Martin’s Weblog

Loneliness of the long distance educationalist

Don’t forget the Journey  (It’s a Zen Thing)

One of the activities I like is running and over the last few years I have been trying to get my times down on 2, 8 and 13 mile circuits. This involves hard effort, recording split times post run analysis and a focus on identifying the problems and areas that slow me down.

Recently I wanted a good run, didn’t have the time for a long run but didn’t feel like the pain of a 2 mile run against the clock so decided on a new route with steep hills. What a refreshing experience this was – to run a new circuit with no previous time to compare against although I did recorded the time for the next run on this circuit.

Today I set of for a run again but of a different kind – I didn’t set the clock and I decided only roughly where I would go – that I would “explore” a little and adjust the run as it progressed. What a pleasure this was and it reminded me why I started running in the first place – to get out in the open, to get some exercise and to see some of the area around where I live. This made me realise that the reason I started running had been lost and had been overtaken by the activity of measurement and analysis. Now I am looking forward to exploring a new route in next week’s run.

Measurement and performance analysis has its place in certain activities – these usually involve competition, definition and repetition. We should be careful however that the act of measuring an activity doesn’t become more important than the activity itself and that measurement is a valid and appropriate thing to do for an activity.

Whilst out running I couldn’t help thinking about performance measurement (tests) and the effect these have had on education.  In the controversy over the better grades achieved today I believe this is down to teaching and learning rather than easier tests – this can’t be surprising given today’s focus on measurement and testing and the hard work that goes into getting these results. However, we can ask just what it is that is being taught and learned – are we teaching a subject or are we teaching how to pass a test in that subject? What is education?

Children  have a natural “thirst” for learning, experimentation and play but in so many this disappears and as they pass through the school system and like my running against the clock the purpose of education can be lost and spoilt by testing and measurement to such an extent that for many young people learning in school painful and alienating. The education system itself is possibly one of the causal factors in the problems we have with young people today.

However, there are signs of change.

In the developing fast moving, information rich, “global” societies of the 21st century there is a need for people to develop better information management skills to research, evaluate, decide and communicate.  These general information management skills are a large part of what education (teaching and learning) is about and educational thinking asks us to look at ways to develop them in our students.

While we have to coach our students to do as well in educational tests as they can we can also try to develop and improve the educational experience itself (the journey) with the inclusion of information management and new teaching techniques.  Education can be and should be enjoyable.

Now where are those trainers – I feel like another run.


September 8, 2007 - Posted by | IT and education, IT and society


  1. Hi Martin, great post, I totally agree on the importance of exploring; to see the area around you and enjoy your journey. It’s great that you found your pleasure in running again. I find it useful sometimes to use a ‘child’s view’ and look at things. It helps you explore new opportunities and views. If you want, you can read more about it here: All the best.

    Comment by Alex Vermeule | August 13, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi Martin – good read.

    I see you do a bit of swimming too – are you thinking about triathlon? They seem very popular nowadays.

    Do you aim towards any running events?

    I’ve been running about a year now and understand what you’ve said about the pleasures of measuring and also finding freedom in the unplanned route.


    Comment by Luke | August 14, 2009 | Reply

    • Hi Luke,

      I’m not that motivated about competing and measuring so will avoid events for the most part and just go “free running”. I was thinking about the London marathon for when I retire….

      There isn’t much else to do in a swimming pool except count the lengths.

      I am quite interested in triathlon and have a few time done a swim followed by a run. I bike to work most days – it should be my best discipline but has become a mode of transport – the motivation isn’t much there now.

      Comment by martinking | August 17, 2009 | Reply

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