Episode 27 – Top 10 Lessons Learned Using Tech in PE

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast we focus on the Top 10 Lessons I’ve learned using Technology in PE since 2008. Many of these have been learnt the hard way through trial, error and major fails. However I wouldn’t have it any other way, as these lessons are the guiding principles I now use to ensure my lessons are always improving and that the resources I share on this website are of the highest quality.

Here’s the 10 lessons I focus on in more detail in the episode

1) No Substitute for Good Teaching

2) Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome

3) Personal Network & Sharing Are Key

4) Value Reflection

5) No Such Thing as a Perfect Lesson

6) Digital Natives don’t exist

7) Focus on Student Use

8) PE is about Movement

9) Be Prepared to Fail

10) Don’t ever stop learning

Press Play below to listen or visit the podcast here


00:28 Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to Episode 27 of the PE Geek Podcast. As always I’m here to share with you the best practice related to different things in the technology and physical education space. It’s a look at the stuff that is working, the things that I have observed over many years of blogging about this particular topic and sharing it with thousands of PE teachers around the planet. So, really excited to dive into today’s content, because I think it’s something that people would probably be very interested in hearing from me. We’re gonna be looking at the 10 things or lessons I’ve learned from using tech and PE together. And I mean this is coming from using this stuff since 2008, a massive evolution in terms of what’s been happening in my classes over that time period. And I’m excited to let you know the 10 big things that I reckon I’ve learned from doing this.

01:23 JR: Before we dive into today’s content though, I just wanna point out that there is still spaces available for the Motivate PE Webinar. Now, this Motivate PE Webinar has been attended by over 700 PE teachers thus far. And people are really enjoying it, so if you want to sign up for this free webinar you can head to connectedpe.com/webinar, and that will take you to the registration page. Also we’ve just been getting a couple of reviews here or there for the podcast, and if you think this is something that you would like to do, ’cause it definitely helps us out, head to thepegeek.com/itunes and leave an honest review. I mean I’d love that you leave a five star review, but if you don’t think it’s five star just leave an honest review there. I mean the reviews actually help people discover it, because iTunes looks at how many plays podcasts get and how many reviews it has and makes it more likely that people will discover it. So, if you wanna help out your fellow PE teacher, then the best thing you can do is to review it, or just the share the links to anyone who you know that may not be listening.

02:36 JR: Alright, let’s dive into today’s content. Now in today’s episode, as I said we’re gonna be looking at some of the things that I’ve learned over the many years of writing about technology in PE. Now, as many of you know this website of mine started in 2008, and over that period of time having presented in over 30 countries, and have a blog or a readership of hundreds of thousands of teachers in that time, I’ve grown to learn quite a lot. And a lot of that’s been through making mistakes, and trialling new things, and sharing it, and so on. And so, these sort of 10 lessons are things that I constantly come back to and think about whenever I discover a new tool. And whenever I think about blogging about it to you guys, or sharing it on a podcast. So, the number one thing that I think is the most important in anything you do in the classroom is that there is no substitute for good teaching. That’s without a doubt the most important thing. And that basically means that you are the most important thing in the classroom, not the technology that you bring into it.

03:47 JR: Not the iPad, not the app that you’re using, but a good teacher is the key to all of this working really well. Now, what that basically means is that if you know of bad teachers, and I think we all do, giving them access to technology is not gonna make them a great teacher. I mean all you’re gonna have is a more expensive great teacher. Someone who is not necessarily gonna propel learning forward, and maybe will be even worse because the device will actually probably hinder them, rather than enhance them. However on that same token, great teachers who think really well about their learning that they are providing to their students, who get given great tools, such as what technology can provide, can go on to be even better. So, I firmly believe that is one of the biggest lessons ever, that no matter what, you cannot replace good teaching. And that should be the focus of everything you’re doing regarding tech.

04:45 JR: And I think this flows into number two. Now the number two lesson I’ve learned over many years is that just because it’s tech-based, or just because there’s an app for it, doesn’t mean it’s actually better. Now, I’ve been guilty of this over the many years of finding something that was being done in a traditional sense, and then going, “You know what? I’m gonna try it with this app version, or this particular tool, because obviously it has to be better.” And I mean that’s not always the case, it can be, but it’s not always the case. And I think you need to look at it and really assess what it is that you’re trying to get from a particular situation and basically decide whether or not it’s going to enhance what you’re looking at. However in saying that, the only way you know whether or not something is better, is if you actually try it.

05:37 JR: So, I really don’t like the approach that many people have who are skeptics with technology in saying something along the lines, “That there’s no way that that’s more valuable than doing it in a traditional sense.” I hate it if they’ve never actually been on both sides of the fence. The only way you know is if you have the opportunity to trial it and see whether it meets the outcomes or not.

06:00 JR: So, I mean, I’m completely open whenever I see a new tool and thinking that “I’ll trial this. If I don’t think it is better than what it might have been previously, then it doesn’t get used”. Lesson number three for me would be that personal networks and sharing is a massive key to this actually happening in your classes. I mean, there’s lots of examples of people who work independently and able to do some good things in their classes, but what’s the point of that if you’re not actually able to share it and help the community grow at large? I mean, the lessons that you learn can definitely be applied to other people and other situations and this discussion through personal networks is the key for me in actually ensuring that my classes and everything that I do online is constantly improving. The sharing part is critical to that, and that whole idea that used to be sort of prevalent in teaching, and still is in many ways, that your lessons are yours, and you should keep them secret and secure, is so wrong in today’s day and age, and I can only imagine how crippling and how difficult it would have been to sort of learn new things in those previous times when that was what people did.

07:21 JR: So, yeah, for me, number three lesson is share everything you can, get it out there. Whatever spectrum you have, whether it’s online or whether it’s with your colleagues in your school or whether it’s at district conferences, put yourself in a position where you can present something, showcase something that you’ve done, that’s worked well because that’s ultimately going to grow everyone. Now the fourth major lesson for me is the value of reflection. Now, I remember when I was at university, and I was being told about reflecting and doing your lesson plans and then when you’re finished, writing a reflection following that particular lesson so that you can seek improvement. I mean, to be honest, I hated it. I absolutely despised that whole process. I didn’t see the value in it. But it wasn’t until I actually got started with this particular website in 2008 where I actually started to see the value of the reflective process for improving your own practice, and not many people know that the PE Geek website was not started as a resource for teachers, it was actually completely set up for me to reflect on the things that I was doing related to technology and PE.

08:32 JR: It just turned out that people ended up there somehow. I’m not even sure because this was pre-Twitter and pre those things, social networks and so on. And it was really, then apparent that people were finding this stuff useful. So, initially, it was all about reflection, and for me, it still is. I mean, I blog things that I think I’ve used and found success with and trialled and maybe not enjoyed as much as possible, and the reflection is the key to me continually improving, and the minute I stop doing these things is the minute I think I’m not going to be continually progressing as a teacher.

09:13 JR: Now, point number five, sort of flows on from the previous, and that is you should never assume that a lesson is perfect because there is no perfect lesson. There really isn’t. There’s always room for potential growth. There’s always room to improve. And in saying that, if you assume that your lesson is perfect, and you bring it back out next year, and you assume that you’re gonna get the same response from a different set of students, the fact is that may not happen. So, for me, I’ve had some incredible lessons using technology and using devices and having a really rich experience in one year, and then the next year, it hasn’t been as successful ’cause you get a different dynamic and a different group and a different expectation as to how successful that’s going to be, so even if you think that’s been the most impressive lesson you’ve ever taught, don’t assume that it’s perfect because it isn’t. Think about it in a case by case example, and think about how you can use it next year to maybe even make it better and more applicable to the new group of students that come in.

10:17 JR: And the example that I use was using the app BaM Video Delay, which I know I talk about a lot, but in one particular year, I used it extensively with a particular unit of volleyball, to help students explore their skill set. But in the next year, I just didn’t have the same level of success with it. I mean, it wasn’t unsuccessful, but it wasn’t the same level of success that occurred in the previous year. In the same token, I could have used some additional things inside of that lesson to make it even more successful the year after. So, never assume that a lesson is perfect because there is no perfect lesson. I think there’s only a perfect approach to ensuring that your lesson is perfect, and that is assuming the lesson isn’t perfect. So, actually, constantly looking to refine it is a quality that I think people who are successful have.

11:14 JR: Now, number six, is a lesson that I think, it may be a little bit controversial, but I don’t actually believe that there is anything such as a digital native. I mean, I know that’s technically, depending on how you look at what a digital native is and so on, but the idea that students coming into today’s day and age are just already skilled in the use of technology is a complete fallacy, and it really depends on what they’ve grown up with, schools they’ve been to prior to coming to you, and so on, what access to devices they’ve got. I mean, sure, they’re in a time when they’ve got enormous access to digital tools, and, sure, skills have grown when you compare them to previous generations, but assuming that they just know how to use things, and that you don’t need to invest any time in teaching them the ins and outs of actually doing certain things, is a complete myth.

12:10 JR: In many ways, it’s something that people probably realize anyway. But I mean, in saying that, I think people in today’s day and age in schools probably are more successful in learning on these platforms in terms of the actual ins and outs of using the actual software or using the actual device, probably can pick things up a little bit quicker. But assuming that they know how to do this, as soon as they roll into a classroom, is a complete myth.

12:44 JR: Now another one of the lessons I’ve learned in using tech in the classroom is that the power is in student use. Now, sure lots of tools that we used have been really successful when teachers focus on them, showcase… And it’s actually sort of teacher expertise that’s being applied to a particular device. But I think the best applications of tech come out of students using them. And in every situation possible, you should strive for that. So even if you’ve only got one device, then put yourself in a situation where… A couple of students get access to using it, and you rotate through, and make that possible. I mean, there’s lots of good things that come out of teacher use, but I think there’s even more powerful things that come out of giving students the use of those particular tools.

13:33 JR: Now, I know initially when I first got access to my iPad in my classroom. It was mine, and it was the one that I bought, and I was really sort of adamant that I needed to be the person that used it. And it looked like me being the central figure, showcasing things, and that was great. I mean, we did lots of cool stuff. But when we started to give students access to using that device or using the one or two devices that we had at the time, we noticed an even greater increase in what was possible, their understanding, and so forth. So yeah, in every possible situation, try and strive for student use.

14:10 JR: Now lesson number eight is all about the fact that Physical Education should be about movement, and should be about skill, and progress, development, games, understanding, and so on. Using tech is just a tool. I mean, none of it is a replacement. It’s simply just a tool to help you reach whatever learning objectives you have in the same way that you might utilize task cards to have kids do an activity. Or in the same way that you might bring in a piece of A4 Butchers paper or pens and texters. I mean, they are tools, so is tech. Don’t get them confused. They’re there to help you actually reach the goals, which is keep kids physically active, have them get an appreciation for physical activity, and so on.

14:56 JR: So the minute that the tech becomes the focus is the minute that the thing is actually starting to take away from the activity. I mean, I’m really excited that tech has become invisible. So we don’t necessarily need to be conscious about what we’re, and the device we’re using. I mean, it’s almost obsolete thinking in today’s classrooms that we can now be focusing on what it is that we’re trying to achieve. The tool is just in the background making that happen in a way that’s never been possible before.

15:28 JR: Lesson number nine is, well, “Be prepared to fail.” Things aren’t gonna work all the time, and that’s fine. I mean, that’s actually where the best learning occurs. I can think of numerous examples where I’ve gone to try something, and it just hasn’t worked. I mean, a number of examples of early days video analysis, we got a computer lab, we went in, and we used the video analysis tool, and it just didn’t work like we wanted it to. Then I thought to myself, “Hang on. Did this actually really enrich the class or not?” I didn’t. The only way I knew that was that I was actually willing to try that, and willing to fail, and then refined it in the follow-up lessons, and was able to actually get some success from that particular tool.

16:20 JR: So the only way you know whether things work is if you’re willing to give them a go, and if you’re willing to fail. Nothing wrong with failing in front of a group of students. I mean, I have done it numerous times. And in fact, I actually encourage it because this is the sort of mentality we want our students to have. It’s the sort of mentality we want them to continually aspire to, and showcase throughout their entire life. So I’d be really disappointed if people put themselves in positions where they never fail in front of their students. I mean, I completely see the value in that. I completely and openly will share with them if something doesn’t work like I had planned it to.

17:00 JR: That doesn’t mean I go into class thinking, “This is gonna be a complete disaster,” and so on. I go in there as a human, and I go in there with 99% of the time, things working perfectly. But I’m not afraid to fail in front of them. And if that means that I get to showcase that I’m a human and I am just like them, then perfect. That’s exactly what I want it to be.

17:24 JR: I think this flows into the last lesson, number 10 which is, Don’t ever stop learning. Don’t ever stop trying to improve any of the things that you’re doing in your classes. I mean, this is ultimately, we wanna instil in students that even when they finish school, learning never stops. And if there’s one thing I despise in teachers, it’s the view… I mean, despise is a pretty big word, but I seriously do. It’s the view that they know everything, and that they don’t need to continually try to improve their skills.

18:00 JR: Looking at a teacher and knowing that they’ve been doing… Teaching for 25 years and over that time they’re constantly evolving and constantly trying new things is, ultimately what we wanna have teachers do. Because that’s exactly what students do. And, I would find it hard to expect something from a student, but do the complete opposite as a teacher. I mean, I can’t think of the amount of progress that I’ve gone through in eight years of teaching, and in eight years of being at a university and across the entire 29 years of my life, the learning that’s taken place, and that is purely because I’m willing to learn, and I actually accept that I don’t know everything. [chuckle] Not even close. So, continually aspiring to learn more, is particularly a focus of mine. And I hope it is one of yours as well. And if you’re listening to this podcast, then I don’t need to preach that to you because I think, obviously, you’re proving that that’s definitely the case. So, for me, that’s the most important one. Number 10, as well as number one which is: There’s no substitute for teaching. Wrap those two sort of, mentalities around this whole use of technology in PE and I think you can certainly work towards having some really positive experiences in your classroom.

19:19 JR: And that brings us to the end of Episode 27, I certainly hope that you’ve found these shorter podcasts enjoyable and hopefully, it’s reinforced in your mind, some of the major things that you believe to be lessons, related to the use of technology in PE. Now these obviously are coming from my experiences, I mean they’re not the only things that you need to consider, and they certainly don’t apply to everyone but, they’re my views and they’re things that I constantly try and measure up against when I’m ever considering using a new tool. So everything that I’ve ever shared with you, on these podcasts or on the blog, is being referenced from these lessons that I’ve, sort of, learned across the years. And, knowing that you never stop learning, I’m prepared for those lessons to change as time goes on. Now, if you’ve got some lessons that you’ve learnt, from using tech in PE, I’d love to hear them and you can share them with me on social media. Send me an e-mail, [email protected], or leave a voicemail message at thepegeek.com/voicemail.

20:20 JR: Now, that’s it for Episode 27. Look forward to sharing Episode 28 with you where we dive into how you can sort of use yoga and mindfulness and those sorts of things with your students, in your physical education and classroom activities. Alright. See you next time. Bye.



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