Mountain bike riding and online learning communities: Parallels of skills and participation

Mountain bike riding at Mt Buller, Victoria, Australia: Focus of technique required when participating (N.Lemon, 2011)

It has what? [insert raised eye brows]
What on earth are you thinking Narelle? [insert shaking of head]
How can an active sport have parallels to something we do mostly sitting down?
Really? [insert high pitch voice]

I can hear you saying these things (and well a few people already have when I ran the idea past them). So hear me out, and see what you think about why I think mountain bike riding has parallels to our online community participation.

I’m a keen mountain bike rider and have been for a few years now. It’s my relaxation (hmmm but its classified as an extreme sport!) and it is time for me to be active, go outside, enjoy myself, and spend time on tracks that run alongside the side of and in amongst mountains that provide an opportunity to witness gorgeous views. The adrenalin associated to a great fast flowing ride or nailing a jump over a tree log is contagious. It is also a fine line between success and well crash (literally as the scars on my legs would tell you).

The flow of line through the trees of Mt Buller, Victoria, Australia (N.Lemon, 2011)

So recently I had a skills lesson with three other riders. I hadn’t done this before, and now wish  I hadn’t put it off for so long. Many of the hints and wise words of advice that were given by Trainer Tim were delivered in a way that allowed me to up skill my bike handling and even get some air! (Whoa hoo! I had much delight in sharing that with Mr Rellypops on my return home!). Trainer Tim’s pedagogical approach was clear and effective. He was an action man, loved to demonstrate and model the do’s and don’ts. His student centered approach to learning and teaching was underpinned by doing. He modeled, I did, he gave feedback, and then I did again. Every student in the class did this repeatedly; we watched each other to further build our skills and knowledge and applied different skills to different sections of the track. We made mistakes, but we learnt from these quickly and efficiently.

Now this post is not about mountain bike riding. Rather what it ignited in my thinking. In the car drive back home I began to think about the tips Trainer Tim gave and how these could be transferred to the online community and participating according to our skills, knowledge, and needs.  Some wise words were shared during my mountain bike lesson and I think they translate across with some interesting parallels:

  • Skills can’t be taught but techniques can.
  • Slow, steady and practice.
  • Watch others.
  • Learn by doing.
  • Learn by making mistakes.
  • A community of participants helps you – have conversations, ask questions and observe what others do who are more experienced – the key is that these are supportive co-participants who at one stage were also beginners.
  • Goal set – what do you actually want to do and achieve?
  • Look ahead – particiaption is not about looking in one spot, it happens at multiple rates, multiples times, with multiple correlations all around you.
  • Pick your line – and you don’t have to respond to or read everything just go with the flow but pick the line you are going to follow and be aware on this.
  • Maintain your equipment.
  • Etiquette – gentle, focus, mutual respect and non judgments, and attentive listening are all valued in the community for active participation.

Some interesting parallels? What do you think? Different applications but the essential messages for particpation have some strong parallels. Do you participate in a sport or another type of activity that has provided parallel frameworks, language or ways of thinking? What learning experiecnes have you had in learning that could be transferred to a different field or area?


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