There is a groundswell of interest in devices/software that enhance or support memory and learning. There is a fertile crossover between health – providing support say to those who would benefit from cognitive support, what we call ‘lifelogging’ – so gathering pertinent data about the world around you, then using this in an artificially edited form (using Artificial Intelligence algorithms) to supplement memory loss or to enhance learning potential as a virtual companion. Those recovering from a stroke or with dementia included.
It may sound like science fiction but people have been working on these ideas for a decade or more.
I appreciate that simply tagging vulnerable people who may wander off and not know how to find their way home is one way to support but I’m thinking about quality of life and facilitating memory and communication too.
- Pause (mymindbursts.com)
- Deaf Olympic Swimming Hopeful Marcus Titus Makes History (healthyhearing.com)
- Try not to push (andreabadgley.com)
James and Jane Bond learn to swim slinky, silent and smooth front crawl
Fig.1. James Bond contemplates a 1,600m set but he’s forgotten his goggles.
No you haven’t made a mistake – Saturday Morning’s I teach swimming. These are swimmers who are on the cusp of advancing to our club’s competitive programme. It so happens that I am working on the creation of some accessible e-learning objects using XERTE, the open source accessible e-learning tool from Nottingham University.
I’ve decided to create something to do with swimming.
‘Flow’ is a technical term coined by a Hungarian MBA business guru with the challenging name of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (Pronounced cheek-sent-mə-hy-ee)
Flow looks like this:
Fig.2. Csikszentmihalyi (1975) Experiencing Flow in Work and Play
- To be ‘in the flow’ means that things are going well. I’m playing to my strengths, not unduly challenged, not bored.
- I could never be bored with the simple tasks of developing swimmers.
This isn’t learn to swim, these are 6-12 year olds who are well on the way to having all the strokes and skills necessary to enjoy swimming and if they like to compete at school, or perhaps one day at county or regional levels. Some might, so will I suspect, go further.
This morning we could relax – assessments went in last week.
All those boxes are ticked, or not. Come January some, most, will go to the next grade. Some, as they are struggling with their technique or just haven’t cracked all parts of a stroke at their level will stay on for another term. Trying to make this sound good is always tricky. I like to say that children ‘level out’ for a period or need a specific skill fixed that they will get in time (especially if they put in a second swim). Sometimes, say being unable to dive or a persistent screw kick may benefit from some additional tuition.
How did this become the Bond Session?
Front Crawl is a stroke they can all do, so are rather good at it. Its the fastest stroke and of course the stroke of choice if you are swimming across a crocodile infested lake a night.
- After a warm up of between 100m and 200m Front Crawl (these swimmers are our Grades 4,5 and 7, ages 6 to 13 with a mean of 10) I then had them push off and swim one length of their best FC with an emphasis on rotating left to right while swimming directly above the black line up the lane.
- This they repeated with a dive from the blocks.
- I just wanted to get a measure of their stroke skills and judge how far I think they’ve got after 10 weeks or so. Smooth, stronger, more streamlined. Higher elbows, steady flutter kick.
Not too bad, some lateral deviation, some kicking showing a bit of knee … some elbows not as high as I would like, some a little cross-over as their hand enters the water.
Most a good long glide and dolphin kick transition into the stroke.
Kicking is part of it, so a 50m kick with board before some ‘fun stuff’.
Then I get out the iPad and show them ‘Dead Swimmer’
I’d done a quick screen grab of a sequence that I call ‘dead swimmer coming to life’ – courtesy of the brilliant ‘The Swimming Drills Book’ by US former Olympic Coach Ruben Guzman.
Fig.3. Dead Swimmer from Ruben Guzman’s ‘The Swimming Drill Book’ (2007) Here on the Kindle I usually have poolside. Having let the battery go flat I risked the iPad this morning.
They haven’t done it for a few weeks, but this time I wanted perfection. The first group got into the spirit of it, indeed it was one of the swimmers who said, ‘have you seen the new James Bond?’ He proceeded to tell in detail the best scene in the film. We got on with the swim and I wondered at the wisdom of his parents. What is it rated as 13+
(I gather from reviews after the session that ‘You could take most kids. The length of the film will lull many of the younger ones to sleep. Older school-aged kids and up will appreciate it the most’.)
First they had to show me could do the above well – from floating head down, raising the hands into a streamlined position, then the legs until they were stretched out and streamlined. Next step, standing facing up the pool on the ‘T’ at the end of the lane they drop into ‘dead swimmer’ unfurl, then dolphin kick into FC. We repeated three times until they all had it right. At the deep end I started them off under the 5m flags – the idea here is so they don’t have the wall to kick off against. (And that they are far enough away from each other that someone doesn’t inadvertently get a kick in the face).
We then went for a 50m swim, competitive dive off the blocks, ideally a tumble turn but some are yet to learn this, good transition though.
In the streamlined position they jump and bounced the length of the pool. Then another dive, glide and transition into the stroke. Each time I make a mental note of their strengths and a learning point. Each gets praise and a tip – the classic sandwiching of praise wrapped around constructive feedback – I do this because it works – especially the praise bit.
They are so responsive at this age to hearing their name and told they are doing well.
Then a pull-buoy on the head. In breaststroke this is a drill. In this case they simply had to transport a ‘bomb’ to the deep end without touching it with their hands or getting it wet. If the bomb fell off then they had to take a forfeit and swim to the bottom of the pool and up. They then did some regular arms only front crawl with the pull-buoy between their thighs. The grade 7 swimmers did a bit more of this and added a woggle (or noodle) at one stage which created greater resistance so had the swimming harder.
Then a game of ‘Bond and baddies’
Bond is on the blocks, the baddy is in the water under the flags looking down the pool. On the whistle the chase begins. We had a laugh about ‘James Bond’ and ‘Jane Bond’.
Was there more?
An IM, so depending on their level all four strokes, or backstroke, breaststroke and front crawl as 75m with the butterfly as a separate swim.
Hand Stands to work, again, on the streamlined position getting them to have long straight legs and pointed toes.
Ending on a deep breath, sitting on the bottom of the pool, having a cup of tea with ‘M’.
So much for the first session.
With the next two sessions we did more of the same, the only variation with the Grade 7 swimmers was for greater distances and a race pace swim over 50m. They also did an underwater challenge, thinking of the pool as a river at night that is closely guarded. They have to get to the other side undetected, so they only surface once or twice or more.
This group (Our Grade 7) also did the ‘Shark Fin’ drill.
Csikszentmihalyi, M (1975) Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level. Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-87589-261-2Related articles
- Activity designed to provide an insight into scripting content that is image rich for the visually impaired (mymindbursts.com)
- Effortless Swimming Releases New Video Program for Open Water Swimmers (prweb.com)
- Most Common Mistakes in Freestyle Swimming (swimteaching.com)
- How to swim faster? Part 1 (isaacloo.wordpress.com)
- How to Swim With a Buoy Between the Legs (livestrong.com)
- How E-learning would benefit from S-training (mymindbursts.com)
- Using Gagne’s steps for instructional design to develop e-learning for swimming teachers (coachmarlins.com)
In an environment in which the coining of phrases is endemic I wish to invent the term wet.learning – learning that is conducted in and around water in relation to teaching people to swim and teaching teachers and coaches how to teach people to swim.
By definition you cannot have anything electric or electronic around water; this negates e.learning of any kind.
even paper learning (p.learning) can be problematic as the stuff invariably gets wet, goes soggy, tears and is binned.
so we are left with original learning (o.learning), which like original sin committed by Adam & Eve is done in a semi-naked state.
I mock, I must. I’ve been involved in education, mostly corporate, and have never deemed it necessary to call it v.learning when we used video, though interactive learning & training became common place (though never called i.learning or i.training) – it was sometimes called ‘clever’ or ‘smart’ learning though … but never c.learning or s.learning.
So back to wet learning …
undertaken poolside where the acoustics are atrocious we often resort to grunts, sign language and waving our arms & limbs about in demonstration.
Did our ancestors in cave teach cave-kids to paint in such ways?
If there is to be any final definition of e.learning it should be ‘effective learning,’ the alternative be “*.learning.”
You don’t learn to swim by reading a book …
An applied degree must therefore be situated in the workplace?
Too much theory without practice was described by the owner of a successful specialist engineering firm in Germany today as ‘like trying to learn to swim from a book.’
Apprenticeship in Germany run for 3 1/2 years of which 8 months a year is practical. The remainder of the year they go to a special school. ‘If you only learn theory it is like learning swimming from reading a book so you need both.’ Leonardo Duritchich, Chief Technial Water, Sief Steiner Pianos. The Today Programme, 27h36, Wednesday 17th August.
I agree, though when it comes to swimming, there are some great books made all the better in electronic form. This is ‘The Swim Drill Book.’
Putting into practice what you learn, learning construction rather than simply knowledge acquisition; I believe this to be the case with something like The OU Business School MBA, something I needed each time I started businesses in the 1980s and 1990s.
As a swimming coach it matters that you swam competitively and/or still swim. A flightless bird cannot teach a bird to fly. So engineers learn through doing, often from apprenticeship. Junior Doctors need to put in the hours, solicitors start as trainees, the list goes on. It is particularly the case in the TV business where after starting as a trainee producer I was happier with kit, shooting, editing and drafting scripts, learning my trade, something that an a degree had not prepared me for.
Comments (from other blog platform)
Birds fly instinctively. They are not taught.
I think you’re confusing coaching with instructing. If you read the works of Tim Gallwey or John Whitmore you will realise that coaching requires expertise in coaching and not the subject in hand. It is helping people to learn and break through internal barriers to improvement rather than teaching them.
Engineers are significantly different from solicitors and doctors. Failure is acceptable for both solicitors and doctors as long as they can show that they have followed the accepted ways that they have spent years practising. Engineers have to tackle original and unique tasks using theoretical knowledge which they may never have applied or may have yet to acquire. Failure is not an option despite lack of experience.
I learn everything from books, magazines and newspapers. I learn about quantum physics from books as opposed to turning up at CERN and asking if I can have half a day on their collider. I learn about the war in Libya from newspapers rather than going there and shooting people. I learn about hydro-electric power without building a dam. I’m not sure about juggling though.
Where old meets new: paper and handwriting vs e-learning
I have in-front of me an Amateur Swimming Associations (ASA) paper for the Level III Senior Club Coach certificate. There are 12 sheets, facing side only. The paper is waxed, copyrighted and stamped with the ASA logo. Having attended a day long workshop on the topic, done some reading and from my own experience I complete these assignment and submit. It ought to be submitted as is; this is in part a test of authenticity. I have handwritten my responses. My habit and way of doing things is to have it in a word document, so I load the text and tables, complete the required questions/tasks, print off and submit both parts. Invariably I get a note about the typed up/printed off version being so much better … it takes skills that even I lack to write something in some of the minuscule boxes.
I was discussing on Monday with the ASA how to avoid plagiarism with e-assessments.
I mentioned Nottingham University medical students attending a computer-based assessment. I mentioned software that can spot plagiarism. I struggled however with the kind of forms the ASA uses as these tests seem to be have written with the EXAMINER in mind … i.e. to make them easy to mark. Which also makes it easy to cheat. The answer is the same, not open to interpretation. More or less. This isn’t strictly fair … papers are returned covered in red ink – I have redone one paper.
There has to be a sign in process that is used to identify a person.
How many people cheat? Is it such a problem?
Apparently so. Even with certificates and qualifications it appears easy to falsify documents. And often, these determined people are excellent teachers/coaches who have learn their trade as competitive swimmers and/or on the job, so they know what they are doing, they simply don’t have the piece of paper.
I also have in front of me a set of handwritten cards given to me by a colleague who has just taken her Level II Coaching certificate. She failed the written paper. She used these cards to test herself. My intention is to put these into Spaced-Ed, as an exercise, possibly to create or to begin to create a useful learning tool.
I like the way Space-Ed prompts you over the week, tests you on a few things, then leaves you alone. You have time to assimilate the information. Is it easy learning? It is easier learning … nothing beats a period of concerted effort and self-testing to verify that you know something or not.
Whether electronic, or paper … or the spoken word, there is always a bridge to gap, a translation, as it were, of the information a person wants or needs to assimilate and this assimilation process.
Common to all is EFFORT.
Do you work hard at it for longer periods of time … or divide the task up into smaller chunks? Which works best? For you, or anyone? Is there a definitive answer? No. It will vary for you, as with anyone else. It will vary by motivation, inclination, time available, the nature and importance of the topic, the degree to which this topic is covered in print or online, or in workshops and in the workplace. In deed, my contention, would be that the greater the variety of ways to engage with the information the better it will be retained and the more useful it will be when required in a myriad of ways to be applied or is called upon.
I learn from writing something out by hand. I learn again when I type it up. I may not be engaging with it ‘in the workplace;’ but there is engagement non the less through my eyes, hands and fingers. Similarly the person who wrote out this pack of 71 cards (both sides written up) was preparing themselves, afterall, for a written exam. She knows her stuff poolside, her struggle (as I know is the case for many) is translating this into exam-like responses in a highly false setting, away from a pool, from swimmers, having to read words to respond in text, rather than reading an athlete (observation) and responding with a fixing drill or exercise.
Sea swim in September
I swim out to the bathing zone marker buoy 200 or 300 m offshore. I go in gingerly wearing windsurfing boots over the shingle and a ‘shortie’ wetsuit. I have latex bungs in my ears and a swimming cap. It is cooler already than a week ago; I let myself in gently, not repeating the mistake I made a week ago setting off in a Triathlon by leaping in dry and racing off for the first marker as I were the sprint swimmer in a water polo pack determined and used to getting to the ball first mid-way up the pool. I let the wetsuit keep me buoyant and I set off my head high, only lowering it further into the water to tip my eight forwards after a few dozen strokes. I rested up a couple of times too, my excuse was the water in my goggles, my excuse was I did a half hour pool training session this morning, my excuse was the swell coming in from the South East that could fill my lungs and belly; I made that mistake last week too, taking several mouthfuls of sea-water within minutes of setting off. Not today.
The sun sets, the beach is quiet
It could be the Mediterranean in March, Cannes in November. I rest at the buoy, threading my feet around the rope that anchors it to the seabed. Rested I head back, this time without a break, a steady, relentless swim, head down for six strokes, checking my way forward on the seventh. It’s easier with the swell coming over my right shoulder as I find breathing to the left less forced. Once used to the water I breathe bilaterally for a stretch, not for long, just to see if it can be done in the sea. I’ll bring a football out next and swim with it, water-polo style, head up; that’ll work the shoulders more and prepare me for the more upright position that is sometimes required when swimming in the open sea.
I would never have expected to sunbathe in mid-September and feel flushed; I would never expect to swim in the sea, but I did.