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A PLE* Model for Sports Skill Training

*Personal Learning Environment

This summer I took some unplugged time to learn a new sport, Disc Golf (DG). As a Boomer with a bit of Frizbee time in grad school, I was happy to discover the DG resources available in Temple TX (1.5 hr. N of Austin, 2.0 hr. S of FW). At first I fumbled a bit getting some advice from a neighbor who has played for over 20 yr. and doing some online research about DG in general. DG-range

Over the first month, I realized that DG was a good case study candidate for the development of a PLE. Why? Several reasons.

  1. In more formal training environments we are often limited to assessments based on quizzes and simple interactions. With criterion based assessments built into most individual sports like DG, it seems ideal for real, as opposed to digital, immersive learning. Thus, DG can serve easily as a functional, self reinforcing PLE.
  2. Recent advances in technology including a number of Web and mobile based tools make easy integration of real and digital experiences with in the reach of almost anyone with a smartphone or a table device.

The system begins to emerge

My background is broad in both Training and IT, but at my core, I am a systems developer. My academic degrees are in Psychology (BA,MS,PhD) and many of my mentors were Behaviorists a la B.F. Skinner. My orientation is to always start inductively working at the lowest level of abstraction. This approach seeks to avoid preconceived notions thus allowing the structure to emerge from the actual reality under study or in this case self-training situation.

After some online research, a few very unsatisfactory trips to the DG course, and some fumbling at a small field with some trees on my complex’s grounds, I determined my first objective: The Ability to drive a disc 120+ feet reliably. Why? The average par 3 DG basket is 250+ feet from the Tee box. So to be in contention for par, one needs to be close to the basket (within say 10 feet) in 2 throws. As a newbie, perhaps 60-70% of my shots are Tee box or Fairway drives so this task is the most basic DG skill

With that goal in mind, I then measured the practice area and set some distance markers and began to practice in a more structured fashion. By then I had acquired a number of discs of various speeds and other characteristics. Next some Utube research on throwing techniques after which I selected the X- step backhand throw as my main drive style. Some progress after that but still too many erratic throws.

Next Tweak

In 9th grade my Algebra I teacher made a very profound remark to me one day. “Ed, system is comfort”. My practice obviously needed more structure. I had been studying information about DG disc types and characteristics at a main manufacture’s we site, Discs have various speed and flight characteristics. In general faster discs are harder to throw accurately. One day, I began to always throw in “speed order” from lowest to highest. Since this change, my progress has been much better although I still sometimes loose control on my fastest discs. EdDrvRelease

Adding More Tech and Equipment

  1. Evernotes for DG research
  2. Fitness tracking via Android phone Cardio trainer app
  3. GPS Golf Range Finder on my Galaxy Tab2
  4. Tablet Camera videos (broken down via AVS video editor for analysis)
  5. Innova portable practice basket

Next steps

Next I will develop goals for approach and putting shots as well as other more specialized shots. The results of my effort will be in an eBook with accompanying training materials as Adobe Captivate modules with embedded video. My expectation is that the concept once developed will allow others to generalize the model and apply it to other sports and performance activities.

Final Thoughts

Further advances in internet and mobile technology can liberate Learning from the classrooms and computer cubicles to the world at large. I’d rather use technology to supplement real world learning situations and scenarios than merely build simulations of reality. What’s your take on my approach?


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