In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast, we explore a collection of tools that you can utilise to stay organized and informed of important information related to your classroom. This includes focusing on apps that enable you to track attendance & behaviour and report this directly to parents.
Resources explored in detail in this episode include
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00:28 Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to episode 33 of the PE Geek Podcast, and as always it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. And I really wanna thank you for tuning in and helping the podcast grow in the last few weeks. And the reason being is directly related to people actually following along and leaving a review, and that’s all I can absolutely ask for. And what I mean is it just really does help people discover the show, and in turn means that we can make the message known to more people. We can have more guests on, we can do a whole lot more in bringing value to the listeners, which includes you. Now, in today’s episode we’re gonna be diving into probably one of the very first things I ever did using a mobile device. And that was sort of utilising it for my own personal organization, for record keeping, tracking attendance, and behaviour checking and those sorts of things. So, it’s actually one of the key central roles that I think teachers do, but still there’s an enormous amount of people that are not utilising some of today’s tools to their true advantages. So, I’m looking forward to taking you through the various tools that I use, and the various tools that I know other PE teachers use to help them organise teams, keep track of who’s here, who’s not, help plan their lessons, and everything else in between.
02:01 JR: Now, over the course of the years I have had the fortune of helping a lot of teachers get started with mobile devices, and various tools in their PE classroom. And one of the first approaches I take is to try and make them as familiar as possible with the device, so that they’re comfortable with using it, so that they can see that it’s helping them with efficiency and effectiveness and those sorts of things. So that then, they have the confidence to actually start to use it innovatively. And this basically means that the very first thing I usually get people to do is to start to actually substitute some of the various things that they are doing in other ways. Now for example, this would mean something like attendance capture. Now, there’s no shortage of attendance apps on the App Store, obviously you can do this exact same process in a traditional manner with a piece of paper, or a chronicle, or a diary, or something along those lines, but when trying to actually convince and to teach people about using a device and being able to confidently use it, it’s great segue into that new world. So, for me, one of the very first things I ever did personally, and continue to do, is to track attendance on my iPad.
03:21 JR: Now, initially this revolved around me using the app called “Attendance”, which I absolutely loved. And it was great because you could track attendance on a mobile device, and I always have my mobile device with me, so I was able to keep really good records of who was here, the different things that applied to that particular day, whether or not they had a change of gear and those sorts of things. And it was fantastic. However, as the iPad was released I realized that I needed my attendance across multiple devices. So, any sort of solution that made this possible for me to either take attendance on my iPhone or my iPad an have it sync between devices would be certainly recommended. And this led me to actually building one of my most downloaded iPhone, iPad, Android apps that I’ve ever done. And this particular app is known as “Easy Attendance Pro”, and you can head along to thepegeek.com/attendance and see exactly what this app is. Basically it is one of the most simplest apps I’ve ever built. It lets you create class lists, you can add all your students in, but most importantly that applies to a PE teacher, is that you can change the statuses for the different levels of attendance that you want that student, or that class to have.
04:41 JR: So, I mean one of the most popular things that people add as a status is “no kit”, or “no change of gear”, or “injured”, or “sick”, or something along those lines. And it’s completely up to the person who’s teaching the class. But then you’ve got the ability to track a really easy approach of keeping record of all those various different elements. Over time, you add in the various things that you want to record, you can take pictures of notes, et cetera, and you come up with a comprehensive list of attendance for individual classes, or overall classes and you can send these out as reports to anyone via email, or to a Dropbox, or a Google Drive account. So, Easy Attendance Pro is one of the first apps that I ever try and convince people to use, not because it’s mine, I mean that’s always good, but because it is a great way to substitute something that all teachers are probably going to have to do. But it also serves to really get them familiar with how to use an app, and how to send emails inside of it, and become confident and comfortable about how it is that they’re going to be able this device in the future.
05:52 JR: Now, one of the features inside of Easy Attendance Pro that I built specifically for physical education teachers was the ability to randomise students and randomise teams inside of the app itself. Now, this is great in that you can quickly with one button put students into groups of two or three, et cetera. However, that’s basically all the randomisation it will let you do.
06:18 JR: If you’re interested in taking this to the next level, then you absolutely cannot go past the app known as “Team Shake”. Now, Team Shake is an instant download for any teacher who’s just got their iPad or their mobile device and they wanna actually sort of break students up into teams of one team, two teams, all the way up to teams into the 30s and 40s. And the best part about it is that you can put a little bit of planning into the sort of teams that you want it to produce. So, basically what this means is, you can set it so that certain students don’t work together, so that certain students do work together, and all those little things that we know are important when trying to group students into a situation. And this is really, really intuitively done inside of Team Shake.
07:14 JR: Now, the app itself hasn’t really been updated in a fair while, it still looks really simple and really basic, but it does what it needs to do. It is the easiest way to group students automatically or ‘automagically’ as I like to say, and helps you speed up that process in a really fun and intuitive way. Now, it’s called Team Shake because there’s a hat on the screen and when you click it, it sort of shakes and then all the teams are basically there with the individuals who are going to compete inside of the various teams, organised for you. So, I certainly recommend going and checking out Team Shake, it’s certainly a great organisational tool, and you can head along to thepegeek.com/teamshake to see that in action.
08:04 JR: Now, once you’ve got your students into the different teams, obviously you can get started with your lesson, and they can be playing against each other and doing whatever it is that you’re looking to do in your classroom. But across that particular point in time, you might wanna track things such as items they do well, their behaviour, positive and negative attributes that are associated with their time in the classroom. And one of the best and most exciting ways that you can do this is with the app known as “ClassDojo” Now, I probably shouldn’t say that it’s just an app because it actually technically is a web app that also has a mobile app that goes with it. You simply create your classes inside of ClassDojo and then, very easily, are able to give students positive and negative points based on various actions that they do in the classroom.
08:58 JR: Now, the really exciting thing about it is that each student has their own little profile that shows them all of the positive things they’ve done, if you’re awarding positive points, and all of the negative things that have impacted on their overall score. And using this particular method, you’re able to actually collect an objective set of data about their behaviour, and depending on how much planning you do beforehand, you can actually create custom little badges almost that you can award to students for various things that they do throughout the time in your class.
09:37 JR: Now, I think probably the most exciting thing about ClassDojo is how well it is designed for classes, I mean that is the bottom line. So, it really does understand exactly how schools work, that is multiple teachers, that parents are part of this equation and it brings them together in this really cohesive manner, so that all students are added under an overall sort of class account, multiple teachers can be associated with multiple students. You’ve also got the ability to invite parents along and with one click you can download the PDF letters, which you send home which invite parents to download the ClassDojo app, enter in a unique code and follow along with their student’s progress.
10:27 JR: Now, imagine this, that your parents are at home, you’re using ClassDojo, you’re giving positive and negative points to students for various things that they’re doing. And immediately, parents are actually seeing this through push notifications, they can instantly see the progress of their students in a week, over a course of an entire month, and they can see how that person’s behaviour and so on is improving. And all you are doing is basically tapping on the student during class and awarding a point or deducting a point for whatever sort of thing that you thought they did well or didn’t do so well.
11:06 JR: And as I mentioned, those badges are completely customisable and you can change them to suit your needs. This is taken even further in that you can actually use ClassDojo almost like a portfolio tool, so that you can send a picture or a voice message as a broadcast to every single parent who is connected to your particular class, or you can do a more private message to one parent that includes pictures and photos and so on surrounding their particular student. So, ClassDojo is amazing. I think probably the most exciting thing about it is just how simplistic it is, how well they’ve thought out the actual app, how well it does what it’s intended to do. And it’s almost really student friendly in that they utilize these nice characters, these little characters that are being designed and they’re sort of unique to the student, so every time a student is part of receiving positive or negative points it applies it to their little character or their little avatar, which goes through the journey with them.
12:15 JR: So its really exciting, really empowering and definitely a great way to communicate this to students, parents, other teachers and keep an overall snapshot of the positive and negative behaviours that students do. And it works well in a PE setting because there is a lot of opportunities to actually observe behaviour elements, and realistically there is not a lot of ways in which you can do this objectively. We can take some sort of subjective measures of behaviour, but ClassDojo actually allows you to gather objective data, relating to how people are behaving, and that’s really powerful stuff.
12:59 JR: And another one of my favourite apps, which to be honest I had completely forgotten about until recently is Stick Pick. And Stick Pick is the re-imagination of something that teachers have done for a long time, and that is get a collection of paddle pop sticks or ice cream sticks, put students name on it and draw them out of a, some sort of a container and there you have it, a random student’s name that you can call on for a question.
13:30 JR: However Stick Pick takes this to the next level by enabling you to not any randomise the asking of a question to a student, but to actually rate students on the level of question that they are likely to be able to complete. This basically uses the Bloom’s taxonomy. So starting right at the bottom you’ve got students who are probably more capable and able to do basically describe type questions and then you’ve got students who are probably more likely to be able to answer questions at the top end of the Bloom’s taxonomy. And you basically put this into the app, and when you randomly pick a student the next time in class, it will give you a really easy way to guide them in the types of questions that you should ask them based on their ability.
14:27 JR: So for example, for a student that I just recently added to Stick Pick, I said that they would only really be capable of answering the lower order questions such as knowledge, and when their name is randomly picked out of the stick pile or the Stick Pick as it’s known, it gives me some questions stems which I can use such as: Can you point to the, where is the, can you find the, yes or no, what is, which is, why is, et cetera. And you obviously fill in the blanks related to whatever the content is that you are actually doing but it gives you this great basis for actually picking someone and making sure that the questions are really appropriate to what it is that you’re trying to achieve.
15:19 JR: Now the best part about Stick Pick is that it takes this to the next level, so not only will it guide you through asking appropriate questions, but when you’ve asked it, you simply click the assess button and you can say whether they were correct, whether they were incorrect, and to what sort of level their answer was completed. So in my case if I ask, who is the President of the United states and someone said Barack Obama and you could say that the answer was correct and it was clear and accurate or insightful and confident, it wasn’t partial understanding. And over time you can actually start to quantify a lot of these particular students and the types of questions that they’ve been answering and asking and all those sorts of things in your PE classroom. Another great way to capture this objective data about different things that you’re doing in a PE setting.
16:22 JR: Now sure you can achieve this without the app, simply by asking questions and then just remembering what it is and how is it that students responded. But by using something like Stick Pick, you’re doing the exact same thing but you’re actually starting to keep record of, and using the device in a really powerful way. Now another thing that teachers do that can be translated into a mobile version or a mobile experience or technological based application is lesson planning. There is a number of different tools that you can use one in which I have built myself known as Easy Planner. Now if you’re familiar with any of the other easy apps that I’ve brought out as I mentioned Easy Attendance Pro before, they are very similar in looks, in style and sort of the way in which you do various functions.
17:15 JR: An Easy Planner is without a doubt, probably one of the proudest things that I have ever built and it basically began life completely for me, but I realised that there would probably be other people who wanted a tool along these lines as well. Over the last six months, since it’s been released we’ve grown to well over 50,000 active users which is really nice. Now Easy Planner is completely free to use, all you need to do is head along to easyplannerapp.com, where you can sign up and get using it straightaway to plan your lessons. The most exciting thing about it is its not just an iPhone, iPad, Android app, it is 100% available through your web browser.
18:00 JR: Now, that’s probably how I use it most myself personally. I plan all my lessons with it, it’s built on the premise of a 21st century classroom that you have various Cloud based tools that you wanna connect with such as DropBox and Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, et cetera. It allows you to add resources and links from throughout the web and share and work collabori, collaboratively, I should say in real time with other teachers as you plan lessons and connect resources to those lessons and so on. The most exciting thing for me is that I can do it across any device that I want to plan from. And all I need to do is to log in and I can see my lessons, I can start planning, and then I know that if I head to my mobile device those lessons are there ready for me to reference or if I’m on my iPad I can see the lessons, wherever I am it really doesn’t matter, I can use it and pass it on to someone.
18:57 JR: Now, in the instance where I might have a replacement teacher and I need to get the lesson plan to them, it’s just a matter of clicking one button, which is the share button inside of Easy Planner. Writing down the URL, and when they click it they can see what you see, which is all of the attached resources, all of the lesson plan, activities, notes, homework, et cetera that you intend to do for that lesson. So Easy Planner is basically designed for recording what you’re gonna be doing in a PE lesson completely free, and you can go and check it out at easyplannerapp.com. But I mention it because it is, again, something that we can do in a physical, with a diary, any other sort of traditional tool. But as you start to progress down this digital path you’ll realize that these tools help make us more efficient. And the reason they do is because we’re not tied to having to do those things in a one particular location. The very last thing that I ever turned digital was my lesson planning, and up until six months ago I used to plan my lessons in a physical diary or chronicle. And that was because no tool, I felt, matched what I actually needed to do.
20:12 JR: But the real big downside to using the diary was that I actually had to be in that particular location to do it. So if I forgot my diary or lesson planning tool like I used to, because I was the only thing I did that was digital was that. I couldn’t do it, and I had to try and amend to it and forget, and remember what I was doing in the class the day before, and it’s just a complete disaster. And it’s nice to know that every single thing that I do is available in the digital space now, and that includes lesson planning, attendance, tracking behaviour, communicating with parents, and everything else that is now part of the teaching world.
20:53 JR: And the final app I wanna share with you before we disappear on episode 33 is probably seen as the combination of all that the various apps and resources that we spoke about today, and it’s called iDoceo. Now, iDoceo is held in high regard by many PE teachers across the planet and probably not… Not just PE teachers but all sorts of teachers because it does tend to combine a lot of the features that we’ve spoken about such as attendance, lesson planning, grouping of students, recording of behaviour and various other elements into one app. Now, it is a little bit daunting to use and I know a lot of people who have downloaded it based on a really good recommendation of other people and the success that they’re having with the app, and then they never really get the most out of it because they just don’t take the time to learn.
21:48 JR: Now, there are really two modes that you can do. There’s the beginner mode which I strongly encourage people to check out before they dive right into it, and then there’s the advanced mode if you are a little bit more familiar when you’ve been using it for awhile. But iDoceo is great, it’s something that a lot of people are getting value from. The thing that I don’t like about it is that it is completely iPad centric. So there is no Android app, there is no capacity to use it on your mobile device such as your iPhone or other mobile device, there’s no web interface and it doesn’t do all the features that individually lots of these tools do on their own. So for example, you can track behaviour and so on in iDoceo but you can’t do it to the same scope that ClassDojo does. You can plan lessons but there’s no way that it’s doing the same level of lesson planning that Easy Planner does.
22:41 JR: So if you’re looking for a tool that brings in enormous array of features into one app, and does it maybe at not so high of a level as some of the other apps do individually, then go and check out iDoceo and you can head along to the pegeek.com/idoceo and you can download it. Alternatively, go and try the individual apps that we’ve looked at today because individually they make for an amazing experience. Now, I really like having apps that have one particular function that they do, that they do really well. And the reason being is that the developers actually spend an enormous amount of time innovating in that space, trying new things, and ensuring that that app does that particular thing better than any other app. Whereas when you collectively chuck in every single possible feature into one app, the net result is usually a really complex, difficult to use application that turns people away, and that really is where iDoceo is at.
23:52 JR: Alright, now that bring us to the end of episode 33. I really hope that you got a lot out of it as we went through and explored the various different ways that you can track attendance, keep organised, keep track of behaviour, and all sorts of things related to the other stuff that we do as a teacher. I mean, teaching’s part of it, obviously, but we have to do other things to help us, and a lot of these tools are about that. They’re about improving efficiency, improving our effectiveness, and maybe even giving us more time so that we have extra time to dedicate to the actual teaching component. However, most importantly, a lot of these tools are about advocacy, and how exciting would it be if your parents and your community were receiving live updates surrounding the things that were happening in your classroom, and that certainly goes a long way to advocating why PE is important, and you’re definitely going to blow other teachers away who aren’t even doing any digital tools.
24:49 JR: So really something to look at and see how you can incorporate into your session. Now in the next episode, we’re gonna be diving into portfolios and assessments and how you can wrap these up into a really powerful and rich experience for your parents and community, basically taking ClassDojo to the next level. Alright, see you later.
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