Lessons from the world of sports: #5 The rule of encouragement

Welcome to the fifth part of this mini-series, in which I consider lessons we might learn from sports and sports personalities which we can apply to educational ICT. How important is encouragement to Olympic class athletes? I’d like to start off with an admission of error….

Nearly three years ago, in an article entitled Web 2.0 For Rookies: Commenting, I wrote:

I’ve been to several presentations in which the speaker shows a screenshot of someone’s MySpace page indicating that they’ve received 1500 comments about something they’ve posted. My take on this is as follows:

  • How can anyone read, let alone respond to, 1500 comments?
  • If most of the comments are ‘Wow’, or ‘Cool’, how does that benefit the originator of the post, except for giving them an ego boost?

In the light of recent events, I think now that I was unduly dismissive of the potential positive effects of audience adulation and encouragement. I was thinking in terms of practical advice – and, let’s face it, a comment like “Wow” or “Go for it!” doesn’t convey much in the way of useful suggestion. However, many athletes and commentators have spoken, in the last couple of weeks, about how they have been encouraged and spurred on not only by their families, team mates and friends, but also by complete strangers.

Encouragement works! Photo by Amanda Hatfield http://www.flickr.com/photos/dust/

Mo Farrah, for instance, says:

What really gets me through is the crowd - having that energy from the crowd cheering you on… That last lap depends on how loud they are, the adrenaline produced. It makes a big difference. When that cheering is getting louder you want to do well and it gives you that bit more energy.

(Read more at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/olympics/article-2183449/Mo-Farah-Roar-glory--London-2012-Olympics.html#ixzz232Qp5xZH)

Becky Adlington, to take another example, spoke in an interview on TV about how seeing the number of her Twitter  followers go up and up really encouraged her to try to do even better.

So what does this mean for ICT? For me, it highlights the importance of showcasing students’ work, which I have always believed in anyway. You should have their work visible on:

  • Classroom walls
  • Corridor walls
  • Digital signage around the school
  • PowerPoint slide shows at parents’ evenings
  • Videos
  • An area on your school’s virtual learning environment that is accessible by parents

But it also highlights the importance of giving students a wider audience, obviously taking care to ensure that their personal safety is not compromised in any way. So, blogging, uploading videos to YouTube, and even class Twitter (or other microblogging platforms) accounts should be included in my opinion. (See Web 2.0 For Rookies: What Is Microblogging? for details of a couple of Twitter alternatives).

At the very least, it means making time in lessons for students to share what they’ve been working on by presenting to the rest of the class, and to make sure that the ethos is one of celebration as well as constructive criticism.