Sports of a Smarter Sort

| June 11, 2010

With the World Cup starting, soccer enthusiasts, sport aficionados, and anyone who keeps even mildly abreast of developments in the sporting world are bound to rehash the all-too-familiar conversation about the relationship between sports and youth learning and development. With an event of such size and magnitude, newspapers and media outlets that typically relegate such conversations to sports columns now thrust them into the limelight, as did the NYT recently in its expose on youth development and soccer in Europe.

While participation in organized sports can condition schooling and educational opportunity, all too often such discussion relies on staid, if not tired, assumptions about the life lessons and symbolic meaning inherent to sports.

However, some educators and product developers do seem to notice the educational potential of a different sort in sports. Spectronics, an Australian producer of “Inclusive Learning Technologies,” released a download that allows kids to test themselves on the teams and countries in the World Cup in an audio and visual format conducive to special needs learning.

When might such an app become available? With statistical analysis now a fixture in the sports world, could interactive box scores foster, rather than require, basic math reasoning? Or could friendly tools for graph creation and experimentation better inform energetic debate about favorite players (the following are inspiration-see