Episode 52 – Taking Fitness to the Next Level with Dale Sidebottom

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast, I chat with Dale Sidebottom, a Physical Education Teacher, App Developer, Personal Trainer from Melbourne, Australia. Dale discusses how he got started with Tech in PE during a teaching stint in London & how this lead to the development of his first mobile app.

Resources shared in the episode include:

1. ClassBreak, Easy Portfolio, Team Shake

2. PE Shake, RipDeck, FitBreak

Press Play below to listen. Alternatively, download a full episode transcript here


00:28 Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the PE Geek podcast, and as always, thanks for taking the time out of your day to tune in from wherever you may be, and it’s absolutely my pleasure to introduce to you another Phys Ed superstar and a very close friend, someone I grew up with as well back home in my hometown, none other than Dale Sidebottom. How are you Dale?

00:52 Dale Sidebottom: Thanks Jarrod. And I suppose we wouldn’t call it hometown mate, there is a river that has broken us up.

00:57 JR: Ah, here’s this great divide between Shepparton and Mooroopna.


01:03 JR: Yeah, awesome. So where are you at the moment, mate?

01:05 DS: So, I currently live in Melbourne, and I work for a company called SEDA in Melbourne, where I teach a Talented Players Program for Cricket Australia, so I sort of teach elite cricketers that are in year 11, year 12.

01:19 JR: Awesome. So that sort of sees you involved in not just Phys Ed, but other areas of education as well?

01:26 DS: Yeah. Yep. So I basically… I’ve got 26 students in my class, and I teach them VET and VCAL. So that’s basically, I teach them all subjects, literacy, numeracy, coaching, fitness, work skills, everything like that. We’re in the classroom two and a half days a week, another day we go to primary schools and run cricket clinics, and then another day they’re on work placement, where they’re getting work experience out in their chosen field.

01:52 JR: Yeah. So I mean, the students that arrive in the SEDA program, they’re in there because of sporting ability, and that’s their real big connection to education as well?

02:02 DS: Yeah. Yeah. I suppose they can sort of relate to it more that it’s more hands-on, and I suppose you form a really good relationship with your teacher. As I said, the only teacher they’ll have for the entire year is myself. I love cricket. I play it myself. So you’ve got that common bond before you start and I just think it’s a really good way to learn. I don’t have any discipline issues or anything like that as all the kids wanna be there and that mutual respect is flowing pretty strong.

02:29 JR: Yeah. I mean it’s a very different model for education, but it seems to have this really high respect that goes with it across Australia, and I guess, even overseas. And it seems like there’s lots of good teachers involved in the program. And I sort of wanted to get you on the show because I know that part of the program that you use has a lot of technology inside of it. So, where did you sort of start using tech in the classes that you teach?

02:54 DS: Yeah. Well, I suppose… So a little bit of background. I finished uni at Ballarat where we obviously lived together. And from there I taught at a primary school in Shepparton for a year, and then went over to live in the UK for two and a half years, where I was fortunate enough to get a really good job at a private school. And this is where sort of I needed to… They sort of challenged me to come up with a new way of recording progress and sort of benchmarking how students are going in PE.

03:23 DS: ‘Cause obviously, you know yourself that recording things in the classroom is quite easy to show evidence, but when it comes to showing parents how their son or daughter’s going with any sort of skill, then it’s quite hard. So, I first started when I was in London, I got an iPad, and I started recording students. So I started testing with one class, and from there I continued that on, and got most of my classes recorded, so I could actually show progress of skill development and everything like that.

03:57 JR: Yeah. So you had this real evidence to sort of showcase through, I guess, video and photos, and stuff. Did it help you doing assessment as well or was it just evidence for parents during parent-teacher discussions and things?

04:11 DS: No, no, no. So obviously that was a big thing for the school to show parents what their sort of money was getting them, but for me it was a great way to reflect with students and for them to peer assess, and go over skills, and just pick up things that they were doing wrong so it wouldn’t always be teacher-led. I found it was really powerful, and not only that, but students really loved being on a debrief watching themselves and also their classmates.

04:37 JR: Yeah, for sure. So, I mean the iPad obviously is a big addition into the PE space, and I know you’ve been big in the pioneering of apps as well for classes. Where did this whole app development thing start for you ’cause you’re not only using apps, but now you’re starting to build them for Phys Ed teachers?

04:57 DS: Yeah. Well, it was… I don’t know, [05:00] ____ you speak to people, Jarrod, and they’ve all got a dream that they wanna make an app, and I just thought, “Stuff it. I’m gonna really turn this into something that I’m going to knuckle down and really create.” So when I was in London, the first five months I did supply teaching where you’d get a call in the morning, you’d go to a random school. And this was quite challenging, and I found the only way that I could get the respect of the students was to just start the day with three or four icebreakers and team building games.

05:26 DS: Once I’d done that, the kids were eating out of my hand, they really enjoyed what I was offering, and from there I could actually teach them some content that the teacher had left me. So, after doing that for five months I found that I had just so many different resources all on bits of paper and card in my bag, and I thought, “This isn’t a very good way of doing it. There’s obviously gotta be a better system, and other teachers would surely benefit from this as well.”

05:51 DS: So, I started putting it all together. Basically it started on the idea of, sort of for supply teachers about this is one app where they could go to and they’ve got everything they need. With icebreakers, name games, might have joke of the day, quote of the day, you’ve got class activities, you’ve got literacy, numeracy games, you’ve got anything you’ll ever need. So I turned it into an app and after about six months of planning, I was able to create my first app called ClassBreak.

06:19 JR: Yeah, and it’s an incredible app, having used it before for those exact reasons. I mean I know people find themselves in situations where they’ve got a group of kids for… You’ve got to look after them for five minutes or so, or 10 minutes and you’re wondering what you can do and the app seems to be really well placed for that as well.

06:36 DS: Yeah, so that’s what I mean, it’s got time fillers, it’s got anything you’ll ever need. I didn’t want to rush this, it took me a lot longer than I thought it would because I simply just kept thinking of new ideas or new categories I could add to it that would really benefit teachers. So it’s not only designed for PE teachers, a lot of PE games but for primary, secondary, any teachers. The overall product I was really, really pleased with when I finished it.

07:01 JR: Absolutely. Now obviously you’re building your own apps but outside of your own, are there any others that you’ve found that have been really good additions in your class?

07:13 DS: Yeah. Well, like yourself mate, I’m sure a lot of other PE teachers, or just teachers in general. They’ll have an iPad now and they’ll have that many different folders full of amazing apps. The best thing is that you’ve got an app for everything these days. I don’t let apps control my teaching, I use them to assist. But as far as… I could go on for ages here… But I’ll quickly just jot down a couple that… And I’m gonna give you a little plug here but Easy Portfolio would probably be one of my favourite apps.

07:43 JR: Yep, cool.

07:44 DS: Simply just the way that I can import, any file, videos, images into each student’s folder. Then at the end of the year or semester, I simply just send it to them. Give them the Dropbox link and they’ve got all their cricket skills particularly for my class, they can download it, they can go through it if they’re coaching and their parents can see just what we’ve been doing in our training sessions.

08:07 JR: Yeah, awesome.

08:09 DS: So that’s been huge for me. And I’ve found once you’ve figured out how to use it and you have your class set up, it’s state of the art.

08:17 JR: Yeah. Awesome, thank you.

08:18 DS: Next one, Team Shake. I bet you use this as well.

08:21 JR: Oh man. Absolutely.

08:22 DS: Such a good app. I set my class up at the start of the year. Every time we do a new activity, if I want two teams, three teams, four teams, I enter it in, shake the app, bang, there’s my teams.

08:34 JR: There’s no you have to muck around picking names, you’re straight into the activity then.

08:38 DS: Done. Exactly right. It just means that instead of going through numbering awful… Or doing these old ways of picking teams that waste time, there’s too much down time. That app simply… I already have the teams ready before I start a prac. It’s already done for me. So that’s fantastic. Another one I like to use is another app called PE Shake. It’s not related to Team Shake but I always used to find myself stuck for warm-up games. So this app’s fantastic, it’s got 150 different warm-up games for PE that require hardly any instruction and no equipment. You simply shake the app and a brand new game appears. You can just read out to the class while you’re doing it or I’ve found that giving the students two of them at a time or [09:28] ____, is your opportunity to lead a warm-up. Give them the app and then it’s for them to explain the game to the class. So again, it takes away from everything being teacher-led.

09:38 JR: Yeah, that’ll be really powerful for you then as the teacher to perhaps assess them or be doing other things during that time.

09:46 DS: It is. You can have other things ready set up or you can be talking to students that may not be participating or simply, you just give some of your responsibility to students which is a great way for them to learn.

09:57 JR: Absolutely.

09:58 DS: The final one I’m gonna talk a little bit about is one called RipDeck. Now, I think I read this quite early on in one of your app reviews blogs. But basically, it’s a very simple app where you pick four different exercises and you put them in there and then it’s simply a deck of cards. So, if I’ve got hearts, and that’s push-ups, you pull out a six of hearts, as a group, you’ll do six push-ups then you go on to your next card. The next one might be a queen of diamonds or something like that. Picture cards are 10 reps, diamonds might be sit-ups so as a group you do 10 sit-ups.

10:34 DS: Alright? Very simple to use and you can obviously set that up for whatever equipment you’ve got. So if you’ve got dumbbells, kettlebells, slam balls, you can put those in there as well. I like it as well that it gives you at the end of your workout, gives you a time that it took you to complete that session and a leader board, how long you spent on each card. So it’s pretty powerful for students if you want to set them a challenge to try and beat last week’s challenge, or things like that.

11:02 JR: Yeah, simple things often are so powerful for engagement and so forth because the barrier is pretty minimal for using something like RipDeck or Team Shake but the impact is quite large as well as you sort of pointed out.

11:17 DS: Correct. And as you’ll see, with all those apps, I suppose yours is quite in depth but the other three that I spoke about, they’re very basic pieces of work. There’s not much to them, they don’t take up a huge amount of time to set up or anything like that and you get an instant result. And I think that’s what I like about using tech now. I don’t let it control what I do but I use it to sort of reduce time, so like, minimal time in between activities or new ways to challenge a student so they’re not just looking at me or listening to me.

11:51 JR: Yeah. No, I think it’s a really good way to use it and if you can leverage your own time, then you can be doing more higher impact things which might be one on one assistance like you’ve said or speaking to a kid who isn’t engaging properly. You’re more valuable there than in some of the other ways. Direct teacher, complete direct teacher focus.

12:10 DS: You do, yeah.

12:11 JR: Now, one other thing that I’ve noticed with the work that you do is music plays a really big part in the stuff that you do. So how does the music occupy your group? Is it through a set of speakers? What do you tend to do?

12:25 DS: Yeah. So, as I run my own company as well, a boot camp company, I’ve got a pretty powerful portable speaker, which just bluetooths up to my iPad, and that’s how I project sound around. My school at the moment, I don’t have a indoor facility, so obviously if I did, I’d love surround sound with the projector on the wall and things like that.

12:49 JR: Cool.

12:49 DS: But it’s just not possible at the moment, so I’ve found having this portable speaker with my iPad, it’s extremely effective.

12:56 JR: Yeah. So what are examples of some things that you might use music for in your day to day practice?

13:03 DS: Yeah. So I’ve designed a number of songs that may have a repeat of words, or something like that that has a quite catchy beat and I’ve designed actual workouts that the students do to those. So, each one goes for roughly three to four minutes, so it’s not a great period of time, but it’s a period of time that you can allocate… I normally do one at the start of every day, just to get ’em focused. It’s like a modified brain [13:30] ____, if I must say. And from there, the students, a simple one by Police, ‘Roxanne’. Everyone’s heard this. I’m not gonna sing it because obviously…


13:42 DS: I’ve got a pretty disgusting voice, Jarrod, but it’s very simple. All the students are in a plank. When they hear Roxanne, they do a squat thruster, which is basically standing up and then they just go back down into their plank.

13:54 JR: Yep.

13:54 DS: Alright. So, you think about it, they’re really performing a plank for nearly three minutes and I think all up, they’re doing about 25 to 30 squat thrusters.

14:04 JR: Yeah. It’s sort of hidden in there through the music as well, isn’t it?

14:08 DS: Hidden, because you know yourself if you’re having fun doing something, you actually forget the number of reps or you’re not counting. You don’t need to. The song does it for you. It’s done very quickly, and everybody just does it and really enjoys it.

14:20 JR: So is there anywhere where you can link people across to get those particular resources? Are they available at all?

14:25 DS: Yeah. So I’ve just recently, well, three or four days ago, released a new app called FitBreak, and it goes inside with a lot of my other Break apps, but this one’s a little bit different as it’s got a number of different categories to suit a lot of different people. So one of the sections on FitBreak is songs, and you go in there… I think I’ve designed about 15 different songs with instructions on how to perform that workout. So all you need to do, hook your device or your iPhone, your iPad, up to a wireless speaker. You’ll click on that song. In there, there’s a YouTube link you’ll click on. It’ll play the music and you simply read out the instructions to the class.

15:07 JR: Awesome.

15:07 DS: I’ve found it really powerful, and probably one of the most exciting things for me was at the end of the year, I allocated time last year and students went on and were looking for songs that they could make their own workouts to.

15:20 JR: Yeah. So did they end up coming up with some pretty cool stuff?

15:24 DS: I got two that I’ve actually included on the app.

15:27 JR: That’s awesome.

15:27 DS: Some of ’em were a bit out of this world, but [chuckle] that’s what it’s all about. They got really, really into it. And, I don’t know, it was pretty pleasing to see that obviously they’ve really enjoyed that part of my teaching.

15:41 JR: Yeah. So I guess from a project point of view, there’s a lot of value in it. Like they had to get onto YouTube, I guess, find some songs or wherever they were looking, and then come up with a routine that had repeated elements in it. Is that what the project scope was?

15:55 DS: Yeah, yeah. I suppose it wasn’t really a scope about it. I just spoke about obviously what we’ve done nearly every morning of the year, and I said, “Now’s your opportunity to get creative and see what you can come up with.” ‘Cause they’d been speaking about it a lot, and a lot of students would just come in random days and say, “Dale, have you heard of ‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’ by Chemical Brothers? It’s got a lot of repeats and things.” So I just gave them the reins and said, “Right, now it’s your opportunity.” And it was good to see ’em listening to the music and then actually doing the workouts to see if it worked. Yeah, so, as far as it wasn’t really a project, but it was something that, I don’t know, it was extremely rewarding in a nice way.

16:36 JR: It was probably better than a project because you really didn’t enforce them to do it. Like they did it on their own merit, sort of thing.

16:44 DS: Yeah. Correct.

16:44 JR: So it means that now they’re really taking on board that lesson and showcasing that they did really enjoy those activities. So you did mention FitBreak as a new app that you’ve released. Where did this come from? Was it something that you thought needed to be built?

17:00 DS: I suppose, I started designing it with the idea that through my business, Bottoms Up Fitness, I’ve got three or four personal trainers that work for me, and I’m constantly ringing ’em or emailing ’em new workouts and ideas, and I thought, “There’s gotta be an easier way than this. It’s a lot of time that it takes me to do that each day or each night.” So I thought, “If these guys are gonna benefit from it, not only will personal trainers benefit, PE teachers, but anybody that wants to just go and do a fitness session themselves, that may not be able to get to the gym, or that can afford a personal trainer.

17:37 DS: So, I started just jotting down all my ideas, like I have with all my other apps, and I come up with nine different categories. So within there there’s dice games, there’s circuits, there’s musical workouts, there’s YouTube clips of me performing different activities. There’s a 12-week plan you can follow if you wanna, what I would run for boot camp. So you can actually go and do that yourself. So, there’s a number of different things on there that not only are sort of allocated to different groups, but it sort of can be beneficial to a lot of different people.

18:11 JR: Unreal. So, it sounds like an incredible app and I have downloaded it, looking forward to testing it out. If anyone wants to get it, then head along to the pegeek.com/fitbreak and that’ll redirect you to the store where you can… To get it on your device. Now I know it’s currently priced a bit cheaper than it normally will, so I reckon’ go and get it as quickly as you can before it gets a little bit more expensive. But, it’s a tremendous resource. And this sort of brings us towards the end of our podcast today, Dale. But I did wanna mention, that you’re involved in the ConnectedPE conference in Dubai in October this year.

18:51 DS: Yes.

18:53 JR: And what could we expect from your sessions at the ConnectedPE conference?

18:58 DS: Yeah. Well, I’m really excited and I suppose one of the main areas of FitBreak, which I’m gonna really be going into, is the section of games. So, I’ve designed 30 different games around like Monopoly Fitness, Mario Kart, Deal or No Deal, Who Wants to be a Fitnessaire, they go on and on and on. So, all these games are made into resources. And I’m basically going to run through a number of those, how to use mini sessions, how to engage students. I’ll show you some of my musical workouts. And also, I’ve been working lately on literacy and numeracy fitness. So, different ways teachers can incorporate fitness into their literacy and numeracy lessons. I’ve got a 90 minute master class each day. And I’m going to try and jam pack it full of all the exciting things I’m doing, Jarrod.

19:47 JR: Yeah, awesome. Really look forward to it. Now if you’d like to head along to the ConnectedPE conference, then head over to connectedpe.com. And you can also join the ConnectedPE community by heading along to connectedpe/join. And in it, you actually will find a webinar that we did with Dale back in December of 2015, where he sort of did a snapshot look at what he’s gonna be doing in the conference and gave away a number of resources that I know people are using in their classrooms and loving. So, thanks again Dale. It’s been a real pleasure to have you on the show and where can people find out more if they wanna follow your stuff?

20:25 DS: Yeah. So basically, one of my biggest sort of following is through Twitter. So if you follow me, my handle is @dalesidebottom. That’s all one word. Or if you want to go check out my apps and eBooks, you can go to breakappz.com. And that’s apps with a zed, not an S, little bit funky there. That’s probably where you’ll find… There’s a lot of free content on there as well with my blogs, also my resources I already give away. So go on there, check it out, and hopefully you enjoy some of our resources and you can come see me in Dubai. I’m really looking forward to it Jarrod.

20:54 JR: Yeah, absolutely man. We’ll speak soon.

20:58 DS: Thank you buddy.

20:58 JR: Cheers.

20:58 DS: See ya.


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