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You're only as a good as your last game...

As a sportsman this is something that I heard all the time...especially as a young player. In the world of social media that claims seems as important (if not more so). In working in a  world that measures innovation in weeks and months rather than years and decades, and where today's news is the packaging for tomorrow's fish and chips, then a comment on a social media site, you could argue, has little in the way of currency. But if you are judged on your last blog then one mistake could be costly in terms of your 'readership.' However, in order to be judged you need to make a contribution and a tweeter account that lies dormant or a blog page that is unused says more about the owner than one that harks on about stuff you don't believe in or, frankly, disagree with. So if a blogger is only as good as their last 'game' then it seems reasonable that the 'said' game should be in living memory. If it isn't then it seems almost the same as standing in the bar telling tall tales of the day you played against the best and almost beat them. That is not to say that some players don't have a lot of credit in the bank...but those are the greats and they are often afforded chances beyond their last 'good' game (just look at Michael Jordan, Ricky Ponting and Michael Schumacher as examples). Still, for the mere mortals among us, our last game is often a deal breaker.


As for me, well I broke down in my last rugby match, but I still have enough credit in the bank to survive as a rugby player (well in the bar at least) but my last blog? I quite liked it but the fact that I had to stop writing this blog to go and see when I wrote the last one [6th October 2012] shows that the blog would have exhausted even the good will of Dave viewers (for those who don't know this is a channel in the UK that plays nothing but comedy repeats). Had it been followed by another one in the intervening time then I think that it would have been strong enough to suffer another one soon after...but it didn't. This leaves me frustrated. I feel that this is a medium through which I want to communicate. I also feel that it is important - vital even - not to sit in an ivory tower and throw wisdom around and yet I have singularly failed and my last game wouldn't even buy me a run in the most minor of blogging leagues. So what to do...?

 


"A Case in Point"


When I started my Master's degree, Larry Locke, a highly regarded American professor has running a website he had created called "Unlocke research"  in which he took the time to explore the research of the day and make it accessible to a wider audience. This really helped me as a young researcher and as a teacher but Larry was unable to sustained the site and after a year or so it closed, leaving a hole that has yet to be filled. I have been wondering for a while how this gap might be filled, whilst also seeking ways to expand my own reading and write a blog that I could be proud of. After much consideration I have come to the conclusion that blogging, reading and writing (high quality that is) do not (in my case at least) occur by chance. Good intentions are not enough. Like my reflections (which I make time for every day) my reading, blogging and writing need to be given opportunities to develop. I was reading only today in Pat Thompson's blog (Patter) how she has found reading the most difficult thing to do. Therefore, I have decided to do something about it. 


In 2012, Routledge published a new series aimed at libraries. The "Major Themes in Education" series is (in the case of Physical Education) a four volume edition, spanning 1960 pages and costing in excess of £760. Such a book was conceptualised and marketed as a work that "is destined to be valued by specialists in physical education and scholars working in related areas—as well as by educational policy-makers and professionals—as a vital one-stop research tool." However, given the price tag I don't see how it can be more than a library reference book and yet it seems like the sort of thing that a) I should read and b) I should summaries for my own benefit. Yet in doing that, I also wondered if I a) will without making it part of my routine, and therefore b) should take the time to develop my blog and resurrect Larry's brainchild. 


As you can guess that is exactly what I aim to do. The books, edited by my colleague David Kirk, contains a "collection of foundational and cutting-edge contributions that cover all of the major themes in physical education". 98 papers/chapters in all. Each of them had to be nominated by members of the academic community at the invitation of the editor. Therefore, the publisher's claim that this is "a vital one-stop research tool" is certainly defendable but when I fist saw the four-books I wasn't thinking that I must get the books but that they ran the risk of going unread. Yet, that is the opposite of what I am intending to do here. My aim is to read and write a blog summary of one paper/chapter a week; starting at 1 and reading through to 98. It is my hope that this will greatly enhance my knowledge, improve my work as an academic and open up this work to my peers. I would welcome your thoughts on this...but I have already started to read the first paper and hope to write blog one by the end of the week. In this way I hope that I can be judged as a blogger based on my weekly efforts not through the occasional flash in the pan.


Here's to a blogging 2013...a year like no other.    

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On Monday 31 December at 19:05 Joey Feith said
This sounds great Ash. Having someone with your level of PE knowledge/experience in social media contributing to the blogosphere on a weekly basis will be a huge resource for all. Congrats on the great idea and have fun with it!
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On Tuesday 01 January at 11:33 Brendan Jones said
Hi Ash, What an audacious project you've set for yourself. Firstly, just for the challenge of regularly blogging - something I try to do, but regular becomes spasmodic, which becomes opportunistic, which then becomes a guilt driven process :-) But secondly (and probably most importantly) - and correct me if I'm wrong - volunteering to become a conduit between research and practice. There's too many people on one side of the fence or the other, so I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with that may create a nexus. One practical outcome would be to facilitate the transfer of ideas, discussion and action both ways - from researcher to practitioner and back the other way too. So - good luck. And be warned - my commenting on blogs is as irregular as my blogging :-) - Jonesy
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On Tuesday 01 January at 12:15 Dylan Blain said
Great stuff-a fantastic project that I look forward to following.
Vicky Goodyear
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On Tuesday 01 January at 12:48 Vicky Goodyear said
I think this is a great idea & this site will further become a worthwhile source of information for practitioners. Whilst we write research articles I know that many teachers do not have access to these unless they are linked with a University or studying for a further degree. To help Ash with this task,I wonder if there should be a specific format to follow for the blogs - maybe comparable to an abstract. Or if there are specific parts of the papers, that practitioners would be most/least interested in. i.e. is it most worthwhile to focus on what was done and how, then the subsequent findings? or should more attention be paid to the purpose/background of the study and then the findings? So does there need to be a format to the blogs? and if so what?
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On Tuesday 01 January at 16:27 Jannine said
I think this is a fantastic idea! As has been mentioned there seems to be a link missing between teachers and research/researchers which I think is largely to do with the time constraints and daily pressures of a teacher. Although I am currently studying for a Masters and therefore do reading for this, I still don't get the opportunity to do anywhere near as much as I would like and would find something like this invaluable. Good luck and keep it up!!
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On Thursday 03 January at 14:21 ozlem said
This is great idea. Practitioners who don't access resources can follow them and they can gain regularly reading habit. I'm looking forward to read and follow.
Vicky Goodyear
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On Friday 20 September at 17:07 Vicky Goodyear said
9 months later: Ash asked, do I still think the same???........... As part of the process of Ash posting these blogs out on a weekly basis I have had the privilege to read them each week before they go out. The fact that he gets someone to proof read them first, I think shows in itself how committed he is to publishing the blogs in a coherent format and making research accessible to ALL practitioners. But let’s not forget that he also hasn’t missed a week (apart from a holiday which we can allow I think :-) ). I said nine months ago this would be a valuable resource and I have seen the tweets and heard people say how much they appreciate the blogs. The blogs have engaged us in reflection, whether we comment or not, and they have encouraged the authors of the papers blogged about, such as David Kirk and Peter Hastie, to ‘talk to us’ through the discussion boards – something I didn’t anticipate. For me the blogs make me think outside of the box. They allow me to read the research that I wouldn’t normally read and the informal format with the personal intro’s makes a good Friday reflection about my own practice and research. So thanks Ash for taking the time and effort to read and write a blog each week and my comment remains that it’s a valuable resource. Keep going there are only 72 more to go until we find you a different series of papers to blog about!! :-)
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On Friday 20 September at 19:00 Dylan Blain said
9 months on I have learned loads from following the posts & comments on your blog Ash-so am extremely grateful for your efforts. Before starting my new role at the University of Wales Trinity St David, accessing research within PE was difficult however this work enabled me to, relatively quickly, read a relevant article relating to my daily work as a PE teacher on a weekly basis. This helped me to reflect on my practice and try to become a better teacher. I would recommend that all PE teachers follow your blog and I'll continue to publicise it wherever possible. Hope you continue to find the energy to maintain this mammoth task of reviewing the famous "four green books"!! Dal ati!!
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On Sunday 22 September at 10:19 Brendan Jones said
Wow - reading back over the original aim and my initial thoughts on where it could go was a weird feeling! Th strongest memory I have is that i hoped your blogging would bring researcher and practitioner together, where sometimes there is a lack of understanding or empathy for the other's work. I reckon you've achieve this - the proof is in the number of comments on each post, and the discussions generated online. In fact I intend to be so bold and say that Andy Vasily's wonderful work in conceiving PEPLC has some of its roots in what you set out to do in this place. For those that wanted their thoughts stimulated on PE practice, your blog has met their needs (while its met mine, for one). I got access to research that was put into "plain english" so I was able to spend less time deciphering and more time applying. Well done Ash - where to now? :-) Jonesy

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