Just before Christmas I started running because I couldn’t get to the gym while we were away. I’m not a runner. Well, I thought I wasn’t. But it seems that I do like it.

Now, by no means am I fast and I’m not going to get fast; I’m for sure a fatty for life. But the thing I’m learning is that I can get faster. Maybe not a lot but I like the challenge there. It feels good. Like many aspects of my life it has reminded me of things to be aware of in the classroom.

This bad-boy has become my favorite little spreadsheet feeder

Let’s just run down this side track for a minute …

Another change that’s happening in my life is that I’m working towards becoming a Data Druid. Now, I view life through many lenses, one of which is the lens of Dungeons and Dragons. See, I can’t be a data wizard. A wizard takes long periods of study and works towards excellence that way. A druid on the other hand communes with nature and draws their magic from the wilds of that communion. Me, I’m a Druid of Spreadsheet Circle.

All I see are cells of different formats …

After the last few months of playing with spreadsheets for fun – both Google Sheets and Excel – they’ve become another lens that I see the world through. I enjoy the problem solving nature and my growing ability to manipulate those little boxes to bring order out of chaos. I’ve even started building spreadsheets to organise aspects of life – time management, goals, personal growth – that you wouldn’t normally associate with spreadsheets if you’d not spent some time in the Circle. For example, our family holiday was laid out in a spreadsheet to ensure that there was at least an activity or two organised a day. Not a strict itinerary but it sure did stop the indecisive nature of myself, my wife, my father, and my sister and her husband from wasting days and getting frustrated as we all avoided making decisions every day.

… Back onto the trail

I started running with the Map My Run app for several reasons but mostly because I had a new watch that would do it and would collect more data for me to play with.

Luckily, I don’t just see the world through the lenses of DnD and Spreadsheets. My mind is constantly relating everything back to teaching and the classroom. Anyhow, I’m starting to really enjoy the running and especially with the app. I have goals that I want to achieve (5k by the end of Term 1 2020) and process goals to try and avoid stopping once I achieve that goal.

I love my app, but the thing is, it kind of rules when it comes to principles of assessment and feedback for learning. It took me by surprise and really reinforced what I’ve been reading lately (The Learning Rainforest by @TeacherHead and Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchart, Marc Church and Karin Morrison).

See the app analyses your run and then it gives you very specific feedback. For me it was increase the cadence of your steps (or steps per minute). Then it told me how to achieve that (smaller steps, closer together). It gave me success criteria (increased cadence) that linked to a real world goal (faster speed). I just ignored it for the first two times, I was like, “Hell no App, I will analyse my own data.” Turns out the next two runs I focused on what it was saying to improve and it did.

Then the app noticed that I’d listened to it. This was another moment that I took a step back and thought about feedback. It said well done. But that wasn’t where it ended. It was specific. It said well done, you did this and it improved here. Now, here is the next thing to progress.

Obviously this isn’t new, I know this stuff. I know that we should give timely feedback. I also know that feedback should be specific with actionable points. I also know that we should reinforce the improvements, again being specific. But I do love it when you get little reminders from the universe (or professional app developers).

Let me know of any times good instruction just jumps out and trout slaps you in face. It’s always good to hear.

Now off to my meditation.