Episode 45 – Listener Stories of Success #6 with Adam Llevo

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast we chat with Adam Llevo, an International Physical Education teaching in Saudi Arabia. Adam will also be featured as a Masterclass speaker at my up and coming ConnectedPE Conference being held in 2016. All details and registration can be found at www.connectedpe.com

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 episode 45 of the PE Geek podcast, and as always, thanks for taking the time to tune in. Now, I know I say that every single episode, I really mean it, today is no exception. We’re having a great guest lined up, who is certainly someone I’ve wanted to get on the show for a long time. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of years ago at a workshop in Shanghai, and I’m looking forward to introducing him to you today. He teaches in Saudi Arabia and he’s always online and sharing lots of stuff and lots of value in the stuff that he is pushing out to the Phys Ed community. So, I’d like to introduce Adam to the podcast. How are you, Adam?

01:16 Adam Llevo: I’m very well. How are you?

01:17 JR: Yeah, very good mate. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to jump on the call and share some insights into how you’re using technology in Phys Ed. Now, I mean, for those people that don’t know you, where do you teach and how long have you been doing it?

01:34 AD: Okay. This is my eighth year of teaching, but I previously… Obviously met you in Shanghai two years ago, and then I most recently moved to Saudi Arabia. And I’m currently teaching about three hours outside of Jeddah, in a small international school called Yanbu International School, which is part of the international schools group. We have seven schools within our district located at different areas of Saudi Arabia.

02:00 JR: Awesome. And what attracted you to Phys Ed? How did you go down this path? What were you doing when you were in your childhood that led to this?

02:12 AD: So, a lot of people go through life and they don’t really know what they want to do. I didn’t have that problem. From the age of around nine, 10, I wanted to be a Phys Ed teacher. And one of the main reasons for that was my granddad. My granddad was an elementary principal, and he actually got given a MBE for his services to education from the Queen.

02:36 JR: Awesome, that’s amazing. That’s…

02:39 AD: Yes, so it must’ve been.

02:40 JR: That would have a big influence, definitely. I mean, I have that same sort of parallel with you. I hadn’t even realised it. Me personally as well, it was very early on that I realised that the physical education teacher was something that I would like to be, and it was that sort of amalgamation of the fact that I really like sports, and what can I do with that. If I’m not gonna be an elite athlete, which was the big dream that everyone has, what can I do in that same area? And Phys Ed was it for me. It was always the subject that I enjoyed. So, I think we share that common interest. What about technology there? Where does that come from? Why are you interested in using it in… Yeah, I mean how did that start?

03:24 AD: It really goes back to early on in my teaching career. I was teaching a sixth form college where… Called “Runshaw College” in England, in the Northwest of England. And they were looking for someone to use a little bit of tech in the department. I remember first introducing it, and we where we were doing trampoline in, and we had the foot cam… We managed to get some foot cameras, and we had I think maybe four or eight foot cameras at different angles of the trampoline. The kids would then record their performance. They would then… And then I have to take the foot camera off, plug it in, put it on a USB drive. They would then take screen shots from it, and they would then put the lines down it; for example, if it was a positive, they would put a green line down, if it was an area for improvement, then they would put a red line down, and then they would write about it. And now I look how far it’s come now with the advances of Ubersense, etcetera. And we can just talk about it like we’re doing it now, and just record that evidence rather than having all these paper evidence.

04:32 JR: Absolutely. I mean, that sounds very similar to the very first stuff that I ever did in the Phys Ed classroom. Flipped cameras, I mean the flipped cam before they sort of were phased. I think they got bought out or acquired or something. And I mean, I was just blown away then at how simple they were to be able to point, shoot, record, and watch back on the tiny little screen that was there, and then to be able to share them. And then you think about that now, it just seems so archaic and so difficult. And it sort of says a lot about why you’ve got success now, and why people do, because you persisted and you made the effort to do that back then when it was more difficult. So when the technology becomes more intuitive and easy, then it’s just only… [chuckle] It’s only self obvious that people are going to use it like yourself. So, I mean, what are the big things that you tend to use, not on a daily basis but regularly, to benefit learning and improve student engagement?

05:31 AD: So I teach everybody from kindergarten all the way through to grade 12, and that obviously gives me a variety of different things I can use even in technology. So for the lower age groups, I quite like using stuff like ClassDojo, which definitely… I never really show individual points, it’s always as a class. We do it as a class thing.

05:55 JR: So if the ClassDojo, if people aren’t familiar with that, how does it work?

06:01 AD: So ClassDojo is… The way I have it set up, is I have the computer with the class score, and it’s a big pie chart, for example, and that’ll be beamed up on the TV screen. And then, throughout the lesson they can score points for being really active in class, for helping each other, for coaching each other. We can give them points for different things. And I give them a target of trying 95% or above. I quite like that, as well with one that Ross Halliday sort of showed me, which was Top Hat. Basically I’m not a fan of students putting their hand in the air when asking questions, so what this’ll do is, it’ll put a magic hat on the display, and then it’ll pick a name out of the magic hat. So, I use that one quite a lot for asking questions.

06:58 JR: In the sort of the younger levels, is that what you mean?

07:01 AD: Yes, yeah in the elementary stages, yeah. Then for the older kids, definitely the video analysis apps, Ubersense. I’ve also been using Plickers a lot recently, in the past… Probably since December, January time. Some of the other stuff is definitely Google Drive, with the older kids just making my life for the admin a lot easier.

07:28 JR: Yeah, and I think you’re probably along the same vein as me, that there’s a couple of different reasons why I like tech, and I think you’ve touched on all of them there, whether it makes your life easier or the admin’s life, or the student’s life, Google Drive being that example, whether it helps them drill down into learning, like eg, the Ubersense, or whether it’s an organisational effectiveness strategy tool, and something that you can get feedback, like assessment-wise from, then it’s definitely something that you value. So, do you use ClassDojo and the data that you collect on that, like behaviour data, etcetera, in any form of, say, reporting or communication with parents, etcetera?

08:12 AD: No, we can do. And the way I use it is, we have a sort of elementary little competition, and then the class who has scored the most positive points from our Positive PE Program, over that month, will then get their class in the hall of fame that goes upon the gym wall…

08:31 JR: Awesome.

08:32 AD: And then they get to use a certain amount of equipment in recess time, as a bit of a prize.

08:40 JR: Yeah, I mean the thing I love about ClassDojo is it actually makes some of these things that we think are hard to measure, a little bit easier to measure and capture, such as behaviour and the interpersonal stuff. And I love that whole idea of that positive classroom and turning it into a competition rather than some sort of assessment and report. I’ve also seen recently that you’ve been playing around with heart rate monitors. What have you been doing there?

09:04 AD: Yeah, with the… We were very lucky. Our district asked if the different schools had any sort of innovative ideas, and one of the district goals this year is 21st century learning. So, my idea was to purchase some GoPro cameras and some H7s. And after a lot of different discussions that went on, we were successful at getting the H7s. What I really wanted to do is go with the Polar Heart Rate website, but that isn’t actually available in the Middle East at the moment. It’s only available in certain countries. But we’ve definitely made a good start. So we managed to get 40 heart rate monitors, and we’ve been using those in the middle school and high school PE classes, especially within the health units, and just making them aware of what sort of exercises they have to do to get into the different training zones. And I even took in, for example, cans of Cokes, Snickers, cookies, just to give them an idea of what sort of exercises they need to do and at what intensities for them to be able to burn off the different calories, just during one PE lesson, etcetera.

10:22 JR: Yeah, awesome. And you had a… I remember hearing a funny story about someone who had left the heart rate monitor on, and you were still able to track it through the wireless capacity of the iPad?

10:36 AD: Yeah, at the end of the day we had… Like we said, I had 40, and 39 had been given back in, but there was one missing, so it’s still beating on the iPad. So I had to go walking around the school until I actually found who had it. And no one actually owned-up to it. They were actually in a basketball training session. And it carried on beating, so I knew someone in the gymnasium had it on, but they wouldn’t admit to it, and then it was just found sort of dumped at the side at the end of the training session. But yeah, it’s amazing what they can do though.

11:12 JR: Yeah, that screams to me of just how powerful this sort of technology is, the ability to be able to see someone’s heart beating on your iPad, their heart rate, and be able to almost track that like it’s a radar on someone, is pretty phenomenal, and you think about that in a learning context, it’s mind-blowing, and certainly one of my favourite… One of my favourite applications and pieces of equipment for sure. What about things that you’ve done… I mean there’s lots of stuff that’s been successful and you’ve used regularly. What about stuff that you’ve tried and hasn’t been so successful? I mean there’s plenty of things that I’ve done that I’ve done and agreed that I’ll never do that again. What about you? Are there any big fails or things that haven’t worked as planned?

12:01 AD: What, in just technology or…

12:02 JR: Yeah, I mean using tech in your class.

12:09 AD: Yeah, we… [chuckle] I think I was setting up for something… I was doing a yoga class with a grade 5 class, the other day, and I was asked to move classrooms. So I moved classrooms, and the Apple TV wouldn’t work, the projector wouldn’t work. And the clock’s ticking and I’ve only got an hour with these students, and I’m like, “Oh man, what am I gonna do here?” So eventually… And I’m not very good at yoga, so obviously I was using the yoga studio, which is a great app if no one else has used it before. And I’ve got it on my phone and I’m like, “The only way I’m going to be able to do this is just have some nice music on in the background, have the phone in front of me and just try the best I can to lead the session,” ’cause I was gonna have it on the projector.


12:58 AD: And I’m a typical runner, flexibility is not my strong point. I can’t touch my toes. I just had to do the best I could with the iPhone in front of me and…

13:12 JR: That’s awesome.

13:12 AD: Those speakers with a relaxing music.

13:15 JR: And I mean, Yoga Studio…

13:16 AD: It happens though.

13:17 JR: It does. I mean, Yoga Studio for me as well is such a saviour when it comes to teaching things like that, and I would be exactly like you if that failed and I had set up that listen, I would have to try and replicate it with not as not as much success as they have and… I mean that’s… I think you make a really good point, it does happen. It happens to me, and happens to everyone whose trying to, you know, try something new. But that’s the learning process. I think it’s no different to the students that are in your class who make mistakes and try, and try new things and fail. And we’re no different to them. The only thing that I really despise in teachers is people who aren’t willing to put themselves out there and pretend that they’re learners as well as students. I think we’re… We ultimately learn more when we have these sort of situations arise in our classroom. So what’s probably biggest lesson from all of this that you’ve come across, not necessarily about things breaking and not working, but through using tech, is there any big lessons that you sort of taken away, about things that should happen?

14:26 AD: Well, I’ve been discussing on social media this week about one of the articles that I’d wrote about positive relationships and education, and some of that really stem from some of the work I was dealing with in the district, and just talking to people and making sure that they took things slowly, maybe just take one idea and work with that one idea and… ‘Cause it’s so easy, especially for people that are really good with tech, to completely bombard them with lots of different ideas and, “Okay, you need to try this app. You need to try that. Try this in your lesson.” And I think if people can just get good at one thing, and use it really well, and then they can start to spread their wings a little bit more and try out other new things as well.

15:10 JR: Yeah, absolutely. In the early days that quick win, that really small thing that you can do that has an impact, is really quite a good way to start, and then from there focusing on one thing at a time. Because, we are Phys Ed teachers. We tend to be able to adapt and do all that sort of stuff, but we do our best work when we’re focusing in on one thing at a time and I think you’ve made a very good point there. What about any other apps or resources or things that you do use that you might be willing to share?

15:49 AD: So a big game changer for me this year has got to be Google, just Google Drive, etcetera. Now I’ve never been working… I hadn’t worked… Obviously working in China, Google ‘s banned, so it can be quite difficult to get Google to work to your advantage; for example, Google Forms, et cetera. And with this year, for me, Google Forms and… For example, my fitness testing now, it’s gone from the PE teachers entering in 200-300 students data into a Excel spreadsheet, to us just reviewing the grades and finding out who wasn’t importing the data, ’cause the kids do it for us now, ’cause they use the Google Form.

16:27 JR: Assuming that you’ve set out the Google Form, and then that form is being populated to a spreadsheet, which you’re then using, perhaps an add-on to generate that, is that what’s happening?

16:38 AD: Yeah. So, how we’ve got it working now is, I wanted to be able to see all the data that was coming in, and for me to go and put that in it’s gonna take hours, and I’m all about working smarter not harder.

16:55 JR: Absolutely.

16:55 AD: With Google Forms, set that up to, for example, they’ll put their name. They’ll put their PACER Test results in, their set up tests in the fitness unit. And then by using DocAppender, they have their own fitness report as well. So, I’ve got now, the data in a spreadsheet, that I’m gonna need, as well as they’ve got their own report as well by using one of the add-ons.

17:22 JR: And it just all happens all seamlessly for you, which is I guess the most excited part about it. Save yourself time. You’ve created this awesome solution that benefits students and makes it easier for you. So… I mean that’s the power of the Google platform, isn’t it? Infinitely there is so much more to come with this that’s just going to benefit everyone. So, if you’re a teacher and you haven’t ventured down on how to look at Google Drive, which you can get for free and start to explore what it can do for your classroom, then I certainly recommend it, and there’s lots of PE teachers who were using it really impressively. So where do you learn your stuff? Where do you go to or where do you hang out and try and improve on a daily basis?

18:04 AD: So we’ve got all these different platforms. I don’t know, we’ve got Voxer, which is… Voxer is basically a virtual stuff for…

18:11 JR: What is Voxer?

18:14 AD: Voxer is like a walkie-talkie app, so you can have conversations with people all over the world. So, I’ve been collaborating now with two American guys, Justin Schleider and Nick Endlich. And we’ve managed to create two projects which were “So you think you can balance?” And “So you think you are fit?” All through the power of Voxer.

18:36 JR: Awesome.

18:37 AD: So we discuss that [18:38] ____ with in, and then you’re obviously using the Google platform to collaborate on those. And then, obviously Twitter, YouTube. And a lot of time it’s just trying things and seeing what works, what doesn’t work, and working it out for yourself. I managed to put in together a house system, award system, using the Google platform. And as kids now get awarded for example, House points, they scan a QR code, they register it. They all then get added all up automatically within the spreadsheet, and it will also then fire out certificates to them once they reach certain milestones, so just by using Google and different add-ons. But it is a lot of playing around and experimenting and see what works and what doesn’t work.

19:28 JR: Awesome. I think that’s the key to it all. Like I said earlier, learning is messy, and we want that to be that case. I just think that teachers who embody that like you do, ultimately are better teachers. And you know, the fact that people are probably spending time out of their day to listen to this episode, reinforces that even more, the willingness to learn is what matters for sure. So, what about live events? Do you head to any conferences or anything along those lines, in either the Middle East or back home or somewhere else?

20:06 AD: Well, I’ve just come back from my summer vacation, and we have managed to get over to North Carolina for the PE Institute, the national one, where myself and a few others were presenting a little session, and that was an amazing opportunity to, obviously, catch up with yourself. And Mr. Andi Vesali, last time I saw him, we were in Shanghai together, and obviously see some other faces that I’ve only contacted through social media. And then on the horizon is the American School of Dubai. There is a Phys Ed ME, where myself and Osama have really started to work together in the past year now, along with Reema from India. We’ve put together a Middle East group. We have Google Hangouts, probably every month, as well as myself and Osama doing the PE chart, for the Middle East section. So that’s coming up, so I’m excited to go and present there. And then literally the day after, I’m actually off to the APEC conference in Hong Kong. So it’s gonna be a crazy 48 hours, and I’ll be presenting there as well a short little session.

21:20 JR: So do you know what you’re gonna be presenting on in… At the APEC conference?

21:26 AD: The APEC conference is gonna be along the assessment lines, but when I first looked at what they have to offer and what they want in it and the different categories of presentations, it was assessment, technology, TGF, all things that I’m interested in. So, there could be a little bit of everything in there. You’ll have to wait and see, come and watch.

21:45 JR: Yeah, definitely. I’m really excited to announce that, I am one of the sponsors of the APEC conference, and really excited by the fact that this conference is actually put together by teachers. Is that one of the attracting qualities to you as well?

21:59 AD: Yeah, the same with the other one that I’m going to for the Phys ED ME one, it seems to be the way to go forward now, teachers teaching teachers, and just carrying on this sharing of good practice that’s already happening through the social media platforms.

22:14 JR: Absolutely, it’s so much more authentic, and that’s what really attracted me to the APEC conference, the ability to connect with people who are actually doing it, not just like vendors who are there to sell a product or some sort of service, but people who are right in the cold phase doing it. And you’ve got the people who are presenting, connecting with other people who are just… On the same, they are in the classroom themselves. So head along to the pegeek.com/conference to learn more about that. Other than that, is there any other leaving comments that you have about technology, and maybe a little piece of advice that you could give to anyone who’s just starting this journey?

22:56 AD: I think I go back to what I said originally about, “Find something and get good at it, and then spread your wings from there.”

23:05 JR: Awesome. No, I think that’s the best advice.

23:06 AD: I’d like to just say, thanks for everything that you do, and keep pushing the technology and PE group forward, etcetera.

23:16 JR: Thank you. It’s too much fun, as you know. And I really wanna thank you for your time, and where can people find out, or connect with you, if they wanna jump on and learn some more?

23:26 AD: They can connect with me @mradampe on Twitter, or they can go to my blog which is mradampe.com.

23:34 JR: Awesome. Thanks a lot for your time, Adam. We’ll speak to you soon.

23:39 AD: Speak to you soon.

23:41 JR: Thanks mate.



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