Episode 55 – Navigating the Journey with Andy Milne

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast, I speak with none other than Andy Milne, a British-born Physical Education & Health Teacher, who’s career has taken him from London to Chicago via Auckland, Athens, Barcelona & Cairo. Andy is an incredibly deep thinker who has been using technology exceptionally well in his practice for many years. Grab a cup of tea and sit back as Andy drops a tonne of value on this episode.

Resources and links mentioned in the episode include;

  1. iMovie, iBooks Author, Garageband
  2. BaM Video Delay
  3. Stitcher App #PhysED podcasts such as Shape America, Voxcast
  4. Other Podcasts such as TED Talks, This American Life, Snap Judgment, Combat Jack Show
  5. Follow Andy on Twitter
  6. Andys Blog  slowchathealth.com

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


00:31 Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of The PE Geek Podcast, and as always, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. Now these are my favourite episodes, the ones where I bring on other people, other physical education experts from around the globe and none other than Andy Milne joining us today on the show. How are you, Andy?

00:51 Andy Milne: I’m very, very excited to be here, thank you.

00:53 JR: Very good. Now I’m gonna start by saying, “What time is it where you are right now?”

00:58 AM: Okay, so right now it’s 5:00 AM in the morning. The rest of the family are asleep. And true to stereotypes, I’ve got a fresh cup of tea next to me, so I’m locked and loaded, and ready to roll.

01:09 JR: Yeah, so where’s home for you right now? ‘Cause I know that you had a very spread out teaching career across the planet. But where do you teach at the present?

01:18 AM: Okay, so right now, I’m teaching in Illinois. I’m in the North West suburbs of Chicago in an absolutely fantastic school. As you said, my career has taken me kind of around the world, I guess. I did start in London way back in the day, and taught in three different schools in London, originally finishing up in a very, very prestigious all boys private school. For those people who can imagine British schools, imagine Hogwarts, and it’s not far off of that. And then I bumped into an American girl in a bar in London, and one thing led to another, and I quit the dream job and sold the house and moved over to America and started all over again. And three schools later, I’m now in a school where I tell my students, “I’ll be there when their kids come through the door because I don’t plan on leaving.” It’s a fantastic environment in which to work.

02:16 JR: Yeah. Doesn’t that say a lot about good schools? When you get into them, there’s this absolute desire not to leave. And that’s the same for the school that I happen to work in. And I know that I’ve got a few friends who are colleagues that I went to the university and so on with who have been moving back and forth between all sorts of different schools. And I, yeah, I just haven’t had that experience yet, knowing that the school I’m in is where I definitely wanna be. So for you, you’ve had a very big checkered past of different schools, and so forth. Along the way, where did this sort of interest in technology arise?

02:53 AM: Well, the technology thing, there was an interest in technology when I was training to become a PE Teacher, but that was in the mid-90s. And I remember a good friend of mine taking up their technology elective, and I think they were using 2 Mega-pixel cameras at the time, taking pictures of kids working out and making flashcards. And that was consider… That and a laminater, and that was considered technology.

03:18 JR: Of course.

03:20 AM: But it wasn’t until I made the move to America, and I was in my first real school here in the States, and day one there was an in-service, and a guy came in and talked about tech that was booming in education. And there wasn’t much I can remember from his presentation, but he did give us a two-sided piece of paper, and it just listed tech websites and tech resources that we might like to check out that were specific to our subject area. So I took that back to my desk, and your details were one of those on there, and it must’ve been in one of the early days when your blog and your website was flourishing, in those early days. And I know you talk about how you look back now, and you can’t believe some of the materials that you put out, but that was a real motivator for me. And whenever I had downtime, I went back to that list, and I went back to your website, and just looked at what you were doing, and worked out how could I implement that in my setup? And at the school I was at, the only piece of technology was my laptop at the front of the classroom, and my iPhone in my pocket, and my Mac at home. So in a way I was blessed that I didn’t have many resources because it forced me to think a little bit more and how could I get the students involved?

04:32 AM: So through that, I started investigating into podcasts, that I still do today. We had a class blog on BlogSpot, and we played around with a few different things. And I think I’ll attribute all of my tech work that I did in those three years to then getting this dream job that I have now. And so when it came to applying and talking about my strengths, I was able to send a letter of application that had a ton of live links on there. And the head of department even now says that it came into his inbox, and he didn’t know what to do with it. So he bounced it to Andy Horne, who I work alongside, and he was the tech guru in the department. And he was the one who sat down with all of those live links, and was able to look at some of my online work, and then said to the boss, “Okay, I think we need to call this guy in for an interview.” So technology has definitely got me where I am today.

05:24 JR: Isn’t that amazing? And I think you made a really good point at the beginning there about being in a school that was low-resourced, and sort of using that as a means to think bigger and more creatively about the situations. How have you found that as a difference to where you are now?


05:44 AM: That’s a really good point because we could be described as well-resourced. And I think I still lean back towards the things that I know, and the things that I feel most comfortable with. I’ve now been podcasting since… Gosh ’08.

06:01 AM: So that’s quite awhile now so I think my podcasting and my iMovie work is something that I feel very comfortable with so it’s easy to go back to what you know. At the same point because cost isn’t really an issue, I am encouraged to try anything new and I will. I’ll try anything new and I’m sure you’re gonna ask me what have I tried in the past that’s failed. It really doesn’t matter. I’ll try anything, see if it makes my teaching better. If it helps the students and if it works I’ll implement it and if it doesn’t I won’t. And something’s gotta be very good for me to have to bump things like iBooks Author, GarageBand, iMovie, off of my go to list of resources.

06:45 JR: For sure. I feel the same I mean I don’t see any problem with the failure that can arise from attempting something new and I think there’s lessons in that and learning is very messy I always say. That’s the same for teachers, we’re just the same as students I think. We’re learners. You mentioned your couple of go to tools there, iMovie and so forth.

07:09 AM: Yeah.

07:09 JR: What would be a typical sort of activity that you might use them for?

07:14 AM: Okay. So, the first real school I ended up here in the States we didn’t have textbooks in the classroom and again I saw that very much as a positive. I know there’s that real hashtag ditch book momentum that’s been going around, out there online, encouraging teachers to create their own materials. So, I was able to start a curriculum from scratch and started playing around with iBook Author. So I now make my own textbooks that are very interactive, which means that the resources that I’ve put and the links that I’ve put into my books are very specific to my cohort students. When we talk about… ‘Cause as you know I’ve very much a health teacher, now more so than a PE teacher, if I’m talking about drug use, the facts and figures that I put in my books aren’t drug use figures for America, they’re drug use figures for my high school, for my local community as well. All of my materials are extremely specific to the wants and the needs of my kids and all the resources that I put in the back and the websites that they wanna check out and the hot lines they need to call, are all within our building or within our community.

08:23 AM: So, when it comes to health, often, the iBook gets opened up on our student’s iPads, we’re a one to one iPad school and we have been for a few years now. We’ll work through that and then I’ll give students the opportunity to explore some of the links and go off. Perhaps do some project based learning. I’ve been very successful with two projects. One on goal setting where I wrote an iBook. It was 10 weeks worth of material and we worked through it. And students set a health goal, worked towards it and achieved it. And then the following semester I did one on advocacy. Where we identified areas within our school building where kids were hurting when it came to things like thoughts of stress and depression and suicide. And again, students chose a topic that resonated with them. And over 10 weeks they explored, it gave them voice, it gave them choice and they worked towards an advocacy topic and an advocacy campaign that raised awareness among the student population.

09:23 AM: So, I love iBook Author and the way in which it takes me no time at all to put extended links in there and 99% of the students might not look to those links. But the 1% who’s truly passionate about that topic can just continue to explore and take their learning off in the direction that suits them.

09:41 JR: It’s more organic too because like you said you’re using content that’s relevant to them in their particular area as opposed to some expensive textbook which is, has been prescribed based on a sort of top down level. I think it’s incredible it really is. IMovies as well? How does that sort of fit in into it are they going into iBooks or is this for a different project or together?

10:04 AM: No we… I can get students to make iBook, iMovies… For example, they may make an advocacy public service announcement. Write a script, do the research, look directly at the camera, record the video and then we’ll show it to the rest of the class. When we look at fitness, we’ll go down into the field house and the big assessment that we have is students have to show what they know through an iMovie. So it’s four groups. They’ll show their workout, they’ll talk about what it is they’ve done, they’ll name the muscles. They’ll talk about the theory and then they’ll chop that together. What I then do is book out a large room in our school that has a giant screen, I have a little ballot form, we come in and we have a mini Oscars. So the groups get up and they’ll present their video. I’ve also done split screen where I’ve done a back channel on the other side of the screen so while we’re watching the movie live you’ve got students typing as fast as they can to give feedback to the kids who are watching their own movie. And then we have the little Oscar ballots and I’ve bought mini Oscar trophies online. And every semester I award Oscar trophies to the winners and that becomes quite a powerful motivator as well.

11:20 JR: For sure and I’m just thinking like that concept of an Oscars award ceremony applies to so many different things you could use video for. Like it could be a gymnastics routine or whatever. The students are creating video? This extrinsic idea becomes really quite impressive. You’re a one to one school, the students obviously have their devices, what’s been some of the biggest challenges around that in the school setting?

11:49 AM: What is funny is that… So it’s 4,000 kids within our two schools that we have split up in campuses. And every child has an iPad. Many kids aren’t as big a fan of the iPads as I thought they would be. I’m an iPad super user, I try and use it in every class when appropriate, but I know that at the same time there’s teachers in the building who will probably ask kids to turn them off and put them under their desk and dig out the text book. And again that’s fine as long as the learning goes on and trust me it does go on in my school, it’s very, very good. So sometimes attitude, sometimes it’s just poor preparation from the students, “I forgot to charge my iPad.” So you try and make sure that you’ve got spare cables in the rooms. We haven’t got round to having a charging station in every room yet but I believe that that’s coming.

12:38 AM: And then of course there was the occasion when my boss came in to observe me teach and I had this amazing lesson set up with the iPads and they’d go to links and they did work on a shared Google doc and of course the WiFi went down. Now I guess in previous schools I probably would have panicked a bit and we’d have fussed a way around it but because I work in a well resourced school, a kid pops up his iPhone and sets up his own little hot spot and says “Alright everyone jump onto my hot spot we’re ready to roll.” And then we just carried on working so lesson learned.

13:12 JR: Yeah absolutely. I’m sure that’s probably not the only thing that’s happened in your classroom around using tech and so forth?

13:22 AM: Well yeah there’s also the big learning lessons that happen when students misuse technology. That temptation is there and I think it would be unfair to expect kids not to push the boundaries and the limits. And I guess, as you know there’s two ways in which we have approached technology in the past, one is when you see those signs as you walk into the class that says no cell phones here with a big circle and a line through it. Tech is not to be used in this room. Or you give the students the guidelines, you let them use it and when they cross those guidelines, obviously that becomes a learning experience and students get punished but everybody learns from that and it happens, it will continue to happen. Students aren’t a finished article right now, they’re young, they’re learning we don’t get… That’s the sad part of teaching sometimes is we don’t get to see the finished article. We see these kids, they come through our door, we work with them and they look at these shinning lights and then we loose them at 18, and then you just hope and you can now I guess with the power of social media, you hope that one day they’ll come back and they’ll show you what they’ve become.

14:30 JR: Yeah absolutely. I think you touched on a pretty good point there about how schools have approached this whole digital tools and so forth and I think having them in the class is a real world case study. When they get out in the real world, they’re gonna have them, they need to know how to use them appropriately because let’s be honest if they’re banned, they’re being used secretly, that’s the truth. And there’s no lesson that can be learnt there so I would much rather have a framework up that guides appropriate use than bans and discourages and puts them under the mainstream, which I see in so many cases and it just doesn’t work. I’m really happy that we touched on that. You’ve got these one to one iPads, obviously they’re being used in some classes more than others and when the learning dictates it which I think is best practice. What about in the PE practical setting, what sort of things are they doing with them in there, is it still just the iBooks and so on or is there any other apps or so forth that you’ve enjoyed?

15:41 AM: Really at this point is where I need to call upon my good buddy Andy Horne and ask what he’s doing. Andy takes the tech to another level as well. I know that in his PE lessons he’s definitely been using Ban Delay recently.

15:55 JR: [15:55] ____.

15:57 AM: Yeah obviously. And I think that’s the most likely use of tech that I have that I think involves real learning, it’s just the video of performance and then the opportunity to sit down and analyse performance. And again I know that there is an old school thought amongst old PE teachers that will say you’re taking away from the activity time from the students and I think that that’s the wrong way to look at it. Obviously there’s learning going on, the opportunity to analyse your performance and give yourself that feedback and then to not only improve your own performance but that of those around you as well I think is crucial. So that really is my go to when it comes to the PE setting is just the video analysis.

16:42 JR: For sure. I think there’s hidden value in helping others and I remember video for me being so motivational when I was 13, 14 just seeing a long jump of myself on this old video camera inspired me to do so much practice and training and I think there’s a hidden quality in there that learning aside, it’s motivational and I think there’s many reasons to pursue it. So I know you’re a big podcast fan, having your own and so forth. Do you happen to listen to any other podcast in your professional development outside school hours?

17:22 AM: Absolutely. I’m glad you brought that up really, ’cause I know that you have a long commute to work and I do to, it’s 70 minutes in each direction and that’s 70 minutes of my time so yeah, I’m a big podcast user. I used to be a big fan of Stitcher, that’s the Stitcher app, but now I’ve transitioned back to the generic one that comes with the iPhone. Your one is great. I’ll listen to things like the TED talks, this American Life, anything from the BBC. From the BBC food show, to the BBC Country files, anything that takes me back, and reminds me of being in England. My journey to America has been outstanding but the BBC put out some fantastic content. And then recently, I’ve been moving away from PE and health-specific podcasts because I wanna know more now. So I’ve been checking out, I’m actually pulling out my phone right now. [chuckle] Snap Judgement and The Combat Jack Show, are two podcasts that really deal with diversity and inequity. I’ve got here Curious Minds, Serial. Obviously, we’re all big Serial fans. Certainly season one, I think, season two… Season two, I’m not so sure.

18:48 JR: Not so good.

18:49 AM: Not so good. Matt Pomeroy and Collin Brooks put out the SHAPE America podcast and I’m hoping to be a part of that in the future. There’s Jorge Rodriguez and his whole team, they put together the Voxcast. Here’s a really good one from the ASCD, The Whole Child Podcast, a very good educational podcast so we’ll talk about pedagogy. There was a time when I would listen to audio books to and from school but recently, I think podcasting has really blossomed and really bloomed. I think technology has helped. I think people’s confidence has increased. And we’ve now realized just how easy it is. I was making podcasts with one phone and a Mac and you can put out really good quality work. So 70 minutes to school, I’m listening to a couple of podcasts there, a couple of podcasts back. I’m learning without realising.

19:40 JR: Absolutely. I was absolutely a testament to how simply they are to consume and… Once a upon a time, there’s a lot of friction around how you would get it from the internet and get it on to your device but that sort of disappeared now.

19:55 AM: Yeah.

19:55 JR: And you’re just seeing this explosion in creativity of people in this space… Serial was great and big, it sort of took it to a new level. But if you’re listening, and this is the only podcast you listen to, there’s so much out there. Go and hit that search box and type in some of the names. Or head along to this, the show notes for this particular episode and we’ll have links to the different things that were mentioned, but… Yeah, I’ll leave it at there. I think, Andy, that’s been absolutely incredible episode…


20:25 JR: Full of lots of different things right back from your early days with tech use, all the way up to how you stay current with their professional development online. So, where can people find out more about you if they wanted to catch up with your journeys and so forth?

20:40 AM: Okay, you can find me on Twitter at tweet as carmelhealth. I used to teach a school called Carmel and I think I owe something to them so I’ll always keep that as part of my social media presence… I’m carmelhealth. I also have a couple of blogs, slowchathealth.com is one that I’ve been going with the last six to eight months, inspired by Justin Schleider. I have a blog post once a week and I post out daily questions so you’ll find that with the #slowchathealth. And then I have another blog that I share with Andy Horne called tools2engage, that’s the number 2, tools2engage.wordpress.com. You can find me on Voxer. I’m either… If you want me you’ll be able to find me.

21:24 JR: Yeah, perfect. All the links for those blogs and so forth will be in the show notes so just look below or if you’re on the phone, click through any of the links and you’ll be able to catch up with Andy. So, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it [chuckle] getting up at 5:00 AM to come on to the episode and I’ll look forward to speaking with you soon.

21:43 AM: Yeah, you take care, mate.

21:45 JR: Appreciate it. See you, mate.

21:46 AM: Bye.



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