Tech to Tango: Another data-informed personal dance ambition ūüíÉ

Mission accomplished?

Well, yes for the simple answer. And hopefully a bit more of an insight through this post to explain:

  • A determination to explore any impact on dance performance using data, an armoury of ‘blinged up’ tech tools and the influence of role models.
  • The eventual learning gains from stepping out of a dance comfort zone, into the unknown, to accelerate progress.
  • The 1980‚Äôs inspired gel hairstyling on the profile photo!

I took the opportunity to dance in Blackpool again earlier this year, and to qualify had to up the ante to reach a higher standard.

Hard work but also a chance to learn more through a data route and experience a new discipline along the way.

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Back to ‘core values’ to strengthen my core has become my biggest priority and that’s seen me stepping into the Thai kick-boxing arena. ¬†Why? Because it feels like learning to dance felt right at the beginning – completely out of my comfort zone! It’s helping to build up stamina and confidence, but more than anything it’s introduced me to another world class role model, and she’s made a huge difference.

We’ve taken data from wearables and IOT projects to allow me to measure my own progress. ¬†That’s always been important, alongside exams and belts, and I should add that I was always insistent about about the focus being on fitness and not contact. ¬†In the past we’ve looked at sleep data in parallel to activity, and now recovery has a greater significance than physical exertion.

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Of course the data trail still includes a dance programme, although that took a tricky spin turn in the Spring when Things Hull¬†¬†became connected in a somewhat accidental way. ¬†I hadn’t intended to publish openly, but GPS gave too many clues to unusual logging of one of our data sets and questions were asked!

data map.jpg

Next steps see me taking a break between work projects to concentrate on dance, and that’s got tango written all over it.

From that, data will lead me to a next challenge and a September launch. ¬†More to follow then ūüėÄ


Context with data or data for context? And make learning that context.

Pedagogy before technology and learning before data.

As an educator that’s always going to be my perspective, and in recent years¬†an exciting (sometimes puzzling and frustrating) arena with data has been¬†developing in education. Purpose and context are paramount to the effective use of big and small data in schools, and obviously¬†centred around it’s impact on¬†learning.

Successful intervention strategies have been guided, and learning gains demonstrated, by data in schools. Nothing new there.

The most positive digital storytelling examples with data, perhaps small data on a spreadsheet, have visualised impact on learning.  Nothing new there.

Now as teachers embrace more online tools, students create more digital learning footprints and leaders incorporate more data systems to inform their visions for learning, the big data phenomenon is reaching schools.

With the Codifying Learning project in Hull, our on-going focus is to explore learning analytics in primary and secondary school settings.  The context? A learning context supporting learners to learn and teachers to teach.  Nothing new there.

What is new are the tools and dashboards that can additionally support questioning and decision making in schools.

Big data and small data impacting on learning to support personalise pathways to success. Just an example of course.  Context with data or data for context?

That’s for school leaders to decide once they consider the needs of their students and use the data to help decide on their own questions. ¬†Nothing new there.

Postscript: Context around spending 12 months learning to dance was research into learning analytics and taking models from outside of education which impacted on performance.  Learning. Nothing new there.

‘What is it about Woodstock?’

Enquiring minds speak volumes from the back of the car, and with pauses for reflection from the front come suggested answers from the rear. ‚ÄėIs it like Glastonbury?‚Äô

Cue the ‚Äėanswer a question with a question‚Äô approach and ‚ÄėWhat‚Äôs Glastonbury, then?‚Äô

Which really got us thinking. What was it, and is it, about this Upstate festival from the summer of ‚Äė69, which launches storytelling often with a different focus for everybody‚Äôs opinion asked?

With a heap of data and collections of information available about the festival, could we turn an interactive visualisation piece into a tool to build a story? And how about collaborating maker style to explore thinking and problem solving skills extending beyond an initial circuit design?

If the data pointed towards facts, opinions and answers what were the important questions to ask? Could a collaboration support that?

Step 1: Inspiration, patience and an array of ideas from Scott and the team at littleBits during an afternoon of tinkering in the city.  Constructing instruments and composing sounds of the sixties but what about aligning data facts through more sounds?


Guitar tinkering with synth sounds

Step 2: Making and remaking through tinkering with materials to collectively form a circuit with the Touchboard.


Create then install

Step 3: Refining the circuit to facilitate an interactive installation.

  • If one of the components was a guitar, how could it be designed to ‘pick up and play’ and launch a piece of music?
  • In essence could a fingerboard be created with paint and wire and ‘strummed’ to launch a sound file?
  • What would be the most logical sequence and should that be part of the design?
  • Clues to match the data with an artist or theme?

Electric paint and flexible wire created the backdrop for lots of debate, testing and finally a workable solution.


Circuit design

Step 4: Testing times with lots of conferring to check out question theories for each piece of retrieved data:

  • 600
  • 50,000 and 500,000
  • 43
  • 9
  • 200
  • 3
  • 120
  • 2
  • 2
  • 32


Data, sounds and questions?

Of course there are no sound clues here.  Yet.

Perhaps we’ll get more storytelling at the weekend’s Jam Packed event; it’s the final festival of the series.

Does more noise mean more collaboration at the Leeds’ Raspberry Jam?

Absolutely not?

But could it mean more Maker style Meet ups as we move forward?

When the team¬†from York Hack Space joined us at this weekend’s Raspberry Jam our Maker Space got a tad more ambitious.


An increased range of activities and projects, incorporating Raspberry Pi and Arduino as the basis to hack with, gave way to more conversations, thoughts, ideas and inspiration towards next steps for everyone.

And actually, some new boards for some to consider too, but all to encourage collaboration and supporting ideas to share.


Robotic Art – click for more info

What could happen next? Who helped who?

  • A year 8 student brought along a Raspberry Pi photo booth project that inspired a couple of teachers to consider projects with that theme for enrichment activities.
  • Another Year 8 student gave us an update about her Raspberry Pi robot project and what her future plans hold. ¬†Extending her remote control hack?
  • Using Raspberry Pi with a 3D printer project to explore and stretch the Cannybot activity¬†ideas developed during the day. Racing corner might appear at the next Jam!
  • The Water Color Bot from Super Awesome Sylvia¬†gave another area¬†to consider¬†STEAM, different themes¬†for projects and to launch numerous conversations about engaging inclusive and opportunities through computing. At it’s most basic level, from plug-in, design and print, to hack opportunities each idea shared an enjoyment whilst¬†developing and extending skills.
  • Arduino-based pledges to explore and hack with electronics activities – lights, camera, action.

Toolbox to launch a 1000 ideas

  • Wearable Tech plans using a range of tools as inspiration and stimulus.* ¬†Time to say thank you for those #ProjectBlackpool ideas for me!

And what about the post title about noise?

Well we used the Raspberry Jam as a testbed for a data project and to explore more ideas for an upcoming community project in the city. Digital storytelling using data as a focus but with a creative output.

What will be that creative output?

I have no idea!

That’ll be decided by the group of young people who will build and hack their own project around the technology we provide, through a toolkit, and which they could add to.

The community had their own ideas at the Jam and it also gave more activities to explore after the Raspberry Pi workshops. ¬†The Leeds’ Maker community will also be involved with this local project in September.

What we’re excited about most of all is the¬†students¬†adding their ideas stamp and creativity which they’ll share at a Leeds Jam.¬†They’re Smart Citizens of West Leeds and one device they will use is the Smart Citizen kit:


Smart Citizen

But will they build a project indoors or choose to create and make an external collaboration to tell their story? ¬†Whilst I don’t think they’ll be showcasing though a spreadsheet, we’ll wait to see where they export their csv data and the resulting visualisations and models.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 07.51.35

Excel for a reason!

There were peaks in noise levels at the Raspberry Jam.  The data confirms that and also guides us as to when the device was internally mounted and when we hacked the deckchair outside, and planned a storytelling idea overlooking Leeds Dock.


Click for more info about Space Hack

More noise through more conversations or challenges and shouts with Space Hack? ¬†I like to think they’re both the same ūüôā

More resources:

Codebug Рinteractive coding and wearable tech

Bare Conductive – electric paint and Touchboard

(Smart) Sounds from the Classroom

We wanted to try out the Smart Citizen kit for ourselves, and then look towards comparative global opportunities, like teachers in Salford recently have.  And a couple in Hull, tentatively, too now.


Link to Smart Citizen – Future Everything site

But this was a family project and that very much meant being led by the youngest member.  A Smart Citizen device placed in their KS2 classroom, set up, monitored, tested and explained to anybody coming into contact with the project.

And the intended outcome?  Curriculum and creative ideas alongside feedback about ease of use, accuracy and flexibility.

iaac-smart-citizen-3 (1)

Link to the Smart Citizen Project in Salford

Perfect timing to explore cross-curricular links into an Extreme Earth topic and opportunities to collect, analyse and compare the data through visualisations.

Great timing too to consider positive aspects of data sharing through IOT and an extension to conversations about privacy of personal information.

And the recent conversations about if a project like this is based on data or digital storytelling? ¬†Think we’re definitely in that latter group now.

With detective hats on it was time to seek out the hidden stories within the data collected and that’s a huge task with over 43,000 lines on the CSV.

Visualisation possibilities included using a range software but Sonic Pi is the favoured tool at the moment.  Seems like the musical focus is the major hit and also that terms and concepts learnt in school and at Code Club are familiar and transferrable.

Forever loops in Scratch?  Infinite music possibilities now.

And which data to¬†select and compose with? ¬† With a like for like transfer into Sonic Pi then some readings weren’t suitable, but using temperature in blocks to create 3 chords¬†gave¬†the basis¬†to write a piece of music.

Loops with noise and humidity data gave 2 more WAV files which could be ‘thrown into Garageband’ and then more familiar tools used to finish the piece.

And finishing the piece is timely here. Currently it’s a ‘3 track from Sonic with a couple of Garageband add-ons’ mash-up and waiting for final edits and creative flair using more ways, synths and effects with Sonic.

Apparently every piece of music ought to include tambourines and drums : )

Hidden stories?  Well we did ask the teacher about possible reasons for the noise levels in the classroom rising AFTER the children went home.

And we got a musical reason Рa singing teacher.  Her voice really ought to be added as a final track to the final version!

A couple more mysteries still remain but it’s early days in the data world and¬†emerging days through¬†the medium of digital storytelling.

Time for data to impact on (my) dance performance? Probably. Time for Data Science in school? Definitely.

  • Can health data impact on educational performance and are we at a stage where affordable ‚Äėwearable tech‚Äô can support a school-based project?
  • Can we use a health focus for¬†a project to engage young people and learn &¬†debate the issues from the field of Data Science?

These are a¬†couple of areas that I’ve been mulling over, and asking questions about, since last Summer and areas where the speed of tech advancements¬†and innovation have changed my opinions at each stage.

There’s been many a¬†conversation about the potential of wearables to impact on students‚Äô health and also to underpin creative projects to¬†include collecting and analysing personal data. Which in turn, I believe,¬†needs to lead to¬†informed choices to enhance performance by supporting¬†decision making. ¬†But opportunities to explore big data and the internet of things on a much bigger scale and through data science?

No, that hasn’t been possible. ¬†Not seamlessly or cost-effectively anyway. And that means not for¬†our educational setting.


MiBand and Pebble – personal devices?

We’ve used the Research and Play project to explore areas but it’s been very much on an individual level. ¬†Apps and devices, which have included the Xiaomi MiBand and Pebble watch, have been fantastic tools to use to collect data and then consider¬†the analysis of that data. On a very small scale they’ve¬†enabled us¬†to¬†explore collection, analysis, modelling,¬†data visualisation techniques¬†and problem solving which has¬†led into the IOT and privacy of data topics.

But there’s been¬†an¬†on-going iPad comparison in my mind that these wearables have been individual devices. ¬†Very much personal tools¬†to inform individuals about their own individual performance and actually in education I’ve been looking for the capability to reach into big data and collaborative opportunities.

Apple Watch has been a timely (sorry) conversation piece, specifically for the privacy and ownership of data and the IOT debate, but again not one to support our intended project.


Data Crunch – empowering children through data

And then we touch on a ‚ÄėHealth in Numbers‚Äô data project, developed with the Young Pioneers charity, to support teachers and learners through data projects, as well as positively impacting on health & educational performance. The collaboration includes a blend of teacher CPD around¬†the computing curriculum and projects launched through a peer to peer model of learning.

A¬†‚ÄėBig Data Gym Day‚Äô early next month will¬†give students an opportunity to collect initial performance data to make target setting decisions as a group and individually. ¬†What does 10,000 steps mean, anyway? ¬†And how much is enough and how much is too much?

We’ll use that first project day as a ‘Data Crunch’ opportunity to help to benchmark and start collaborative planning. This initial experiential fitness day will be a chance to use tech as a positive enabler and to engage young people with an introduction to data science too.

Using¬†the immersive tech (interactive cycling, rowing, running machines, cardio walls and an immersive cube), it’ll be an opportunity to start¬†data collection in a physical¬†environment that some of our students have enjoyed at a previous event. And it’s also a time for each school or the group of schools to consider¬†cumulative performance data as we now have that portal capability for big data.

No more individual devices with individual data sets to inform an individual’s performance. The Pebble+ device from Fitlinxx¬†will let us explore big data collaboratively. ¬†And those possibilities, opportunities, implications, choices, benefits and areas to be considered from the portal…..will be considered initially through the IOT aspect of the CPD programme. At which point teachers will make an informed¬†decision. ¬†So it’s¬†possible and for them to decide.

Collaboration with Pebble+ ?


A range of data sets, opportunities through big data, and a set of tools with a range of skills and examples to make the best use of that data to impact on performance. That’s the plan.

Wonder which questions the groups¬†will pose at the onset of their project? ¬†They’ll be taking the tech back into school and each school¬†could well have a different project. ¬†That’s Research and Play.

Students empowered to consider¬†health and well-being lifestyle choices through analysis of their routine and data? As data scientists they’ll evaluate their own decisions based on their own data to help inform. ¬†We’ll be looking to evaluate the support with the computing curriculum and we’ll leave those health conversations¬†to the schools. Although we would like to¬†hear at some point: )

As for the dance example, the same range of apps and wearable tech devices have been invaluable over the last year, but on a general health & fitness level.  The gap has been to genuinely impact on dance technique and performance through wearable tech and without other technology tools.  Until now.


This¬†is the term when I’ll be able to evaluate wearables as they collect data to¬†track posture and definite foot and heel movements. ¬†That’s a huge (ballroom & latin) step towards my personal¬†performance improvement ūüôā

How can the IOT supercharge a superhero?

For a while now I’ve been exploring the work around the Internet of Things (IOT) and how creative school projects can link to the ideas and considerations from the world of data. In particular, collected data and analysis from the children themselves.

As ever, it’s been a two-fold exercise to incorporate teacher CPD alongside projects in the formal curriculum, through enrichment activities and student event days.

Recently though, I’ve been looking at ways to engage younger children through ideas connected with the IOT and to glean some of their thoughts and opinions. To hear those responses from this age group and to listen to their abstraction methods moving the IOT on from their conceptual level has added to my own learning, most definitely!

The IOT fits perfectly into the project arenas for ‘technology in an ever-changing world’ and ‘safe and responsible use of tech’, but for this age range of children aged 8-11 years who have perhaps never known what it’s like to get lost in a car, miss a TV show broadcast once or NOT get Google to answer a question in sub 2 seconds, what does it mean to them?  And what exactly is it?

“Oh Crumbs!” was possibly the first thought but last opinion on my mind at the announcement last year that Dangermouse and Penfold were coming back to our screens in 2015.  And it’s given me the basis of an investigative project looking at the impact of the IOT on one of our favourite superheroes.


With the all-new series launching this year, will Dangermouse have changed in any way?

How can tech, wearable or not, and the IOT make him a more effective hero?

Introducing and defining the Internet of Things and getting children to think of ways to improve his explorative and crime-fighting credentials brought out some insightful soundbites that I’ll share in more detail at a later date.

Dangermouse 2015

The Oxford Dictionary defines the IOT as:

“The interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data”

And thoughts from Y4:

“It’s the centre of technology.”

“Where all the important stuff and data goes about people’s lifestyle. Like what they do in the day (and night), where they go, how they get there and who they’re with.”

“It should make life easier but you need to be careful about sharing your personal information.”

And more investigations from Y4:

Once they started to consider the supercharging of a superhero approach with the IOT, then other questions started to arise.

  • Can pirates ever escape when all the information about what they’re doing is in one place?
  • What could we find out about the Loch Ness Monster if Nessie was connected to the IOT?
  • What does the Beast of Bodmin really get up to? We could find out!
  • How can my football team get even better and win the title?
  • Will my dad never have to do the supermarket shoppping on the computer, then?

Interesting thoughts and realisations maybe to consider at some point ūüôā

What’s next?

We’re moving to the next phase of projects looking at the impact of health data on educational attainment and also extending decision making opportunities using environmental data as a citizenship project.

Schools, teachers and learners have piloted technologies and data collection on a fairly small scale but now we’re at the point of embracing portal tech to support big data.  And if I talk about disregarding geography, I mean in a barrier to collection sense.   I’m keen to think about comparative studies either side of the Pennines.

All through those amazing opportunities that come from working and learning with large numbers of teachers and children from primary, secondary and SEN schools in a couple of cities with a focus on inclusive Computing.  If there was ever an opening for a big data project…….there is and there are.

On reflection

Sometimes there’s a difference in reaction from adults and children to the ideas and capabilities of the IOT.  No sharp intake of breath from the children about privacy concerns or transfer of information but they communicate a strong message reinforced from e-safety lessons.  Perhaps when tech has always been at the core of a digital native’s life that brings with it the sense of ever an evolving world?  And with differing priorities due to experiences, knowledge and the outlook of adults? That’s a huge piece of research and not one that we’ll ever formalise…….great to get snippets to share, though.

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