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Dreams in the digital ocean

Breaking Waves and Pelican

Breaking Waves and Pelican (Photo credit: Bill Gracey)

I’ve described it as a digital ocean often enough so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found myself in it. That was a couple of nights ago.

Writing to a colleague with a mixture of excitement and concern I told them why they had to take an interest in Web 2.0. I explained that there would be an impact on the Pharmaceutical industry – she works in medical market research interviewing then analysing qualitative data and writing reports. I had written the sentence, ‘do you want to get on your surf board or get washed out in the ripe tide?’ when I visualised myself back in this dream.

I can use lucid dreams deliberately to help me dwell on matters, or just for the fun of it.

I remember being able to go back into dreams having woken up age 11 or so at boarding school: Beamish Dormitory, Mowden Hall School. I may have only been 10. I was in a three musketeers sword fight, three against one. I was killed. I woke and returned in the dream behind the three attackers. In my teens I found a book on it and learnt a few tricks to ‘find’ a dream or two from the night before and then some decades later I found a list of some 27 questions I could subject myself too if I really wished to get a sense of what was going on.

Today it is usually swift and automatic; I know that the dream, its location and events, are a projection of how I feel about an issue. After a couple of months of total immersion in Web 2.0 (Open University Masters in Open & Distance Education, OLDs MOOC) reading and coursework and trying to plan a long term future in this environment I started to find myself in the water.

The beach at Mawgan Porth, Cornwall seems to the spot, probably because for the first time ever in my life I got caught in the rip last summer. Had I not taken a pull-buoy out as a precaution I would have certainly been in trouble as my stomach and back cramped. (I’m a former competitive swimmer gone to seed – its ten years since I did a triathlon). It was a shock to find myself heading down the coast and looking inland for all intense and purposes as if from a bus window that was on its way.

In the dream though, I had a sense of both nerves and excitement at being in the waves just before they broke – my preference however was to get out beyond them.

What I take from this is the need to be adequately prepared – fit for the water and armed with a surf-board (if only to sit on it), even to have something to wave to get the lifeguards’ attention. An observer, and player, beyond the waves, suggests to me research.

This is my digital landscape visualised.

The flotsam and jetsam of old practices get washed away or left on the shore. The ‘players’ creating content in e-learning agencies and departments are on this breaking edge, where the oceans makes landfall.

 

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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.

REFERENCE

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

English: Breaststroke 2 ‪中文(简体)‬: 蛙泳2

English: Breaststroke 2 ‪中文(简体)‬: 蛙泳2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fig.1. Kindle by the pool. Taking swim sessions armed with a Kindle edition of ‘The Swimming Drills book. A perfect aide memoire for the coach. A tool that grabs the attention of swimmers (I use this with 5 year olds to 75 year olds)

As part of the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) module H810 Accessible Online Learning : supporting disabled students we are looking at how best to describe visual content for the visually impaired. This fascinating exercise sees me refreshing my ideas on scriptwriting.

Asked to find an example of an online learning resource from my own context I decided to turn to swimming

Teaching breaststroke : symmetrical whip kick and glide, arms in front of the shoulders during the pull, head still looking no further than in front of your hands.

Coach Marlins – my swim teaching and coaching blog.

A personal resource, reflection on swimming (masters) and coaching for Mid Sussex Marlins Swimming Club.  A first step towards creating a mobile resource. Below is an excerpt from a typical morning teaching four groups – three grade groups (4.5.7) typically 7 – 11 year olds) and a disability swimming group of children and adults.

See ‘The Swim Drills Books’

Grade 7 are technically superior and have more stamina and may be a little older. The ones I watch out for are the 7 year olds in with 10 and 11 year olds as they need a different approach, TLC and play.

WARM UP

  • 3 x 50m warm up of front crawl and backstroke

Always giving a tip before starting them off (and accommodating the odd swimmer who is invariably late), say ‘smooth swimming’ or ‘long legs’. i.e. reducing splashing and creating a more efficient swimmer.

  1. Make sure too that there is a 5m between each swimmer.
  2. 25m of Breaststroke to see what I’ve got and potentially adjust accordingly.

LEGS

Fig. 2. Breaststroke kicking drill from ‘The Swimming Drill Book’

  • Kick on front with a kicker float.
  • Taking tips from ‘The Swim Drill Book’
  • I remember to put as much emphasis on keeping the chin in.

The glide is key – this is where to put the emphasis.

  • May start the ‘Kick, Pull, Glide’ or better ‘Kick, Pull, Slide’ mantra to get it into their heads.

ARMS

Fig. 3. Breaststroke arms from ‘The Swimming Drill Book’

Standing demo of the arm stroke, from Guzman, forming an equilateral triangle and keeping the fingers pointing away.

  • Will ‘describe’ the triangle poolside then ask what it is and what kind of triangle.
  • Anything to get them to think about it a little.

Fig. 4. Breaststroke arms from ‘The Swimming Drill Book’

  • I show this as a single action.
  • Other things I might say include ‘heart shaped’ *(upside down).
  • And making a sound effect ‘Bu-dooosh’ as I push my arms out.

Fig. 5. Breaststroke arms from ‘The Swimming Drill Book’

Repeat the need for a pronounced glide, even asking fo a 2 second count (one Mississippi, two Mississippi)

I support by showing images from ‘The Swimming Drill Book‘ on an iPhone or the Kindle

Leading into the turn we do in sequence (from the shallow end):

    • Push and glide for count of 5 seconds
    • Same, then add the underwater stroke and See how far you can go.

Legs Only Drill (Advanced)

Arms outstretched above the head. No kicker float

  • The whole BR transition counting 3,2,1.

Which visual content needs describing?

  • The objects that need describing might be photos, diagrams, models, animations and so on.

In the resources I was impressed by the clear, logical, analytical description of some of the complex bar charts, flow charts, pie charts and others. This is how all descriptions should be. In 2010 or 2011 the BBC reviewed how weather forecasts were delivered. It was determined that they were far too flowery. A plainer, clearer approach – overview, identified the region, immediate and forecast weather. Move on. Much more like ‘The Shipping Forecast‘ was wanted and worked better. No more ‘weather-caster personalities’ then. It isn’t entertainment, it is information.

What kind of description is needed?

‘Before beginning to write a description, establish what the image is showing and what the most important aspects are’. UKAAF

‘Consider what is important about the photograph in the context of how the image is going to be used, and how much detail is essential’. UKAAF

In swimming, any description of these visuals should emphasise the purpose of the action, the key action in relation to the physics and physiology of the pull, the action in relation to the rules of competitive swimming.

  • Keep it simple
  • Get to the point
  • Choose the right words

Kick without a float. Arm pull practice standing in water or on the side of the pool.

If you can, ask someone who has not seen these visual objects to read your descriptions. Then show them the object and the context. What was their reaction? (If you have online tools to share visual resources, ask another student in your tutor group to do this activity with you.)

Which aspects of this task were straightforward or difficult?

  • Knowing that gender is irrelevant. Putting it in context.
  • Take care not to use terms or metaphors that the swimmer may not be familiar with if they have never seen them.

Reading text on a diagram and wanting to shut my eyes so that I can hear the description without the image.

  • To get this close to right I need to use a screen reader or record and play back.
  • Working with someone who is visually impaired is of course the best approach.

‘Remember that blind or partially sighted people cannot skim read, so let them know how long the description is likely to be’. UKAAF

Knowing what to leave out, being confident to leave something out then knowing how to handle it.

‘It is important that information provided for sighted people is also made available to blind and partially sighted people, even if the way the information is given is different’. RNIB (2009)

An author should write with a single reader in mind – in this instance while visual impairment is the modus operandi – they are first of all a swimmer or swim teacher/assistant – so the description must be given with this in mind, which in turn defines the writing/editing process of what to put in or what to leave out.

What might have helped  improve my descriptions?

  • Physically moving the student athletes arms and legs through the positions. With their consent, allowing a visually impaired swimmer lay the hands on the arms then legs of someone as they go through the movement.
  • An artist’s manikin or a jointed doll, male or female action figure,
  • Braille embossed outline.

‘However converting a visual graphic to an appropriate tactile graphic is not simply a matter of taking a visual image and making some kind of “tactile photocopy”. The tactile sense is considerably less sensitive than the visual sense, and touch works in a more serial manner than vision. Therefore the visual graphic needs to be re-designed to make sense in a tactile form for blind and partial sighted readers’. RNIB (2009)

In some subjects, interpreting an image or diagram could be a key skill that students are expected to learn.

Drill-down organization

Descriptions should follow a drill-down organization, e.g., a brief summary followed by extended description and/or specific data. Drill-down organization allows the reader to either continue reading for more information or stop when they have read all they want.

Keeping this logic rather than imaging the sighted eye skipping about the page, so I imagine I am not allowed to lift the stylus from the screen … it has to be in a continuous, logical flow. Constructing a narrative would add some logic to it as well.

Can descriptions be done in such a way that you are not giving students the answers?

This was an interesting and relevant point regarding humorous cartoons ‘Cartoons and comic strips need to be described if necessary. Set the scene of the cartoon without giving away the joke Provide a brief overview of the image.’

The same therefore applies to ‘giving the answer’ – treat it as the punch line but leave it out. and like a quiz book say, ‘answers on page x’.

What do you think your strategy would be if you can’t find a way to give a description without compromising the learning outcomes?

Script differently – this is after all a different audience – and all students are ultimately an audience of one. Perhaps all resources will become highly personalised in future?

12) How can providing descriptions be included in the workflow process of delivering an online module? (This was touched on in the discussion for Activity 17.3.)

  • I liked this quotation:

“When organisations send me information in formats that I can read myself it allows me to be independent, feel informed and appreciated – just like every other customer.” End-user UKAAF

From Describing images 2: Charts and graphs

  • Definition of print disability
  • A print-disabled person is anyone for whom a visual, cognitive, or physical disability hinders the ability to read print. This includes all visual impairments, dyslexia, and any physical disabilities that prevent the handling of a physical copy of a print publication.

REFERENCE

RNIB Tactile Images : http://www.rnib.org.uk/professionals/accessibleinformation/accessibleformats/accessibleimages/Pages/accessible_images.aspx

RNIB Image Descriptions : http://www.rnib.org.uk/professionals/accessibleinformation/accessibleformats/accessibleimages/imagedescriptions/Pages/image_descriptions.aspx

Gould, B., O’Connell, T. and Freed, G. (2008) Effective Practices for Description of Science Content within Digital Talking Books [online], National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), http://ncam.wgbh.org/ experience_learn/ educational_media/ stemdx (last accessed 10 November 2012).

Guzman, R (2007) The Swimming Drills Book.  Human Kinetics Publishers ISBN 9780736062510

UK Association for Accessible Formats (UKAAF) (undated) Formats and Guidance: Accessible Images [online], http://www.ukaaf.org/ formats-and-guidance#accessible (last accessed 10 November 2012).

University of Aberdeen (undated) Keep It Simple [online], http://www.abdn.ac.uk/ eLearning/ accessibility/ checklist/ keep-it-simple/ (last accessed 10 November 2012).

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