Category Archives: Rants

Play isn’t dead yet! We’re going to turn the tide in Pittsburgh at the swim pools.

Wonderful article, taken apart line-by-line below.

Coach Mark’s Facebook posting:

Play is important, especially among boys. Furthermore, learning how to play well with others is a SKILL. It needs to be taught, modeled, practiced, reinforced, and even done under pressure so as to take others and ourselves out of our comfort zones. Generally, that’s what we call COACHING, LEADERSHIP and COMPETITIONS.

Game days rock. So much FUN.

This spring, summer and fall, I’m stepping up these efforts of AQUATIC game days to build wide opportunities for PLAYING WELL WITH OTHERS, safely, in an expanding network of private, public and institutional swim sites from pools to lakes.

Your help is welcomed. Get your group together — of kids and adults — of any swimming ability or with none at all — and let’s plan an event. Warm-up, group swim lesson, water-safety insight and GAME PLAY with new, fun, competition and rules — with your running mates and with another team as well. Fitness, teamwork, sportsmanship –> PLAY, thanks to a grant from the Pittsburgh Play Collaborative.

Mark@SKWIM.us — 412-298-3432 — or here on Facebook.


How America Killed Play—and What We Can Do to Bring it Back

Dr. Peter Gray outlined the five criteria of play. For an activity to truly be considered play, it must:

  • Be self-chosen and self-directed

  • Be done for its own sake and not an outside reward

  • Have some sort of rules/structure

  • Have an element of imagination

  • Be conducted in an alert frame of mind

Let’s ponder each of those points as it fits in with SKWIM, our aquatic game with two teams and the SKWIM disk.

Players choose to play or not. Then they often choose their own teams. Someone needs to divide the squads. Then they choose as to who plays where from goalie, defense, middle, offense, wing, etc. There is plenty of choice as to where to go. Pass or shoot too.

Play does not have an outside reward, so goes the expert’s point. In SKWIM, the reward is the game, the win, the fun. With campers, to turn up the intensity, it is often announced that the winning team in the next game gets a “mythical milkshake.”

Rules and structure are within SKWIM too. No contact with another player. Can’t take the disk out of the other player’s hand. No air-mail passing or scoring. Read the SKWIM rules in the lessons at SKWIM.us.

Imagination enters SKWIM with strategies and tactics. Who needs to get double coverage? Who can we pass to for advancing the disk toward the goal? What player can imagine racing to the disk and grabbing it before the others?

SKWIM play happens with an alert frame of mind on many levels. Safety of course. Play in the pool means keeping from going under and to the bottom. Being present is a big part of sport, especially a fast-paced game where quickness is expected.

When you break it down like that, much of what modern parents think of as play doesn’t actually qualify. The truth is play has been gradually declining for the past five or six decades, but it seems to have come to a head in the last 10 years. According to the Child Mind Institute, American kids now spend an average of just 4-7 minutes a day on unstructured outdoor play, and elementary schools across the country are reducing or entirely eliminating recess. Play is an absolutely critical part of our youth, as it develops life skills in a way which is very hard to replicate elsewhere.

How did this crucial component of the human experience get so diminished?

History lesson – the wonder years

The 1950s were something of a “golden era” of play. The post-World War II baby boom left no shortage of potential playmates for a kid, and child labor laws passed in the late 1930s meant children could no longer be forced to toil inside factories or coal mines. Schools had multiple recesses throughout the day, the concept of homework barely existed, and the school year itself was about 4-5 weeks shorter.

“School was not the big deal it is today. Parents were not involved. You went home, you were home. School happened at school, when you were out of school, you were out of school,” says Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College and the author of the book Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. The culmination of these factors created a generation where kids played for hours each and every day.

“You could go out anytime during daylight and you’d find kids playing with no adults around. Parents shoo’d you outdoors, they didn’t want you in the house—moms especially,” Gray says. Organized youth sports were still in their infancy, and if they did occur, they were a far cry from some of the ultra-expensive, ultra-regimented leagues that exist now. In some little leagues, the biggest or most mature kid on the team often acted as the coach, and there was rarely a parent to be found down the foul lines. But this golden age of play didn’t last forever.

The rise of television made the indoors more attractive, sure, but it was the shift in parental attitudes around school, sports and free time that really changed things. Elementary schools (and schools, in general) began placing a greater emphasis on testing results and homework. According to the University of Michigan, students aged 6-8 went from having 52 minutes of homework a week in 1981 to 128 minutes a week in 1997.

Sensationalistic news reports led parents to believe the world was becoming increasingly dangerous for their children, though statistics show the opposite was in fact true. As time has gone on, the outdoor world’s only become safer for our children. Either way, parents became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of their child playing around town without adult supervision, and organized sports slowly came to replace play. As the demand for organized activities for younger and younger ages increased, organizations quickly met the demand. Parents stopped allowing their kids to walk or bike to practice, instead shuttling them there themselves.

“Kids going to games themselves by bike or walking became somehow dangerous. So parents felt the need to drive them there. Then if you’re going to drive them there, you might as well watch. Then it became a sort of parental duty to stay and watch. If you don’t stay and watch you don’t care about your child. So you’re supposed to be there, you’re supposed to be cheering your child on. You’re supposed to care if your child’s team wins or loses,” Gray says. “It was gradual, it happened over time. (Organized sports) came to replace actual play in people’s minds—this is how my child gets exercise, this is how my child meets other children, and so on.”

The undercurrent among all this was the idea that play was largely a waste of time. Adults believed structured, adult-guided activities were of greater value to their children, so they began filling their free time as such. As the commitments mounted, time for play decreased. “Instead of the idea that childhood was an idea of freedom and play and children were largely free of adults, we began feeling increasingly responsible for the children’s development,” Gray says. “And accompanying that idea was that children’s own activities are a waste of time.”

Of course, we now know that couldn’t be further from the truth. A 2018 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics confirms that play enhances creativity, imagination, dexterity, boldness, teamwork skills, stress-management skills, confidence, conflict resolution skills, decision-making skills, problem-solving skills and learning behavior. Play is an essential part of the human experience, and a lack of play can have troubling short and long-term ramifications for children.

A major benefit of play is what’s known as “risky play.” This entails engaging in play that creates some sense of fear. This often involves ascending to great heights (climbing a pine tree), moving at great speeds (riding a bike or swinging on a rope swing), play fighting (wrestling), going off on your own (hide and seek) or engaging with dangerous tools/environments. Risky play is a fundamental part of play. Children like to test their limits and innately know how much fear they can tolerate, and when they engage with fear and survive the experience, they become more resilient, confident and better-equipped to handle stress and anxiety. While play in general has decreased over the last five or six decades, risky play has been hit particularly hard due to overprotective parents. Playgrounds have become increasingly sterile in America—most are now devoid of equipment that allows you to confront any fear of heights or high speeds, and offer little challenge in the way of dexterity or agility.

“Natural selection has designed children to play in risky ways so they learn how to deal with risk…I can do this thing that stretches my physical and emotional abilities and I can survive it, I can do it. What you’re practicing is controlling your mind and body in a somewhat fear-inducing situation. But it’s a fear-inducing situation that you can control, you put yourself there. But what you’re learning is you can deal with feeling fear, you can hold yourself together. So when you experience something that produces fear in real life, it’s not a new thing to you,” Gray says. “I feel confident I can handle this instead of panicking. I think that’s part of the reason we’re finding a lot of lack of resiliency today, we’re finding a lot of people falling apart when something difficult happens in their life. Because they haven’t practiced this kind of play where they’re deliberately putting themselves into difficult positions and learning how to deal with that.”

Gray notes that continually decreasing levels of play have coincided with increases in depression and anxiety among young people. In a 2014 TEDx Talk, he outlined how five to eight times as many children now suffer from major depression or a clinically significant anxiety disorder as compared to the 1950s. Questionnaires have also revealed a continuous decline among children and young adults in the feeling that they have “control over their own lives.” They’re increasingly micro-managed and have limited chance to cut loose or follow their intuitions. It’s not an exaggeration to say a lack of play may be at the heart of increased anxiety and decreased resiliency in young people. It’s not their fault—they’re simply ill-equipped to handles life’s ups-and-downs.

“The use of mental health services on campuses is skyrocketing, students are coming to college unprepared for dealing with the bumps in the road of life,” Gray says. “They have all too often emotional breakdowns about getting a bad grade or having an argument with their roommate or being so-called ‘bullied’ by somebody. Things that in the past, the expectation and the reality was to largely deal with these things themselves, they had the coping skills to know how. Today—I don’t want to say no one does, but an increasing percentage of students don’t have the skills to deal with these bumps in the road of life.”

How can we put play back in our children’s lives? We’ll get to integrating more “true” play in a second, but you can start by shifting certain organized activities into more playful states. Are there ways to help them self-select and self-direct more of what they’re doing? Or decrease the focus on outside rewards? Or foster a grander sense of imagination? The more an adult is telling them exactly what and how to do something, the less play is taking place. The U.S. Soccer pamphlet Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States sums it up nicely: “Coaches can often be more helpful to a young player’s development by organizing less, saying less and allowing the players to do more. Set up a game and let the kids play. Keep most of your comments for before and after practice and during water breaks.”

In terms of pure or “true” play, we’re not getting back to the days of the 1950s anytime soon. However, some communities are fighting to bring play back with encouraging results.

Schools around the country are integrating “play clubs” and finding great success. These clubs typically take place on school grounds for 1-2 hours directly preceding or directly following the school day. Different equipment is set out for kids to play and experiment with at their leisure, and adult supervisors (of which there are not an abundance) are trained only to intervene when something truly dangerous is occurring. Gray recently observed an elementary school play club that takes place prior to the school day once a week (though they’re trying to make it more frequent) and was delighted with the result.

Gray also offers up the idea of recreation departments including more sandlot-style activities among the more organized sports. It would be formalized in the sense it would take place at a given location at a given time, but it would really be just a way to get a bunch of kids together. A volunteer could help get games going during the first few sessions, but slowly step away and intervene less over time. New equipment could be added over time to help inspire different games or different styles of play.

“Free play indoors in the school and outdoors, it’s age mixed, all grades K-5…It’s working wonderfully. It’s working partially because the age mixing. Older children are helping to solve the quarrels among younger children,” Gray says. “Children are truly running in hallways, wrestling, playing chasing games, some old-fashioned games, very vigorous play. Here’s a situation where there are adults present, but the adults are initiating actives (and) they’re not intervening. I was there for an hour, there were 150 kids, and I did not see any single case of adult intervening. It went so remarkably well.”

“Maybe one parent is there at a time to help each other put their minds at ease. It begins with something more formal, but over time, that structure falls away,” Gray says. “I think that could catch on. I think there’s enough kids and enough parents who would want to do this as an alternative…Ideally, over time, the kids who are coming together (for this) every Saturday afternoon start realizing they can do it every other day, too.”

Badges are not “official certificates” — but can be recognized for their value by participants, parents, coaches, organizers and others

Digital badges are not “official” in that the digital badges are NOT the same as diplomas nor certificates.

In short, issuing certificates required governmental approval from the state where the program resides, such as Pennsylvania or Colorado.

For example, it is The Colorado Department of Higher Education that has been granted the authority in a system with its board for granting any official certificate awards including the program approvals. Most secondary and post-secondary programs have an approval process which asks what industry certifications can be conferred in the program.

Digital badges are not included as industry certifications.

Colorado Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Department of Education collects data on industry certifications, but not on badges awarded. This is because the badging framework and governance of digital badges has been established to document employment skill sets, and not for educational transfer credit as is documented with courses, certificates and degrees. Rather, digital badges have a workforce relevance enhancement to traditional, educational offerings and are more of a motivational tool to help establish a pathway to the more formal certifications and educational transcripts and eventual diplomas.

At present, there are no policies with any educational system that allows for the evaluation of digital badges for college credit nor for high-school credit. Requests for evaluation of prior learning for college credit and school-based credit is possible as a future discussion point. Perhaps in the future, some educational system, especially in a rapidly changing enviroment, would desire this capacity so that student profiles of digital badges from multiple sources could be documented and verified to represent merit within the system.

The process for reviewing and approving new digital badges is taken seriously. This work is done by the CLOH.org Digital Badge Taskforce. To apply as a member on the panel, leave a message in the comments below.

An idea for a new badge can be proposed by members of the CLOH.org Digital Badge Taskforce.

The process for bestowing digital badges within the CLOH.org framework happens to those who apply and pass a training course.

Connected Writing Ideas

Students and even coaches are encouraged to write within the Swim & Water Polo program. Open ended questions follow:

How did practice go today?

Was it good? — That’s sorta boring. Why was it decent, or amazing, or not. However today’s practice was for you, try to learn from it. What did you gain? Can you turn a bad practice-frown upside down? Can you capitalize on the momentum of a good workout?

What are some of the things you need to do to guarantee that you’ll have a great practice the next time you are at the pool — or even in the classroom?

What about sleep? Can you put yourself to bed early? Sleep is often the best supplement for your growth and improvement. If you are training hard, you need quality sleep too. Play hard and rest hard.

Do you have a favorite going to bed routine? A favorite pillow? Do you have a favorite blanket? How can you get two extra hours of sleep tonight? With good sleep, you recover more deeply and improve brain functions. You’ll be more focused and attentive in training and boost your immune system.

Talk about water. How about hydration? Can you drink a bunch of water today?

Do not drink the pool water, of course. But, drink from the fountain. Drink at meals. Drink from your own water bottle. Take care of it. Don’t play with it, but treat it as a valued asset to guard and consume. It’s hard to remember to drink an adequate amount of water over the course of the day. Being properly soaked with water, inside and out, makes for a great day.

Performance declines happen when you sweat and body weight drops. Cramps and headaches can be more frequent. And your rate of perceived effort goes up. That means you think your efforts are hard. Don’t make the hard workout feel harder than it has to feel. Hydrate!

Write a goal for your next practice.

Most campers walk into an activity and can only brace themselves for the challenges ahead. You can do more to prepare so you are ready to perform. Don’t just react to everything that comes you way. Be brave getting in. Decide that for yourself. Be attentive to the coaches and instructors and absorb every word they say. Start to listen to them even before they speak. Be ready to catch on what comes next.

Go to practice with a specific goal in mind. The goal doesn’t have to be crazy. Tell yourself to do extra dolphin kicks on push offs the wall. Setting yourself a little goal will give you a sense of ownership and pride in your swimming. Sit down with some paper or onto the web site or tablet and make a training journal note. Write what you are going to accomplish tomorrow.

Tell the world a few things you are grateful for.

As you communicate your ideas about the things in your life you are grateful for, you’ll find that you’re doing one of the best stress-busting techniques ever. Keep perspective. Be grateful.

Writing down a few things you are grateful helps us stay positive.

Pick one piece of self-talk you want to change.

Becoming a mentally tougher is a challenge. Learning how to struggle without quitting. Press on when your heart and chest are telling you to take a break. Use visualization to help remind ourselves what we were saying to ourselves in these battles. What can we do for ourselves to be better for the next competition?

One thing you can do now and write about is to pick a piece of self-talk to use at practice tomorrow.

Controlling your self-talk is one of the biggest steps in developing a tougher, high-performance mindset.

What are some of the things you have said to yourself or others during tough practices in the pool? What negative things went through your mind? Write it out, and do some mental judo to give that negative self-talk a positive tone.

“I’m tired and I don’t feel like I can go faster…”

Vs.

“I’m tired, but so is everyone else. Let’s give the next play an awesome effort and take things from there.”

Write about the future and explain what tomorrow’s great workout can look like.

Visualization and imagination are big concepts that can be used to improve yourself. Just “daydream” about your swimming. Then daydream about tomorrow’s time at the pool. Instead of goofy daydreaming, take control of it.

Spend a few minutes visualizing what you want your stroke to feel like in pool tomorrow. See in your mind’s eye, the top-of-the-water, clean, smooth energy with your arms and legs. Picture your body zooming along the surface.

Go!

Link to input form.

Opportunities and improvements to Pittsburgh’s scholastic sports amounts to a wicked design challenge.

 

Pittsburgh, a sports town, needs to support its citizens, families and athletes in efficient, economical ways so programs and individuals thrive. Improving the city’s recreational landscape, especially for the often neglected sectors of the city, requires the building of the appropriate  political will in these human endeavors. Furthermore, the building and changes must include a suite of collective beliefs in technical aspects.

All in all, the quagmire becomes a design problem with complicated, multi-dimensional aspects that spans age groups, abilities, interests, facilities, institutions, and budgets.

Pittsburgh’s sports overhaul is a wicked design challenge.

A report on design thinking defines wicked design challenges as a “class of social system problems which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values, and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing” (Churchman, 1967 , p. 141).

One positive outcome is the building of a collective belief, especially among consequential stakeholders. Municipal government, county services, school districts, coaches, volunteers, college admissions officers, employers, educators, families and learners are needed for engagement and eventual prosperity.

The challenge of building a collective belief is a far more complicated design challenge than making a new slogan with team t-shirts.

The courses, interactions, pathways, playlists and experiences at Play.CLOH.org offer visual designs with digital badges, yet the movement is surprisingly complex. Badge system design demands more effort than a series of web activities and services. As Play.CLOH.org efforts are designed to function across institutional and other types of boundaries, the meta mission with an entire open badge infrastructure makes the complexity of the struggle and its design task exponentially confusing.

Shifting Sands N@

This article reflects upon the LRNG.org’s Partner Handbook, a guide for creating XPs, playlists and badges.

The CEO of Collective Shift, Connie Yowell, the company formed to launch LRNG.org, wants to transform learning into a lifestyle.

LRNG_Lifestyle1

 

Being active, fit, and an athlete is a lifestyle. Many of the “lifestyle sports” are included within the Play.CLOH.org grant proposals of 2016. Swimming, water polo, golf, kayaking, running and ultimate are certainly lifestyle sports. These activities have a lot going on, plenty of “mojo,” much to emulate.

As we work together to make learning a lifestyle, let’s work within the lifestyle sports and insure that learning is included there, in obvious ways, so that plenty of others can join, follow-along, and embrace this lifestyle of learning. To create lifelong learning, use recreation.

Giving young people better tools in their preparation for life gets top billing at Play.CLOH.org. A robust suite of additional enrichment activities and experiences for better preparing youngsters is needed and welcomed.

Sadly, many of the opportunities provided for inter-city kids are frail. Often, the institutional hurdles are high and frequent. Our swim team can’t have practices on Saturdays and Sundays. Go figure. The older kids can’t be fooled. Perpetual defeat is a buzz kill.

Let’s support the drive and desire for being dedicated, determined and disciplined. Athletes have those passions, especially when they’re improving, having fun and a sense of fairness comes within their competitive landscapes. Our kids should feel the support – then, they rise to meet challenges. Here, we can compete with anyone, anywhere. Kids, you can receive the help to become the best you can be, and that means that some are sure to become the best in the world. For everyone on the team in the community, that makes life exciting. That’s the fun lifestyle that trains minds and bodies.

High school kids who come to understand and trust the vision of Creating Literate Olympians Here can make it so. The mind leads and the body follows. They go together. The mind never leaves the body. The learning never stops. Play.CLOH.org aims to better align-and-unify mind-and-body. Play.CLOH.org prevents the divorce between the two.

Learning, teaching and playing is for the young and not-so-young. The target market for LRNG.org is 13 to 24. Why stop at 24? The system of digital badges at Play.CLOH.org champions lifelong learning for those who want to live a long life. Play unifies the young and not-so-young and prevents the divorce among the age groups. It is important to engage the kids, and everyone else.

Coach and camper
Coach and camper.

Plenty of opportunities are within these plans that speak directly to the circle of life. In Pittsburgh, our co-ed masters’ water polo team generally beats the region’s best high school boys’ team. It was an epic moral victory, and lots of fun, when the North Allegheny high school boys squad tied the Pittsburgh Masters squad at a game in the 2016 CMU tournament.

Play.CLOH.org efforts make spaces and interesting challenges so that the seasoned 50-year-olds get to buck up with the youngsters in their prime in underwater hockey, speed golf, aquatic SKWIM, ultimate, pull-ups, goal-setting, sport-first-aid, computer animation and app development. Learning lifetime-and-lifestyle lessons goes beyond age 24. Health and wellness is not a guarantee for many in communities where violence, drug use and poverty are pervasive.

Some XPs, playlists, pathways and badges within Play.CLOH.org are tagged #Lifelong_LRNG_Lifestyle when suited for inter-generational settings.

Home quote
Home quote from their handbook.

The Introduction’s “home base” can’t be confused with “home plate” nor “base camp.”

Baseball has a different concept of being “home.” In baseball, one must summon sizable amounts of courage to step-up-to-the-plate at home. Getting to home as a base runner signals a long-trip around the diamond’s three other bases. Regardless of the illustration and baseball’s vocabulary, Play.CLOH.org makes loud calls for great teams of people to step out of their comfort zones, to be present elsewhere, to be prepared by thinking ahead and to reflect, log and digitize their insights along their ways.

Both LRNG and Play.CLOH.org aim to connect communities around shared goals. The design pillars of LRNG match well among the goals and quarters of Play.CLOH.org. The over-arching goal is playing well with others. LRNG and Play.CLOH.org play well together.

LRNG’s four design pillars: Craft Experiences, Gather Communities, Build the World, and Unlock Opportunities

Play.CLOH.org features four design pillars too within its playlist for the Tech Captains badge. Plenty of overlap and common ground exists. The Play.CLOH.org “pillars” are called “quarters.” Quarter One is Present. Quarter Two is Play. Quarter Three is Technology. Quarter Four is Development. Plenty of common ground exists.

The alignment of the LRNG.org pillars and Play.CLOH.org quarters are slightly different, but the sequence of the pillars as well as quarters are not paramount.

Pillars and Quarters
Similarities of LRNG & Play.CLOH LRNG Pillars Play.CLOH.org Quarters
# 4 Pillars 4 Quarters
1 Craft Experiences Play Well with Others
Learners choose. Focus on passions of: sports, recreation, aquatics, outdoors, fitness.
2 Gather Communities Being Present
Provide opportunities to learn through relationships, introductions, orientation. Calls to meaningful interactions with diverse community of mentors and experts. Not Just a Game (film). Challenge youth to engage with code of conduct. Build their own identity and wiki page.
3 Build the World Technology
Use modern Tech for self-expression. Publish. Solve real world problems. Revise and improve code.
4 Unlock Opportunities Human Development
Experiences move to new opportunities. Connect to future career and learning paths. Imagine bigger concept maps of achievements. Goal setting. Learn volition. College recruiting. On to lifeguards, instructors and Rookie Coaches Badges

 

Play.CLOH.org efforts consider “Why” first. “How” should be informed by “Why.” In other words, the method and activities should be informed by the purpose.

The why behind the digital badges called Tech Captains becomes clear as dozens of high school students are hired to serve as coaches, instructors, lifeguards and camp leaders for Swim & Water Polo Camp. All workers are not equal.

In 2015, 40+ employees coached more than 200 students at 10 different pools. The best employees have been high school swimmers on the Obama varsity swim team. Other athletes, but not full-time swimmers, have been great workers too. Of course the varsity swimmers know the routines, expectations and drills of the head coach. Having played the games and understanding the rules matters. They know the communication style of the boss, can read emails and be responsible to their duties. The more valuable employees have been the ones with a prior relationships with the program leader, their fellow workers and the activities. The greatness days at camp come when varsity swimmers perform and lead the younger students in grades 3 to 7.

Pittsburgh has a proven demand and available facilities to train more than 2,000 youngsters in a Swim & Water Polo Camp in the summers. Throughout the winter, Pittsburgh has the available facilities to train more than 6,000 swimmers.

Sticking points for growing the programs to reach thousands of kids are a shortage of coaches for staff positions and a lacking political will by certain individuals in high positions. The awarding of educational grants would help to sway the opinions among certain administration in the school district.

Throughout the school year, about 40 kids are involved in the varsity swim teams, boys and girls at Obama. In the district of 30,000 students, Pittsburgh has about 250 swimmers among all the schools and grades.

However, a staff of more than 100 would be needed to lead campers by the thousands. The pathway to to the Tech Captains badges can help to develop the individuals who can join the staff for future camps.

Hamstring Stretch in Homewood with Water Polo Players
Hamstring Stretch in Homewood with Water Polo Players

An All-City Sports Camp has been proposed. However, other posts are already being filled in the community. Citiparks, the YMCA, Sarah Heinz House, Hosanna House, Pittsburgh Ultimate, Venture Outdoors, Big Leagues, First Tee of Pittsburgh and our Swim & Water Polo Camp hire camp instructors. The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation and the Eastside Neighborhood Employment Center hire about 150 kids, ages 14 to 21, for the city’s summer youth employment program.

In 2017 and beyond, it would be great if the individuals who have LRNG digital badges could take a merit-based bypass of the job lottery. Not all the kids get hired with the city’s youth job program called Learn & Earn. Those with digital badges should get hired first. That way, digital badges would unlock opportunities.

Every youngster in Pittsburgh could learn to swim and be a part of the sportsmanship and teamwork experiences of an All City Sports Camp after 400 participants have been trained in the process of playing well with others in the quest for Play.CLOH.org Tech Captain digital badges. But there is more. Existing camp experiences are already offered in the community by many of the supporting agencies and institutions within the Play.CLOH.org network. Those camps hire high school students. Every camp can benefit with more enhanced staff preparations with year-round XPs.

The Tech Captains digital badges help to tighten the circle of life. Consider the growth of a youngster who is a camper at age 10 and then becomes a motivated learner at age 13 and grows into a valued junior instructor in a camp at age 15 to then hooks up in a camp-coaching role at age 17.

Running-straight_stamp-speed

For the high school students, fitting in the time for training, playing, competing, studying, resting, planning, socializing, learning, and instructing other youngsters is demanding work that can be made somewhat less burdensome with the hope of a pathway charted to meaningful badges from Play.CLOH.org.

Many of the young adults at age 19 are doing college internships.

The connected learning approach prioritizes experience over knowledge transfer, formation over facts. It centralizes the importance of community connections, real-world relevancy and digital technologies. The approach bridges connections between communities, content, and practitioners. When successful, it brings together learner’s passions, people, and paths.

Pittsburgh’s shared passions: Sports, Technology, Our Children. Pittsburgh is a sports town. Pittsburgh is also a technology town. Our kids are a passion for many too. Play.CLOH.org connects these common passions of sports, fitness and wellness to technology for our kids. With this approach, the entire community can be responsible. Schools, nonprofits, companies, gamers, governments, caregivers, mentors, and peers are all involved in Play.CLOH.org.

Play.CLOH.org and USA Swimming’s Deck Pass can make LRNG float.

One of the avenues for obtaining funding with the DML Competition is to “augment existing connected learning programming with new connected learning resources and/or experiences that must be conceived of and sequenced as playlists that span and scale across organizations or institutions.”

The Play.CLOH.org’s proposal includes a bridge from an existing program that has been operational for the past five years. USA Swimming of Colorado Springs started its Deck Pass program in 2011. Developed and maintained in-house, Deck Pass has awarded 35 million patches since it opened.

The USA Swimming patches are similar to XPs and Digital Badges in that they are bestowed to individuals based upon merit and achievements. The graphic patches form collections for individuals who have set-up free accounts with usernames and passwords.

In 2016, of USA Swimming’s 400,000 athletes, about 300,000 have Deck Pass accounts. Non-members can play along too.

Individuals can issue friend requests for messaging and revealing their collections to others to witness. A majority of the patches are granted on Mondays following the weekend swim meets and come automatically based upon a rules-based system that interacts with the national swims database.

Some patches have come based upon holidays, geography, meet standards and coaches creations. USA Swimming Coaches (30,000) can design and issue custom patches to connect with the swimmers: Practice Beast, Performer of the Day, Kicking Winner, etc. Some patches are geared for swimmers in certain ages and provide appropriate insights on the Safe Sports, Anti-Doping, Nutrition, Anti-Bulling.

Rewards can be tied to patches. One cool feature of Deck Pass is its ability to integrate with a phone’s camera and provide QR Code Reader interactions. A kid could get a patch through the application by attending the USA Olympic Trials and seeing the QR Code in the meet program or on a sign at the facility.

The Deck Pass program is growing by 20% a year and is especially valued by Moms OnDeck. Its purpose was to keep kids motivated, striving, and involved in the sport of swimming. The “cartooning” of the patches are not as well received with older kids so different tools are being deployed that address the more mature kids with a detailed focus on how to swim faster. The patches for older swimmers are less abstract in offering a cool reward, but the patches are getting more technical. The trend in the patches is to show specific interests in how to better perform. Data analysis happens and the patches can unlock a video series to keep one motivated.

Play.CLOH.org can build a bridge of connected learning assets that spans between the USA Swimming Deck Pass and LRNG.

Support for Play.CLOH.org comes from USA Swimming Coach, David Scraven, Head Coach of Upper St. Clair Swim Club and High School in suburban Pittsburgh. Scraven, a former Standford swimmer, coaches one of the best teams in the region. Getting some of the swimmers at USC into the coalesce of a city-wide Varsity Club for working on technology can provide a way for city and suburban kids to reach and interact with connected learning, while playing well with others.

Other partners in the Play.CLOH.org network have swim pools and teams, including the JCC Sailfish (USA Swimming Club), Thelma Lovette YMCA, Sarah Heinz House, Pittsburgh Public Schools (14 pools, 8 varsity teams, 20+ teams in elementary and middle school grades) and Hosanna House.

The Teamwork and Sportsmanship patches or badges offer some ways for early adopters to integrate and connect various systems and populations.

TeamUnify, another within the sport of swimming that support the Play.CLOH.org proposal, can fill a tremendous role in capitalizing the opportunities for connected learning among the LRNG efforts and the patches of USA Swimming. TeamUnify has a times database too. TeamUnify’s app, OnDeck, fills other needs for parents/guardians, swim coaches and teams.

The short-term plans being discussed, should the funds from the DML Competition arrive, is to deploy the aquatic-related playlists by advancing Play.CLOH.org network internationally. Those in swimming in Canada, UK, AUS, NZ, and RSA do not have nor wish to contract with the services of USA Swimming. With the robust tools and help of TeamUnify and LRNG, the international markets can be opened.

 

AutoCoach of Australia is another partner in the aquatics field that has exceptional, high-tech timing equipment especially geared to swimming. AutoCoach XPs are expected in the months to come. AutoCoach has customers around the world, especially in Australia and the Pacific rim nations. AutoCoach sales efforts involve the attending of many coaching clinics and seminars around the world, including the World Clinic held in the USA.

Auto-coach-products

Deploying aquatic related playlists can be successful with the USA college-club markets. Building relationships with those sizable populations would avoid duplication of efforts and needless competitive wranglings with USA Swimming.

skwim4

College swimming happens with varsity teams at the NCAA levels as well as with non-varsity, club settings. The club settings present a challenge, but also the best opportunity for wide-spread adoption of playlists and pathways with Play.CLOH.org and LRNG hosted utilities. College Tri Teams would be potential advocates for playlists.

All the water polo players in the college ranks follow the lead of the Collegiate Water Polo Association and its sibling organization also hosted in the Philadelphia area, American Water Polo. American Water Polo is a long-term partner with our aquatic efforts in Pittsburgh and has provided a letter of support for Play.ClOH.org.

Spoken as a recent coach of the Carnegie Mellon University Womens Water Polo Team, I am confident that the college club water polo scene can benefit from certain XPs that have already been designed and are about to launch at LRNG. — Mark Rauterkus

Water_Polo_knowledge_badge

Another strategy for advancing connected learning opportunities in aquatics with Play.CLOH.org is to develop content for older individuals, ages 16 to 24, and then re-position these XPs and pathways within the USA Swimming Deck Pass framework. What goes into LRNG can also be tweaked and plugged into Deck Pass. Rather than beat em, join them. Let’s provide Play.CLOH.org’s XPs to USA Swimming. The older kids who seem to out-grow the cartoon-like patches of USA Swimming’s Deck Pass might appreciate the career, technology, personal development and cross-training within Play.CLOH.org. The user-base at USA Swimming could migrate to LRNG with the help of the playlists and pathways of Play.CLOH.org. Furthermore, older swimmers with tech skills can begin to craft their own patches for each other and the younger swimmers on their teams.

AutoCoach makes sales call.
Sally Lee of Australia, visiting with a swim coach at CalU, to show off the merits of AutoCoach Timing Systems.

Aquatics, deep water swimming, pre-lifeguard tests, water safety, lifeguard training, SKWIM, water polo, open-water swimming, one-mile swims, sports first aid, swim instructor volunteering, wellness exercises and the Olympic sports are central to the CLOH.org network and experiences. Many of the competitive swimmers in the age group ranks might appreciate on-going structure and badges after ending their competitive swim team seasons. This makes a sequence to playlists at Play.CLOH.org from an existing connected learning program. The span goes from USA Swimming (National Governing Body) to TeamUnify (swim business that manages big data for teams in the cloud) Deep_Water_Badge-0to LRNG with playlists, pathways, XPs and badges from Play.CLOH.org.

 

Sorry. This takes more than 300 words to describe the audience. Thanks for reading.

Hard sell overview for Play.CLOH.org

Getting a DMLCompetition.net grant for $125K to Play.CLOH.org makes sense because the assembled team is huge (35 partners), prolific in past and present (hundreds of publications and tutorials exist), builds success from fertile, grass-roots participants in Pittsburgh to state-wide and national scope organizations (YMCA, JCC, Boys & Girls Clubs, First Tee, USA Swimming, Water Polo, SKWIM USA, PA Athletic Directors), and engages participants within and around the most popular activities – scholastic sports. Play.CLOH.org unlocks meaningful opportunities for youth employment that are reinforced by a state mandates. Instructor, umpire and lifeguarding opportunities address world-wide shortages.

Play.CLOH.org’s stellar connections and combinations inter-twine with both sports and technology, enriching each other. Athletes are motivated to learn computer science, geeks to physical activity. Desires for lifelong learning delivers lifelong fitness, less obesity, goal-setting and volition.

Our killer-app quality assets are built on free-and-open-source software, with optional, value-packed ($35 + $10 for its case), Raspberry Pi 3 Linux computers the size of a deck of cards. LiveCode 8 is ready for prime time. Teachers and existing tutorials are ready to help students to master animation, playbooks, cross-platform software coding, app creation, big data and chat bots.

Social implications are life-changing, life-transforming and of life-and-death. Last month 500 young men died by drowning from one region of eastern Senegal. Dave Zirin’s films (Not Just A Game; Race Power & American Sports), articles and podcasts guide discussions and compel use of teleconference skills.

Athletes, especially in urban schools, are under-served with enrichment options. Play.CLOH.org connects passions and popularity of sports to job paths and digital competent, literate, fluent, brilliant and genius levels.

Play.CLOH.org content can be wrapped with the LRNG elements and soar higher than the others.