Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing


Leave a comment

Sharing Openly and Open About Sharing

I glimpsed a tweet by Richard Byrne this morning:

Just sent this to a good friend who had much of her blog’s content plagiarized. So Your Content Got Stolen, Now What? http://bit.ly/H79gXu

I have a great interest in open access and sharing so followed up on Richard’s lead.

I discovered an excellent resource on his blog Free Technology for Teachers.

Richard’s tweet linked to a post from 24 May 2011 that contains some detailed advice.

  • What to do when you see your blog posts being stolen
  • What to do if you want to reuse someone’s blog post(s)

Richard links to Sue Waters‘s advice too:

I have followed Richard and Sue’s work for some time and am awe struck by their altruism. Bloggers like Richard and Sue (as well as the indefatigable Stephen Downes) have inspired me to encourage students to develop their own e-portfolios.

I hope I have encouraged them to understand that reciprocal altruism is a wonderful characteristic of open access. I will affirm with them Richard’s point from Sue:

… while the web is all about sharing, it’s also important to respect the time and effort that a person puts into his or her blog posts.

This means that we must be careful about the auto posting RSS feeds noted in Richard’s update.

I will remind them about Creative Commons licences too.

Photo Credit

Sharing

 

 


1 Comment

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.


Leave a comment

IASI in Leipzig 2011: Consensus Discussion 1

One of the aims of the IASI workshop in Leipzig (28-30 June) is to develop a consensus paper on information and communication services for coaches and researchers in elite sport.

Participants in the workshop have been asked to consider three questions as a starting point for discussion.

  1. Do you see (or have experienced) particular needs and/or conditions in the field of information and communication for elite sport coaches and researchers in your country? What kind of media, information and/or communication are these clients mainly interested in, in what format would they like to get access to them, what are the basic procedures to disseminate information resp. knowledge to these clients etc. What do these clients expect from information, communication and library services? How would you describe the situation in your country?
  2. What are the lessons to learn from your particular project resp. situation that could be taken home from Leipzig when participants would consider to “copy” your project – what content and procedures should they focus on, what are the weaknesses and errors which should and could be avoided, what partners in sports, science, media, business could you rely on, how complex should a service offer in information and knowledge management be (better to focus on less items or to try to design a complex structure?) etc.?
  3. What would you expect from international collaboration in the field of knowledge management in elite sport (research)? Where are the chances and opportunities, where do you see obstacles and limits (as we are all working for competing national sport organizations)?

I think I will frame my responses to the three questions in the context of Question 3. I think this question gives us an opportunity to explore some important second order issues.

I presented a paper about the Fourth Age of Sport Institutes at the last IASI Congress (Canberra, 2009) and feel even more strongly now than I did then about Open Access. Whilst I was revisiting the Fourth Age Paper on SlideShare I noticed that Richard Wallis’s presentation was suggested as a related presentation. Richard’s presentation is titled Linking the Library’s Data to the Rest of the World. Of the many ideas Richard presented I noted two that I thought were pertinent to our discussions in Leipzig:

and …

I think the arrival of more and more semantic interoperability will drive the provision of information services into exciting spaces.  I think we can go beyond contemporary perceptions of competition between countries to establish a global, sustainable information system that celebrates and develops produsage.

I am naive enough to hope that the next great age of information services will be founded upon reciprocal altruism. Without a profound shift in approach I do think international sport is doomed if it insists on a zero-sum model of information services. I do think the non-zero sum game will be the only game in town for a satiable world system of sport.

We will need global collaboration if we are to go beyond ethnocentrism in our use of information services. I see Richard Young’s initiative in New Zealand and Gavin Reynold’s plans for Australia as examples of what we can achieve in an International Content Partnership.

My answer to Question 1 is very brief. I think we are witnessing a remarkable transformation of opportunities to access information and media. Many of the opportunities that are arising are coming from imaginative use of Cloud resources. These resources offer agnostic opportunities for curation and sharing. I appreciate that in Australia the National Sport Information Centre (NSIC) is working hard to produce an agnostic service through its Clearinghouse platform. I am immensely impressed by the service the NSIC provides and in awe of its attempts to be an agile and dynamic service responsive to the needs of coaches and researchers in elite sport.

Question 2 is difficult for me to answer. I am a user of services rather than a provider. I am hopeful that IASI can foster a community of practice that shares openly cultural forms of information service. One of my outcomes from the workshop and the consensus statement is to have a grounded appreciation of some of the cultural universals we face in a world of diminishing resources for information services.

We can develop a connected information service through IASI that affirms …

Photo Credits

Baumwollspinnerei Leipzig

Leipzig Plakate


2 Comments

Blogging 2010: Celebrating and Recognising Reciprocal Altruism

I was fascinated to read about this year’s nominations for the Edublog Awards.

There are thirty-one nominations for the Individual Edublog Award.

Always Learning
An A-Z of ELT
Cool Cat Teacher
Dangerously Irrelevant
dy/dan
Educational Origami
Free Technology for Teacher
Kevin’s Meandering Mind
iLearn Technology
Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom
Jane’s eLearning Pick of the Day
Kalinago English
Kirsten Winkler
Langwitches
Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day
Learning with ‘e’s
Moving at the Speed of Creativity
Never Ending Search
Not So Distant Future
Pair-a-Dimes for your Thoughts
School Finance 101
Science Teacher
SpeEdChange
Speech-Language Pathology Sharing
Spencer’s Scratchpad
Teacher Reboot Camp
The Innovative Educator
The Principal’s Page
Think Thank Thunk
Weblogg-ed
What Ed Said

There are thirty-four nominations for the Best New Edublog Award.

About A Teacher
bcnpaul1′s blog
Be Cunning and Full of Tricks
Blogging through the Fourth Dimension
Box of Chocolates
Comments4Kids
Connected Principals
Culture of Yes
Digital Dervish
Educating Grace
Eliterate Librarian
Emma Herrod
Experts and Newbies
Hack Education
ideaconnect
InterACT
Inter.Connect.Ed
Language Garden
Libraries and Transliteracy
New City Arts
Michelle’s Musings
MrK’s Professional Reflections
Quantum Progress
Reflections of a teacher and a learner
Teaching Literacy in the Early Years
Speech Techie
The Nerdy Teacher
Think Thank Thunk
Turklish TEFL
Upside Down Education
Venture Pragmatist
Walt Gardner’s Reality Check
Webb’s Wide World
Whose Learning Is It Anyway?

Voting concludes shortly and am keen to find out who has set THE standard in the twenty-three award categories. I was interested to see that the twenty-third category is a Lifetime Achievement Award. There are some incredible bloggers here.

Alan Levine
Alec Couros
Bernie Dodge
Chris Betcher
Chris Lehmann
Dan Myer
Danah Boyd
Doug Johnson
Gary Stager
Gavin Dudeney
Howard Rheingold
Ira Socol
Jane Hart
cybraryman1
Joseph Pisano
Joyce Valenza
Karl Fisch
Kevin Honeycutt
Kyle Pace
Larry Ferlazzo
Linda Yollis
Richard Byrne
Scott McLeod
Sean Banville
Sir Ken Robinson
Steve Hargadon
Sue Waters
Vicki Davis
Wesley Fryer
Will Richardson

There are twenty-four nominations for the Best Resource Sharing Blog:

Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org
Art is Messy
Bits and Pieces places
Box of Tricks
Bright Ideas
Continuous Everywhere but Differentiable Nowhere
doug – off the record
El escaparate de Rosa
Free Technology for Teacher
I Hope This Old Train Breaks Down
iLearn Technology
InTec Insights
Jane’s Pick of the Day
Kirsten Winkler
Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites Of The Day
Librarian in Black
Moodle News
Moving at the Speed of Creativity
Nik’s Quick Shout
Prekinders
SCC English
Teacher Boot Camp
Technology Tidbits
The OLDaily
The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness
Think!
Videoonferencing Out on a lim
Web 2.0 Classroom Blog

I am surprised constantly by the reciprocal altruism of the blogosphere and am in awe of the contributions all of these nominees have made to 2010. It is very obvious to me that I have a lot of catch up reading to do.


6 Comments

GROU.PS: Exploring Learning and Sharing Links

In the last week I have been glued to Twitter! On 21 December I wrote a post about Vicarious Learning and Reciprocal Altruism and after Christmas I thought I would explore Twitter at what might be a quiet time of the year. It proved a fascinating time to be sampling tweets. Not only were there end of year items there were end of decade items too. I discovered GROU.PS (an open source social operating system) during this process and liked their approach.

I decided to aggregate all the Twitter feeds into a GROU.PS site and use the wiki function the social operating system provides.  GROU.PS has “a bunch of modules that you choose from and mash up very easily! You can enrich your site with blocks”.  Although I could choose from twelve GROU.PS basic modules I wanted a cleanskin look as my starting point.

Between 29 December and this evening I read each tweet of the 286 people I have been following and ended up reading many more retweets too. I used an ongoing inclusion approach to the themes that were emerging in the tweets and to date have forty-six themes.

I found it fascinating to aggregate articles about Twitter. I was led to twenty-three posts in a week:

  • Horton Hears A Tweet In this article we share some of the insights gained using Twitter as an instructional tool and explain why we think Twitter, despite its drawbacks (and really the drawbacks of social networking in general), can add value to online and face-to-face university courses.”
  • Do You Tweet? (100104) “Turns out I was.  There are thousands of other educators, professors, administrators, and Technology Integration Specialists on Twitter.  There are groups on twitter that are important to follow.  In less then a month I went from following 3 Twitter accounts, to over 50 (so far).  I went from being followed by my brother to over 50 (so far).”
  • Twitter U (100104) “This wikispace was inspired by a blog post of @darahbonham on Twitter. Check out his post and then feel free to join in the fun. Think about all the links you miss during the school day. Imagine if those links were accompanied by a hashtag that would make it easier to search by topic. The first Hashtag: #PBL was created last week. Check it out!”
  • Twitter as a PLN (100104) “One of the most interesting things I learned about Twitter before I even tried it was that it is like Marmite. It polarises.”
  • 10 Things You Need To Stop Tweeting About (100104)
  • 48 Ways to Explain Twitter to Skeptics (100104) “On Christmas Eve with my family, my brother Peter brought up Twitter and expressed skepticism. Rather than try to explain Twitter myself, I tweeted to see what others had to say. I just love the answers that came back! I’m still laughing at some and others are simply profound. Isn’t it amazing how nearly 50 people can answer something, each in 140 characters or less, and in just a few minutes you have a better explanation than any one person could possibly think of in a lifetime! And people jumped in from all over (Coogee, Australia and Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic to name two).”
  • Twitter Search Widget (100104)
  • Priceless (100104) “Hello World” is a simple game I often play with my 4 year old son (‘Mr 4’). We fire up Twitter, say ‘hello’ from Fremantle, Western Australia, get a globe or an atlas (old school, I know, but it is wonderfully tactile) and wait to see where people are saying hello to us from.”
  • Share places and events on Twitter (100104)
  • Select Your Widget (100104) “Widgets let you display Twitter updates on your website or social network page
  • Our widgets are compatible with any website and most social networks. Simply choose one where you would like to include it.”
  • Twimages (beta) (100103) “Revealing who talks to you on Twitter”
  • Why Twitter Will Endure (100103) “Like many newbies on Twitter, I vastly overestimated the importance of broadcasting on Twitter and after a while, I realized that I was not Moses and neither Twitter nor its users were wondering what I thought. Nearly a year in, I’ve come to understand that the real value of the service is listening to a wired collective voice.”
  • Why My Research is on Twitter (100103) “Twitter represents a new way of communication. After lifestreaming on Twitter for over two years and researching it for over 12 months,  I understand the nuances of the communities on it, and have watched it morph as it has moved from being a geek tool to a plaything of the mainstream.”
  • Tweeting with Change Agents (100103) “I suspect that many edubloggers can relate to Will Richardson’s admission in What’s Changed?, that he’s done less blogging and more tweeting in the past 12 months. Though microblogging may be shallow, it has proven to be very accessible to educators, with Twitter being leveraged on both mobile devices, and school computers.”
  • The Listorious 140 Twitterers (100102) “Who’s Been on Twitter the Longest? We only include people who are active on Twitter and that someone’s added to a list.”
  • Twitter’s Most Influential Topics of 2009 (100102) “Klout today released its Top 2009 list of the topics that captured the attention of the most influential voices and their communities on Twitter.”
  • Obsessively manage your Twitter relationships with Tweepi (091231) “If you’re an aficionado of data then you’re going to love Tweepi.”
  • Best Job Application Ever: Twitter Genius “if this application is more than 600 characters or so, you’re done. And you better be damn well ready to talk briefly about how you can best self-promote, or you’re done. Also, it’s probably better if you don’t want too much money. But don’t say why, keep it short.” (091230)
  • 5 Reasons Why Twitter is my Dream Machine (091230)
  • Twiducate “is a free resource for educators. Developed in 2009, our goal is to create a medium for teachers and students to continue their learning outside the classroom. We attempt to fill a need for a more educationally focused, safe venue for teachers, schools, and home learners in a social networking environment. We understand that many social networking sites exist, however the control of content is limited for teachers. Also, many of these social networking sites are continuously being blocked by school firewalls and administrators. Our service proudly differs in that only teachers and students may view classroom posts, thus creating a private network for you and your students and a safer online learning environment.” (091230)
  • Finding your number 1 Twitter Fan (091230)
  • Historical Tweets (091230)
  • Twitter 2009 Retrospective (091230) “For me 2009 goes down as the year other people discovered Twitter. It went from a small and fairly intimate place to hangout to a busy bustling intersection of information, commerce and conversations. It felt almost like moving from a small town to a big and somewhat impersonal city.”
I really enjoyed David Carr’s post in the New York Times and noted that he was “in narrative on more things in a given moment than I ever thought possible, and instead of spending a half-hour surfing in search of illumination, I get a sense of the day’s news and how people are reacting to it in the time that it takes to wait for coffee at Starbucks. Yes, I worry about my ability to think long thoughts — where was I, anyway? — but the tradeoff has been worth it.” He observed that “On Twitter, anyone may follow anyone, but there is very little expectation of reciprocity. By carefully curating the people you follow, Twitter becomes an always-on data stream from really bright people in their respective fields, whose tweets are often full of links to incredibly vital, timely information.”
David’s advice about tweeting struck a chord with me “Like many newbies on Twitter, I vastly overestimated the importance of broadcasting on Twitter and after a while, I realized that I was not Moses and neither Twitter nor its users were wondering what I thought. Nearly a year in, I’ve come to understand that the real value of the service is listening to a wired collective voice. (My emphasis)” A day later The Oatmeal Comic made it very clear what I must not tweet about.
I am very conscious that this post has broken Rule #4:
Notwithstanding Oatmeal’s exhortation I was fascinated to look at the Listorious information about people on Twitter since 21 March 2006 and wondered what the 10 who signed up that day talked about. I wondered too what kind of narrative Ashton Kutcher has with 4.2 million followers and the 284 people he is following.
From my perspective a week of holiday Twitter has left me with some thick description to review and develop.
After a week of sharing people’s insights and links I found Mark Szakowski’s review of Digital habitats: stewarding technology for communities. His review concludes with these observations:
social software technology is in an unusual phase of rapid evolutionary development, where great opportunities arise, but not everything succeeds, and no one tool does it all. This book is not about the specifics of such tools – there are many books and resources for that. Instead, it is about the patterns and best practices for how to bring community and online forms together in appropriate mosaics, how to look at a community’s orientations and intentions, and be able to speak to and for that community in a tech-savvy way. This job did not exist a decade ago. Every community is realizing it needs someone(s) to fill that job.
Over the course of a week I found 200+ nuggets of information and a vast amount of personal story telling. I think it is very appropriate that I have been able to fossick in Twitter this week. My home village of Mongarlowe was a turn of the century gold mining town.
Photo Credits

Subway, 1934: Lily Furedi.
Radio Broadcast, 1934: Julia Eckel


3 Comments

Vicarious Learning and Reciprocal Altruism

I follow 257 people on Twitter and am moving towards 500 tweets. Whenever I access Twitter I find a treasure trove of links and discussions. Twitter has accelerated for me the connectedness that Stephen Downes offers in his work. My access to Twitter, Stephen’s work and my aggregation of blog posts has transformed my reading, thinking and practice (CCK08 was my tipping point). Leigh Blackall‘s arrival as a work colleague has added to this momentum.

It has led me to think how vicarious learning (ambient awareness) can promote reciprocal altruism.

This post is a twenty-four hour snapshot of some of the sharing that came through my personal learning environment.

On Sunday I came across a link to Tom Davenport’s post about Forwarding is the New Networking. I checked in to Twitter a little later to find Typeboard‘s (1,011 tweets) link to Online Content Plagiarism at its Best.

Shortly after reading that article I came across Malinka‘s (1,863 tweets) tweet about tag clouds. This post reminded me very much of Rose Holley‘s observations about tag fog.

Kate Caruthers (26,180 tweets) tweeted about Social Media 2009 and Beyond. (I caught up with Steve Wheeler’s Networked Naughties too.) Shortly after following up Kate’s lead I found some tweets from Alec Courosa (32,697 tweets) about his students including Kelsi McGillivray and Bradie Mann. They demonstrate wonderful social commitments to reflection and sharing. (In the process I found their shared a Prezi.) I think Alec’s students exemplify some of the characteristics discussed by John Sener in his review (via Harold Jarche 6,792 tweets) of Disrupting Class:

individualizing instruction, situational research— as a means for building alternative systems which truly are student-centered and utilize online learning technologies, but also individualize student inputs and outcomes while enhancing the teacher’s role in the process, while utilizing rigorous and flexible assessment methods.

I noticed a link to the European Graduate School in another tweet and read carefully the disclaimer at the bottom of the front page that included:

This website uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc. Google Analytics uses cookies, which are text files placed on your computer, to help the website analyze how users use the site. The information generated by the cookie about the use of the website, including IP addresses, will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States. Google will use this information for the purpose of evaluating the use of the website, compiling reports on website activity for website operators and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage. Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on the behalf of Google. Google will not associate IP addresses with any other data held by Google. The use of cookies can be refused by selecting the appropriate settings in the web browser, however please note that if you do this you may not be able to use the full functionality of this website. By using this website, you consent to the processing of data about you by Google in the manner and for the purposes set out above.

Mark Drapeau (via Iggy Pintado 8956 tweets) provides some interesting insights about How to Win Friends and Twinfluence People. By coincidence I found a Graham Attwell (1.960 tweets) tweet drawing attention to Howard Rheingold’s (May 2009 post) Twitter Literacy. I have been following Howard Rheingold’s output since his guest appearance on CCK08. I liked his observations that:

  • I think successful use of Twitter means knowing how to tune the network of people you follow, and how to feed the network of people who follow you.
  • You have to tune who you follow. I mix friends who I know IRL (“in real life”) and whose whereabouts and doings interest me, people who are knowledgeable about a field that interests me, people who regularly produce URLs that prove useful, extraordinary educators, the few who are wise or funny.
  • When it comes to feeding my network, that comes down to putting out the right mixture of personal tweets (while I don’t really talk about what I had for lunch, the cycles of my garden, the plums falling from my tree, my obsession with compost and shoepainting do feature in my tweetstream), informational tidbits (when I find really great URLs, that’s when Twitter is truly a “microblog” for me to share my find), self promotion (when I post a new video to my vlog share the URL – but I do NOT automatically post everything I blog on smartmobs.com), socializing, and answering questions.

Perhaps reciprocal altruism can transform the reliance on a small number of people to transform thinking and behaviour. George Siemens (4,016 tweets) links to this Onion post about ‘the four or five guys who pretty much carry the whole Renaissance’.

Just as I was concluding this post I received Stephen Downes’ OLDaily that contained an apology:

December 20, 2009

Better Late Than…
———————————————————————————–
Well – there’s a first. Though I wrote some posts on Friday, I actually forgot to publish the newsletter and send the emails. First time ever. So, here it is, a couple days late, but intact. Enjoy.

Stephen’s news is an important marker in my day and usually initiates the sharing that Tom Davenport extols. His news arriving was a great end to a day of thinking about learning and sharing. I am off to read Seth Simonds’ post Bye with a Warmly Huggs.

Photo Credit

Nature and Technology

Hidden Treasure Explored


9 Comments

Engines Running: Reflecting on David Crawford’s Review of Australian Sport

Introduction

This has been a fascinating week for Australian sport. It started with Tiger Woods’ victory at the Australian Masters golf tournament and is ending with visceral debate about play, games, physical education and sport in Australian society. Although I have written two posts about the Independent Sport Panel’s Report I have been mindful of Todd Sieling‘s manifesto for slow blogging. He suggests that slow blogging is “an affirmation that not all things worth reading are written quickly, and that many thoughts are best served after being fully baked and worded in an even temperament”.

Slow blogging is an art at a time when the immediacy of the Internet offers the opportunity for “daily outrages and ecstasies that fill nothing more than single moments in time, switching between banality, crushing heartbreak and end-of-the-world psychotic glee in the mere space between headlines”.

David Crawford’s Review of Australian Sport has offered remarkable opportunities for comments and responses. I have taken some time to read the Report and in this post I would like to explore some of what I consider to be the important issues raised. Before I do so I need to declare some interests.

Personal Interests, Private Troubles

I have had a lifelong interest in sport and physical education. I have played, taught and coached a variety of sports and have been fortunate to have been involved in international sport since 1980. I qualified as a teacher of physical education in 1975. My own pathway in sport has been enriched by a profound sense of the educational value of physical activity and a passionate, personal, intrinsic commitment to sport from a very early age. I completed my PhD (a sociological account of teaching physical education) in the late 1980s in England at a time when teachers were withdrawing from after school activity in state schools. I witnessed at first hand the break of the umbilical connection between teachers and pupils. I believe this had immense implications for the organisation of sport and the loss of an educational ethos in physical activity. From 1978 to the present I have had a profound interest in the social and cultural aspects of sport and for over a decade taught courses in sociology and cultural studies.

My academic life gave me access to the work of Norbert Elias through Eric Dunning’s sociological approaches to sport. Elsewhere in this blog I have explored themes of play and playfulness and these aspects were nourished in me by Ione and Peter Opie‘s work as well as by Johan Huizinga and Roger Caillois. Some of the early sociologists of sport encouraged me to reflect on play, display and spectacle and I was particularly influenced by Gregory Stone, Allen Gutmann and Fred Inglis. Like any student in the 1970s and 1980s I had access to many of the writings of leading Marxist thinkers. I was fascinated by John Hoberman‘s work too and much more recently by Andy Miah.

This passion for sport has infused much of my life. I am a product of sport providing a social inclusion opportunity and I hope I have not forgotten the importance that sport can play in life changing experience. Whilst at the University of York (1973) I completed what I believe to be one of the first undergraduate studies in Apartheid and Sport. This fascination with the power of sport as a form of expression continues today with my enchantment with the possibilities midnight basketball holds.

I came to Australia in 2002 to join the staff at the Australian Institute of Sport and have had remarkable access to elite sporting environments and cultures in Australia. My sport journey started standing behind the goals at Buckley Wanderers trying to save the heavy leather laced balls missed by the goalkeeper, through thirteen years of school physical education to working with the Welsh rugby team to coaching on river banks in Australia. Recently I became a member of the Board of Australian Canoeing.

I am hopeful that these private troubles (as C Wright Mills called them) have some bearing on the public issues raised by David Crawford’s report.

Public Issues

Just before I read David Crawford‘s report I came across Nikolai Bohlke and Leigh Robinson’s (2009) paper Benchmarking of elite sport systems. I did not have access to the full paper but noted from the summary that their research “used semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis to investigate the elite sport services offered by two successful Scandinavian sports”. They found that “a number of the services that led to the success of the two investigated systems are strongly context dependent”. they propose that “benchmarking is only appropriate as a tool to further understanding of elite sport systems if it is approached as a way of learning, rather than copying”.

So as the Crawford Report was released I was thinking about within and between sport system comparisons and the kind of evidence (and time) one might need to understand a sporting culture. I liked in particular Nikolai and Leigh’s point about learning. I found Chapter 1.1 (Defining Our National Sports Vision) of Crawford particularly interesting in setting a context for me to read the report. I was drawn to some points made on page 8:

In all, we need to consider what we can afford to invest and how we appropriately balance this investment to support a broader definition of sporting success. This will mean more explicitly defining elite sporting success in the context of prioritising those sports which capture the country’s imagination and represent its spirit and culture. These are the sports where our performance on the national and world stage is important to our sense of success as a nation.

There should be debate about which sports carry the national ethos. Swimming, tennis, cricket, cycling, the football codes, netball, golf, hockey, basketball, surfing and surf lifesaving are among the most popular sports in Australia, a part of the national psyche. Many are team sports and are the sports we are introduced to as part of our earliest education and community involvement.

If more money is to be injected into the system then we must give serious consideration to where that money is spent. If we are truly interested in a preventative health agenda through sport, then much of it may be better spent on lifetime participants than almost all on a small group of elite athletes who will perform at that level for just a few years. (Emphasis is mine.)

These three small paragraphs are the essence of the debate for me and appear to have been a raw nerve for some people’s sense of the world whilst reaffirming others’ core values. I have tried to capture the range of responses to the Report in an earlier post (Engines Started …) This introductory section (1.1) led me to think about:

  • 21st century approaches to fitness and health
  • How a nation state defines priorities for the allocation of the public purse
  • Whether funding is a right or a privilege
  • Whether history is destiny
  • The imperatives for ethical sponsorship
  • The advantages of a common wealth approach to social capital

I have combined these into three themes: insatiability, connectedness and deference.

Insatiability

For some time I have been concerned that it is possible to have an insatiable appetite for funds to support elite sport. In fact my arrival in Australia in 2002 coincided with a major dilemma for the Australian sport system … how do you progress after a successful home Olympics that was the focus of enormous investment? I still wonder if 2000 was a justifiably proud high water mark for Australian Olympic endeavour. Thereafter we had to compete with the energy of new host nations and the growing presence of the United Kingdom with significant financial resources at its disposal. Australia shared its expertise with the United Kingdom post-Sydney Olympics and many other nations warmed to the Australian model of success. It seemed to me that the only way to compete with these nations was to assume all Olympics were home Olympics so that Australia could resource a small demographic with sufficient long-haul training and competition opportunities.

I believe the Crawford Report provides an opportunity to debate these issues in a transparent way. I think the Report makes a strong case for “a nationally agreed plan for sport which encompasses all relevant areas of government and engages all tiers of government” (Summary of Findings 2.1 point 6). What interests me in particular is the timescale is required to agree and operationalise a plan that impacts on our lived (rather than aspirational) experience of sport in Australia. The development of a national policy requires stability of political will. This is exactly the problem facing young scientists in the World Economic Forum … how do you develop an ecologically sound energy policy for 2030 when there will be multiple changes of government in that time scale?

Connectedness

I believe fervently in a sustainable sport system that is funded ethically and that has an educational vision. I believe that the essence of sustainability (as an alternative to insatiability) is the family and the local community. I live in a rural community near to Braidwood in New South Wales and am becoming more and more aware of how a community can include and support its members. Local communities have local heroes and these have enormous influence over behaviour.  Successful communities are connected and grounded.

I take another key message from the Crawford Report to be how Australia wide connections can be made. If we are to have a vision for a healthier Australia then it must start in the family and at school. Any policy must deal with rural and regional Australia as well as urban and metropolitan Australia. These issues were at the fore of the recent SEGRA Conference in Western Australia. I think there are very important messages in the Crawford report about capacity, educational policy, access and inclusiveness that should stimulate our discussions about connectedness.

There is enormous sense in having a national service for elite sport as there is for having a national approach to voluntary effort. I do believe that one of the major (unintended) consequences of resourcing full-time positions in sport has been for volunteers to think that paid staff can deal with all eventualities. This is a time, as Charles Leadbeater suggests, to think of working with one another and thinking of pebbles rather than boulders.

I think a connected system that has a scalable collaborative ethos can achieve remarkable outcomes. In a sustainable sport system it will be the aggregation of effort that makes optimum use of human and financial resources. This necessitates our whole sport system accepting that there is an alternative to zero sum models of sport success. This alternative goes beyond the social traps identified in the tragedy of the commons.

Deference

There are numerous descriptors for the behaviours of voracious individuals and groups. I believe the Crawford Report invites us to reflect on possessive individualism and to contemplate a non zero sum approach to the flourishing of the sport system. Robert Wright has written about non zero as the logic of human destiny. He shares insights into reciprocal altruism that resonate with ideas developed by Peter Singer.

This to me is the ultimate challenge in the Crawford Report and the Prisoner’s Dilemma for our sport system. What if we can transform all the energy we invest in sport to enable all Australians to flourish? What if we take this one step further and have a global approach to sport as an ethical domain in which activity flourishes and that our part in it is to contribute to sport as a form of mutual recognition. What if sport will be about the triumph of the human spirit and its continuation as a life choice possibility throughout the twenty first century when we will face much more important challenges than whether we win gold, silver or bronze. Some years ago, Bill Clinton observed that:

The more complex societies get and the more complex the networks of interdependence within and beyond community and national borders get, the more people are forced in their own interests to find non-zero-sum solutions. That is, win-win solutions instead of win-lose solutions…. Because we find as our interdependence increases that, on the whole, we do better when other people do better as well – so we have to find ways that we can all win, we have to accommodate each other.

Conclusion

I have really enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on David Crawford’s Report. Over the last few days an editorial comment from The Age has kept intruding in my thoughts.

Australians will celebrate any gold medal won in 2012, even if it is in a sport they never think of between Olympics and even if it is won by someone they have not previously heard of and might never hear of again. Nor can anyone begrudge individual athletes their success. But, as the report notes, the present system funds such success at the rate of $15 million per gold medal. The nation’s self-esteem is surely neither so low nor so brittle as to require this level of investment, and it is money that in some instances could be more wisely spent. A shift to funding high-participation sports at grassroots levels might not result in the same surge of collective euphoria every four years, but it would contribute in a more sustained fashion to national wellbeing. (My emphasis)

I am hopeful that the educational possibilities contained in the Report, the suggestions about using existing facilities more effectively, and the valuing of local heroes are celebrated and ultimately accepted by the Government. Late in the evening here in Mongarlowe I am wondering if we have found something in the Crawford Report rather than lost something.

The aggregation of our efforts in Australia is possible and I do believe it is our pathway to sustainability. We can be a non zero sum sport system if we have the collective courage and the political will.