Episode 37 – Outdoor Recreation & Technology

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast, we explore the apps, resources and technologies which you can utilise in outdoor recreation activities and programmes. This includes activities such as bushwalking, hiking, canoeing, orienteering, mountain biking, rocking climbing and much more. Historically the activities we explore, formed much of my initial use of technology in the classroom way back when I began my career and this blog back in 2008.

Apps and resources explored in this episode include;

Press Play below to listen or visit the podcast page.  Alternatively download a full episode transcript here


00:29 Jarrod Robinson: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of The PE Geek podcast Episode Number 37. And first, we want to start by thanking you for taking the time out of your day, night, afternoon, whatever it may be, to tune in to today’s episode. And I really hope that you’re enjoying them as much as I am in terms of putting them together and it’s exciting to be able to bring in a new topic every fortnight that sort of really does go and summarise the very things that I’ve been talking about in that previous fortnight. There’s always a bit of a theme revolved around the stuff that I’m doing on my blog, in the podcast and it’s nice to be able to put these together into episodes to share my thoughts on those particular topics. And since doing this sort of themed approach for the podcast, we’ve actually seen the numbers of listeners increase dramatically. And I guess that’s probably attributed to the fact that we can now really recommend episodes in their entirety. When someone has a certain problem, we can point them towards Episode 22 or Episode 26 and they can use it as a resource to sort of move forward.

01:41 JR: Now, in today’s episode, we are going to be focusing on the various things that you can do to use technology if you are in the outdoor, recreation, and outdoor education sort of space. Now, a lot of you maybe don’t realize but I’ve got extensive sort of experience teaching in not just physical education, but also outdoor education settings. I’ve actually got some great activities that began for me, in terms of using tech way back in those classrooms even before I started sort of using technology in PE. So I’m gonna talk to you about the very first thing I ever did with technology. It wasn’t in a PE class, it was in an outdoor education unit. Sort of talk about what you can do now to complete the same sort of thing as well as exploring lots of different activities that you can use mobile devices to sort of get people active and learning in outdoor environment when doing things such as cycling, and hiking, and those sorts of activities. So without further ado, let’s dive into episode 37. If you wanna track down all the notes and resources that are mentioned, you can head along to thepegeek.com/37. Alright, let’s check it out.

02:59 JR: As I briefly alluded to in the show opening, one of the very first things I ever did relating to using technology in the classroom, happened in not a physical education session, but an outdoor education session. Now, obviously there’s a lot of similarities in terms of the subject. But here in Australia, outdoor education is often connected with exploring nature, looking at activities such as canoeing, and hiking, and water skiing, and surfing, and those sorts of things. And only really something that happens in later years. So later secondary, or high school years, and it’s more closely related to the sort of interpersonal skill sets such as teaching people to work in teams, and independently and those sorts of things. And for me, outdoor education is something that I really enjoy and it usually wraps around camps and excursions, and kids getting away from school, and camping in tents, and cooking with equipment, and that sort of thing.

04:07 JR: And at the very heart of it, outdoor education is far removed from technology as any subject would be. However, I had realised that there would be some great opportunities to use technology to help the learning that would be expected of students when they go away on this different excursions and camps and so forth. So in my first year of teaching, we decided to do some mobile blogging. And at the time, we didn’t have access to smartphones. I mean, the phones that we had really were just that. There were just phones that you could make calls, they could receive text messages and that’s pretty much about it. I mean, they could surf sort of like the mobile web which wasn’t the real internet, just like the mobile version of the internet. I mean, they weren’t great but I had this great idea that I wanted to do some mobile blogging with my students to document the journey they were going on in the outdoor environment. And what we actually did was use a web service which no longer exists called, “Utterli ” which was U-T-T-E-R-L-I. Utterli.com.

05:19 JR: And Utterli basically meant that you could dial a number from anywhere in the planet and basically it would come up with a voice message and you would leave your voice message on that machine and then it would automatically post your message to your Utterli account. And that meant that as you’re sort of anywhere, you could make a call, leave your answers to a question, or leave your thoughts on whatever it was that you were doing, and this was sort of like audio blogging as you sort of went along. And this is in 2008 and really innovative and led down the path of me actually creating some stuff to blog about on the early days of the PE Geek website but translating to now and a lot of these things are still possible but still really haven’t been explored in all their entirety in PE settings, and a lot of the stuff I’m going to talk about in today’s episode doesn’t just translate into outdoor education, it also works in PE context as well.

06:21 JR: Now, The very first thing I want to explore is the recent release of the apps such as Periscope and Meerkat. Now, if you’re unfamiliar with these, you can head along to thepegeek.com/periscope or thepegeek.com/meerkat, as in the animal, and check out a blog post that I did recently exploring what they were and how they have potential in PE context.

06:49 JR: Now, in the outdoor educational, outdoor recreation context, you’ve got some enormous capacity to be able to use these apps to do live video streaming to anywhere in the world. So imagine if you had a group of students who are out hiking or out canoeing or kayaking, or experiencing a hike or whatever it may be, and with the Meerkat or Periscope app, they open it up and all of a sudden, they’re broadcasting live to the world or potentially their school or whatever audience you decide to make the broadcast known to, and they’re actually using that as the vehicle to help them teach and explore the things that you’re trying to do. I mean, I could see some enormous possibilities coming from this. I mean, students doing like a live on spot show about their hiking or rock climbing experience or then live streaming when they reach a particular famous landmark during their hike or if their students are doing some sort of mountain biking or adventure sort of walk, so they encounter some sort of wildlife animal, etc., they could live stream that.

07:59 JR: Now, this doesn’t just apply in outdoor recreation. In the PE settings, students could be live streaming their classes when they have, say, an injury. Maybe they’ve got a broken leg and they can’t participate or you could give them the role of being the broadcaster in the classroom and they need to then live stream what’s happening. You could also take it a bit further in major sporting events at your school or field days could be live stream. So not just applicable to the outdoor recreation setting but also the physical education classroom. Now, over the course of the podcast and the blogs, we’ve spoken a lot about the power of video, and the power of video definitely applies to outdoor recreation settings as well. And if you think about the GoPro and the GoPro cameras, they were made for outdoor activity. They were really targeted at people who are adventure seekers and so forth, and that applies in many ways to people who are in a school setting and going and experiencing these activities for the first time.

09:05 JR: So, one of the very first things that I ever did with the GoPro, in fact the first thing I ever did was wear it during a mountain biking activity and we had the strap for a helmet cam and we wore the GoPro and went for our ride and filmed this great footage that showed the students involved in the activity and then when we got back, we got to be able to explore it and talk about the experience in a completely different way than if we had not have had that video. So, while a lot of people don’t support the use of tech in these outdoor and recreation nature experiences, I do because it actually helped us bring that experience back to the classroom in a way that no other thing could possibly let us achieve. So, GoPro cameras definitely play a really good role in the outdoor recreational setting, combine them with the live streaming app such as Periscope and Meerkat and you can bring the experiences to other people in ways that we just haven’t been able to do before.

10:07 JR: Now, video is obviously a big part of PE outdoor recreation type activities but so can audio and so can students using audio to basically document their learning and their experiences, and things that they’re doing. One of the apps that you can use to do this live but also like a podcast is Spreaker. Now, that’s speaker basically with an R in it and Spreaker is a live streaming audio recording platform where anyone can start broadcasting virtually their own radio station out to anyone who might be listening. Now, you could use this in conjunction with the experiences that people are doing in these classes in very much the same way that you are using something like Meerkat or Periscope to be able to share an understanding, share an experience with a wider audience. The best part is, that it so happened to say that people miss it live, then they basically get saved and can be played back at any time and almost become podcast.

11:11 JR: So you can actually start to use these things to create almost like these archives of learning progress as it happens. Now, maybe throughout the activity, the outdoor recreation activity or the PE session, or whatever you’re deciding to use Spreaker for, you have students respond to questions and they leave the answers in the form of using something like Spreaker. Best part is, they can speak their answers, it’s much faster than having them write them or type them, or do whatever else you might have them do in the class to show their understanding, and it’s more rich and you actually hear the conviction of people when you hear them speak. So, something like Spreaker when tied up with these activities is really worthwhile and beneficial.

11:55 JR: Now, if you want to check out Spreaker in action then head along to thepegeek.com/spreaker, and you can download the app and see how it might work in your setting. Now shortly after completing a lot of the audio blogging activities and the video blogging activities that have sort of kicked off a lot of the stuff that I’ve done in the PE classroom, I got started with QR codes. Now QR codes are certainly things that we’ve spoken about on a number of occasions on the podcast. However, if you’re just tuning in, and you’ve never heard of them before, they’re little squares that can be scanned by mobile devices. Now, when I say “squares,” they appear very much like bar codes. Now a bar code that is on a container of food or your clothes or whatever they are, can be read from left to right, and includes data that’s linked inside of that barcode. Now in many ways, a QR code is exactly the same as a barcode; however, it’s square and can be read in any direction and can, by that definition, include much more data and information. Now, QR codes have enormous potential because they can link to actual items on the internet.

13:10 JR: So, by scanning a QR code, rather than just reading a series of numbers like you would on a barcode, that QR code can point to a web resource. So, that when someone scans it, it plays a video, for example, from YouTube or when someone scans it, it basically gives them a series of texts that they can read and follow their instructions for. So, there’s lots of applications, and we’ve spoken about them, and you can do and check out previous episodes wrapped around QR codes and augmented technology. However, one of the very first things that I did in the outdoor rec space was a QR code treasure hunt, and this is in 2009 and was all around mountain bikes and students riding around our town where I teach, scanning QR codes, and then getting a cryptic clue or a riddle from the QR code that then led them on to the next location, and we did it sort of two part, to explore the environment that was surrounding the town, to teach about the road rules and safety of that particular place, but to also gamify it and turn it into a little bit of an adventure where people were scanning, getting some answers, having to work together, and then heading off into those particular environments to try and find the next QR code. Now, obviously, really easy to do, extends into the PE classrooms as well, but you can head along to thepegeek.com/QRcodes to see more. Alternatively, you can head along to qrstuff.com which is a website that I use and recommend to create QR codes.

14:46 JR: Now, it’s a really easy thing to do. I mean, it sounds complex, and it looks futuristic, but it’s definitely something that everyone can achieve, and you can head along to qrstuff.com and very easily, type in the text you want to covert to a QR code, the web link you wanna convert, hit a button, and it’s done, and then you can go about printing them out, and putting them in locations to complete a treasure hunt. Now, one of the easiest ways to complete a treasure hunt is to head along to the Class Tools website. Search that in Google, and you’ll find they actually have a QR code treasure hunt generator. Now it works very similar to QR stuff in that you put in your questions and the answer, and then it’ll generate the QR codes for you. However it makes it nice and easy to build them en masse, and then print them out all in one go, and then go and actually find where you need to place these around your school. Now, I should point out that QR codes are only useful in the situation where you are dealing with physical, real world things. So, there’s no point putting a QR code on a computer screen because it defeats the purpose of why they’re made.

15:58 JR: I mean, a QR code is all about speeding up the offline to the online, so that you can actually get some sort of increased access to that information. So, on a computer, you wouldn’t use a QR code. You’d just create a link or you’d create a shortcut or something like that. But when you’re talking about a piece of paper, and you’re placing it on a tree, and when you scan that tree, a question comes up that is about the actual location that those students are in. You’re starting to see some really impressive learning that could take place. So, QR codes are without a doubt one of the most exciting things that I’ve ever done and there’s a number of blog posts, as I mentioned, if you head over to thepegeek.com/QRcodes, you can have a look at that very first QR code orienteering activity that I did way back in 2009 and sort of has led to me being a really big advocate for QR codes in the PE setting.

16:52 JR: Now following the success with QR codes in outdoor recreation style activities, I ended up exploring something known as “geocaching” or geocaching depending on where you’re based, and basically, this is the world global treasure hunt that is completed by millions of people and contains millions of hidden geocaches around the planet. Now, basically, the way it works is that anyone can head onto geocaching.com and download the apps for their mobile devices or their GPS handhelds, and they can put in the basic, rough coordinates of a geocache, along with the set of clues that they need to find that particular geocache and then it’s all about the adventure. It’s all about trying to find these hidden geocaches in these real world places. Now the exciting thing about geocaches is there are literally millions of them spread around everywhere on Earth, and in fact, right now, I would be surprised if you opened up your geocaching app on your mobile device and searched for nearby geocaches, you would absolutely find that there are some right near you that you could and hunt.

18:11 JR: Now, all you need is your mobile device, open the app up or open your handheld GPS and you can go hunting. And they list them based on how close they are to you, how difficult they are, the terrain, et cetera. And then when you click on the geocache, it helps you get to that particular place. And then when you get there you can actually log it and say that you’ve found it or that you didn’t find it or things along that line.

18:37 JR: The best part is you can then take a picture and you can leave, maybe you know your sort of adventure that you went on to inspire other people to take part in finding that geocache. And in most cases, the geocaches are really difficult to find. I mean, they’re hidden in really well in, real world sort of under logs and under fences, and attached to certain things. And inside of them often there is little artefacts or trinkets that you can take and put something in, in exchange or sign a physical log book to say that you’ve been there and other people have been there.

19:14 JR: Now, when you’re just hearing about geocaching for the first time, you often think, “What? Is this for real?” It is 100% for real and as I sort of mentioned, there are millions of geocaches that are spread out around the planet that you can use and that you can integrate into PE lessons, outdoor ed lessons or just into general school settings. Now I mention it because a number of times I’ve used these in school based lessons and so forth, it’s been really rewarding. And the students have had to sort of work together to brainstorm their list of possible clues. They have to interpret the instructions and the maps and everything and then try and find where the geocache is hidden. And not every single time that we’ve embarked on a geocache adventure have we actually found the caches that have been hidden.

20:03 JR: I know personally I’ve gone and taken people out to show them geocaching and we haven’t actually found them on that particular day, whereas other times we’ve gone out, they’ve been a bit easier, we’ve found them, we wrote in their log books and then we’ve gone on and found some others. But the most important part about it is it actually works to augment the actual experience that you’re having in the outdoors. So sure, you’re trying to find geocaches, but they’re usually hidden in really interesting locations and you actually get to experience and find them as you head on your journey.

20:33 JR: Now, just for interest’s sake, I’ve opened up the geocaching app on my mobile device right now and I can see that there is, the closest one to my house where I’m recording this episode at the moment is 465 metres away. Now if I clicked on that it would bring up a little map and show me the general direction I need to walk in and basically guide me along the way until I got to it. And then when I open up that geocache, I can see the list of description of it, the sort of last time it was found and any other hidden clues that would help me actually discover it.

21:08 JR: Now I know a number of people who have used geocaching to help kids explore concepts, work in teams and so forth. I personally have done it for that exact reason, having kids sort of work together and assessing them on how well they can work, not necessarily on what they’re doing. But more importantly, having them just experience the environment and the activities they’re doing in between the actual finding of the geocaches. So easy to get set up, all you need to do is head along to geocaching.com and you can be off hunting this brand new world in no time.

21:42 JR: Now if that’s not enough for you, there is an exciting mobile application that I have played around with and that I actually have sort of started planning for its use in my upcoming semester. And that is Klikaklu. Now Klikaklu is an app that you download onto your device completely for free and it lets you create scavenger and treasure hunts that basically combine your phone, the GPS, the camera and sort of their image recognising technology into this amazing sort of treasure hunt. And the way it works is that you don’t need geocaches or QR codes. You just need your mobile device. And when you open it up you simply see a list of the different hunts that have been created or you can create your own. And they basically set you on the path to discover a series of clues that take you further and further through the various hunt.

22:42 JR: And basically, when you get to that location, which it navigates you to, you will say, “Show the hint.” And it will check to see if you are actually there and then give you the hint. In the same token, it will send you along the path to look at a specific item such as maybe a tree or a park, or something along those lines. And that’ll be presented as a clue, as a target. And then what you need to do is position your phone in the exact same spot to take the identical picture. And it will match your image with the image of the clue and determine if you’re actually in that spot.

23:23 JR: So in terms of creating this amazing adventure that is rich, full of team building and orientation type activities and teachable moments and so on, Klikaklu is incredible. It’s free to obviously play, but it also allows you to actually create hunts yourself so that you can build a hunt for your students and then have them go and play it completely for free. So the creation part, you can do completely for free for a week. And then if you like it enough, you can buy the premium aspect of Klikaklu to be able to create unlimited games and then be able to go ahead and sort of enable people to create these scavenger and treasure hunts for your students.

24:13 JR: Now, I’ve seen some really impressive stuff coming out of some schools in Victoria that are using Klikaklu for their orientation on… The start of a new school day. Or sort of a new school enrolment with students. So when they get to a new campus, they get to sort of adventure around and take pictures and sort of compete for it. I plan on using it in the upcoming semester, as I briefly mentioned, to help train my students for their cross country event which is coming up soon. Now obviously cross country has that sort of lack of appeal for a better word with a lot of students; where they’re just running and they might not enjoy that a whole lot, but we’re going to be doing the training for that cross country activity without them really realising it because they’re going to be involved in these treasure hunts.

24:58 JR: So yeah, I highly recommend Klikaklu and certainly something that you can get a lot of value from in all of your different various subjects, including outdoor recreation activities and physical education. Now if you want to check out more about it and how it’s being used, you can head along to thepegeek.com/Klikaklu, and Klikaklu is spelt K-L-I-K-A-K-L-U. So go and check it out and let me know if you have any questions about how it works. I’d love to hear what you end up doing with it as well.

25:29 JR: There you have it, that brings us to the end of Episode 37. If you’d love all the notes and resources and the various apps and so forth that we’ve mentioned in this episode, then head along to thepegeek.com/37 as in Episode 37 and you’ll be able to find all the resources there. You can also do that for any episode that you’ve listened. Just change the 37 to whatever episode number that is and you’ll be able to find the show notes there. So, I hope you enjoyed touching on the various things that are happening in the outdoor recreation sort of spaces. There’s lots of potential here for cross over in PE and in fact, they’re very similar however I thought it was worthwhile dedicating an entire episode to sort of the origins of many of the things that I’m doing in PE now and in many ways, stuff that I still do and encourage that schools look for opportunities to do. Until next time. See you later.



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