In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast, we chat with none other than Nathan Horne of www.iphys-ed.com, as he shares his journey using Technology in his PhysED practice. Nathan also discusses his brilliant framework, the 4c’s which help him categorise the tech tools he uses into more meaningful buckets.
Resources shared throughout the episode include
Press Play to listen below. Alternatively, download a full episode transcript here
00:29 Jarrod Robinson: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Episode number 59 of The PE Geek Podcast. And as always, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. Now, I’m really excited today to welcome a good friend of mine, and a real contributor to the physical education community online, none other than Nathan Horne of iPhys-Ed. How are you, Nathan?
00:50 Nathan Horne: Good, Jarrod. Thanks very much. I’m very happy to be here.
00:53 JR: Yeah. I feel like it’s been a long time coming. We have known each other for a number of years now, and you have a podcast, and I have a podcast. And I felt like at some stage, we were gonna get together and do something like this. So, I really appreciate you spending your time here today. Paint a picture of where you are right now.
01:12 NH: Right now, I’m sitting in my office at my school in Singapore, ISS International School. Just on a free lesson right now. So, and yeah, you asked me if I was happy to do it, and of course I was happy to do it. And I think you’ve been such a big help to me, and a support to me, and somebody that I’ve sort of really gone to for a lot of help over the years, so I’m more than happy to help you out and then be on this podcast.
01:39 JR: Well, it’s yeah, absolutely a pleasure. And I love the stuff that you’re doing. So I wanted to get you on here to sort of talk through your journey with using technology in your program. But more specifically, even talk about just your journey in teaching in general. And I’ve heard your story a lot, but for those people that haven’t heard it, where did you grow up? And how did you end up getting to Singapore?
02:01 NH: Yeah. So I guess, I’m Australian, obviously, if you can’t tell by the accent. I’m from Tasmania, originally. I grew up in Hobart, and then sort of went to… I went to university in Tasmania as well, the University of Tasmania, where I studied Bachelor of Human Movement, so which at the time sort of was… There were three options there. You could either go down a Sports Science route, a Sports Management route, or a PE route. And I was very keen to do Sports Science, and then realized that one, the science was too difficult, and that there weren’t that many jobs available in Sports Science in Australia. And sort of did a couple of teaching practice, and realized that I really loved it. So, got into teaching that way. And then, similar sort of situation in Tasmania, there weren’t a lot of teaching jobs available when I graduated. So there was a company I think that came into the university actually, just before I graduated, and were talking about going to the UK and being a relief teacher or a supply teacher there. And so, me and three of my friends decided that we were gonna up and go to the UK. And so, we went and did that, did some relief teaching there, and then caught the travel bug, and ended up going from the UK to Cambodia, from Cambodia to Italy, and now from Italy to Singapore. And I’ve been here for… This is my fourth year, I think now in Singapore.
03:32 NH: So, yeah. Lots of different experiences, different places, teaching different things. But it’s been a bit of an adventure, but it’s been a good one.
03:40 JR: I think it’s really impressive that teaching can do this for you. So, it’s a job that is needed everywhere, and you can tie up your own interests with a travel, and the job that you have skills in, and sort of make it all work well together, which I think is amazing. I commonly meet teachers who have just been around in the international circuit and gone to lots of countries. What sort of insights do you reckon you get from that? Do you feel like you’ve got a different perspective of the global education landscape because of the fact that you’ve worked in so many places?
04:15 NH: Yeah, definitely. I think especially coming from Tasmania, which is a small place, and can be quite insular in terms of the way that people think, or the way that people view certain things. So, sort of like, I think you’d find a lot of young Tasmanians, whether they’re in education or whether they’re in any field, tend to get out. And whether that’s just going to Melbourne, or going overseas, there’s that sort of drain of young people wanting to get out and experience something different. So I think being able to sort of go further afield than just go to the mainland, was definitely a big thing for me, and it really opened my eyes up. I remember going to the UK and thinking like, “Alright, this is gonna be pretty similar to Australia.” And then getting there and realising that it was very different. And especially the schools, schools were extremely divergent to what schools were like in Australia. And so, it was this… Yeah, there’s almost this culture shock, but I think having taught in a lot of different countries and a lot of different areas… I didn’t teach PE in the first four years that I was a teacher, I didn’t teach any PE. So coming from having a PE degree, to not teaching PE was a culture shock.
05:39 NH: But I learned a lot about education, a lot about myself, a lot about kids through doing that. And so, then when I came back to PE, when I went to Italy, it was sort of like that passion was back again, and just being able to interact with kids from… The school I’m at right now, we’ve got about 300 kids in elementary school, and there’s 50 something nationalities. So just getting all those different experiences in different backgrounds. You talk about developing kids physical literacy and stuff like that, so many different culture of thinking around the value of PE and the value of sport, and the value of movement coming from so many different backgrounds. Yeah, it’s been really valuable.
06:21 JR: Alright. Well, what about the similarities? What sort of similarities have there been with some of the schools? There’s obviously some differences, cultural and all sorts of things. But have you seen any themes that appear, whether that’s in a PE context, or whether that’s in just a general education setting at all?
06:39 NH: Yeah, I think at the end of the day a school is a school, and the structures and the things that are in place within a school are gonna be pretty similar wherever you go. I think kids, especially in the sort of primary or elementary years, no matter where I’ve been in any of those countries, have always been the same. Very excited to be moving, very excited to be active and playing. And just that joy of movement and joy of being able to be active is always there. I think nearly everywhere I’ve gone there’s been sort of… You face challenges based around the way that schools work, and whether that’s challenges, be it the resources, or technology, or just sort of the environment that you’re in, they’re always going to be there. But I think, yeah, as much as there’s a difference, I could walk into any of the schools that I’ve worked in and sort of still feel like I was doing the same job, and the way that I feel about education doesn’t really change based on where I am.
07:47 JR: Awesome. Yeah. It’s good to hear. I think the same thing. I work with teachers in lots of schools, and you do see similarities and same issues and challenges probably more so in that area, like the common themes of things that people struggle with seem to be global. And then there’s also common things that people strive and get success with. So, I’m glad that you sort of mentioned that as well. You landed in Singapore, and at that stage, you were starting to teach Phys Ed, I’m assuming around about that time. And then somehow, you got connected to the internet and then therefore, the social networks in Phys Ed. How did that all happen?
08:27 NH: Yeah. I think probably my first… So when I was in Italy before I was in Singapore, it was the first time that I was teaching PE full-time. And I was there for two years. And sort of the second year I was there, the school actually… The school’s got one iPad for the whole school. And I remember thinking, “Oh. I’d like to use that.” ‘Cause nobody else was using it. I sort of took it and used it a bit. I had to sign it out. And so that was probably the first time that I’ve used technology, and it was around the same time that somebody suggested that I get on Twitter. And so, I did that as well and found it really not useful at all, most probably used it…
09:08 JR: My first ever use is the same thing.
09:12 NH: Yeah. I think I used it for two weeks, and then realized that… I was like “What is this? I don’t get it.” And then I went away from it, and then it took encouragement again from somebody else to say, “No, stick with it.” And then sort of followed the right people, and started the conversations. And I think you were one of the people that I probably connected with at that point ’cause I saw what you were doing. It was, I think, you and Andy pretty early on, and then Joey, were probably three of the first three people that I connected with, and it’s really interesting because now, probably, the three of you are the three people that I have the strongest connection with, and continue to connect with. So it’s sort of come full circle in that sense. Yeah, that was my first experience with technology. And then when I moved to Singapore, there was more of a focus on technology at the school, where one… Well, I think from grade five up, we were a one-to-one max school, and then there’s iPads and other laptops available for the younger kids. So there was immediately that focus and I had an iPad for me and then I was like I would get some iPads for the class. And I started blogging for the school. So I had the school blog which I assessed, iphys-ed.weebly.com. And then once I saw how easy it was to blog, I thought “Oh, I’d I’d like to start my own blog so I can reflect on what I’m doing, as a professional.”
10:35 NH: So I started iphys-ed.com, and it sort of just went from there. And it’s just been this sort of exponential growth from there of looking at different ways to do things and ways to make things easier.
10:46 JR: Perfect. And your website, iphys-ed, is one of the only sites that I personally continue to read. I find everything you do there really valuable. And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head for me as well, about why I continue to write mine. And it’s very therapeutic in many ways. You’ve got to put your ideas on the table, and people may not agree with everything you say, but it creates this discussion and dialogue, and it definitely helps the person who’s writing it grow. Have you found the same sort of thing?
11:17 NH: Oh yeah, definitely. Just even last week, like I know that this episode is gonna go to air a little bit later, but there’s the video that has been going around on Facebook of the Tic Tac Toe Relay. It’s been viewed 25 million times. It’s a fantastic game, it’s awesome. As soon as I saw it, I was “That’s a fantastic game.” And then all of a sudden, I just got this thought in my head that I couldn’t get rid off, when I saw people just re-tweeting it and putting, “Oh, here’s what I did in my class. I did it, I played this game almost the next day.” And I just couldn’t get rid of this thought that I had, and it was literally 9:00 PM on a Tuesday night and I was, “Right, I’ve got to write this down, otherwise I’m gonna forget it.” And an hour later, I had a blog post about using phys ed with a purpose, because in my mind I was thinking, “It’s a great game, but what did people have planned to do in their lesson that they just threw away because they saw this game on Facebook?” And the whole idea of that we shouldn’t just have this collection of games that we turn up and roll out our collection of games and say, “Okay, we’re gonna play this game today, then we’re gonna play this game later.” There needs to be a purpose behind what people are doing. And I wanted people to think about that purpose of, “Well, if you’re gonna play that game, why are you gonna play it? How is it helping your kids, how is it connected to what you’re learning about at the moment?”
12:46 NH: And I knew writing it, that people were going to have maybe a different opinion than me, but I wanted to have that conversation with people. And it’s been really interesting, because a lot of people have replied and shared their thoughts, both agreeing and disagreeing. And it’s helped me to understand my feelings better, and I think it’s helped other people to sort of reflect on what they’re doing as well. So I think you’re right, I started the website as a thing for me to be able to reflect on what I was doing. And if it helps other people to reflect on what they’re doing as well, then I think that that’s great, but that’s not the reason that I started it.
13:22 JR: Yeah, tremendous. And I think if you go back and look at your earliest posts… I’ve done this exercise numerous times and read how my thoughts were then, and how they’ve sort evolved now, and you can definitely see change. So people maybe get this whole idea that when they start blogging, they’ve gotta have this website where heaps of people come to it and whatever. Most of the time, it’s not even for that, it’s literally for your own benefit, and I encourage anyone to get started. You can do it so easy these days, with websites like Weebly, or a WordPress site, and you can be away with your thoughts. So, I think that’s fantastic. And I know that I’ve seen some really impressive content around technology on your site over the years. And one of the things that I would like you to share and talk more about is the four Cs, the concept that you use to sort of explain how and why technology is valuable for your class?
14:17 NH: Yeah, for sure. I think, I know I’ll start by prefacing it by saying that I was one of those teachers when I first started, like I mentioned, having an iPad and stuff. That was very much all about the app and, “What app am I gonna use next?” And I’d find these apps that were PE-related, and I would be like, “Great. I’m gonna use that in my class tomorrow.” And that goes with what I was saying before. I wasn’t really thinking about the purpose behind why I was using it, I was just using it because it was something that was cool. So, my thinking has definitely changed. And like you said, if you go back and look at some of the early posts that I had on the website, it was definitely based around, “Oh, check out this cool app that I found. And the four Cs came out of that, as my thinking was changing. I was thinking about, “Well, if I’m gonna use this technology, which is great, and there are fantastic tools out there to use, how am I gonna use it in a way that’s gonna be really effective for me as a teacher, to make things easier for me, also to help me to make things easier for my kids, or to give them the opportunity to be able to do things.” So I sort of came up with these four Cs. It was the three Cs for the longest time, I couldn’t think of the fourth C. So I had three Cs and something else, another letter, and then I finally thought of another C word.
15:25 NH: So my four Cs that I sort of came up with was create, collect, celebrate and connect. So, they sort of all fit together, and work together to make the way that I use technology in PE more meaningful for me, and more meaningful for my students.
15:44 JR: Awesome. So, I’m assuming that when you look at a tool, then they’re under that four C framework, if you like. And if they help do any of those things, then they could potentially be a tool that might get introduced somewhere along the line, if they bring about the right result for your students.
16:03 NH: Yeah, definitely. I definitely think now not about the tool, but about the outcome. What do I want the outcome to be, first? And then if there’s a tool that’s gonna help me to do that, then I’ll sort of explore that and see whether its gonna be the best way to do it. Because often, you can spend a lot of time using technology to get you to a certain point when there may have been a better way to do it without technology. And sometimes we get caught up in saying, “Oh, well, I have to use it if I’ve got it.” but just thinking about what’s best for the kids? What’s gonna be the easiest for them to be able to demonstrate their learning, or be able to get from where they need to be to where they’re going? So if an app or a tool fits into one of those four things, or helps me to get the kids from point A to point B, then I’ll definitely use it. And if it’s a creation thing, is there a tool that’s gonna help them to be able to create content within PE? So if I’m looking for them to create a… Like I’m doing a fitness unit right know, if I want them to create a workout, rather than just have them draw little stick men which they’re very good at, but it doesn’t really show exactly what the movement might be, if they’re trying to show me star jumps or push-ups or something. I’ve been getting them to use the iPads, and they’ve been making little videos or GIFs of them doing the workout.
17:36 NH: So the GIFs are great, because I just repeat. So anybody can watch that, and see that movement over, and over, and over again, and they know exactly what to do. So that might be an example of a tool that’s helped them with the creation of content; rather than just drawing on a piece of paper, they’re actually able to film it and then it becomes something that is a valuable resource, not only for them, but it can be shared with other people as well.
18:00 JR: Absolutely. So the creation part, absolutely is super important in the PE space. I like the fact that the creation stuff sits at the top of that Bloom’s taxonomy, so if you’re creating content, then you’ve gotta be hopefully doing all the other parts that fit underneath it. Analysing it, etcetera. So I think creation’s massive. And you mention three other Cs. One of those was celebration. So what sort of tools do you use to celebrate some of the things that take place in your school?
18:30 NH: Yeah. Well, like I mentioned earlier, that we have a blog for the PE program here at the school, so a lot of the stuff is pushed out on that. So that’s a way for us to be able to celebrate what’s happening in less than…
18:42 JR: So to parent bodies and so on?
18:45 NH: Yeah, we’re all really lucky here at school, that all our kids have signed forms that say their photographs and stuff can be shared online. So it’s completely open, anyone who can go to the blog can access it. But yeah, definitely it’s for parents, and for the kids as well, they love to see videos and photos and stuff of themselves online. So that’s one way we sort of celebrate. The other way is through social media channels, so we’ve got the Twitter account as well, so things get tweeted out. And I’ve actually sorta connected those too right now, so a lot of the stuff that goes out on the blog is actually just coming straight from the Twitter account. Kids all have portfolios, electronic portfolios, from grade two to grade five.
19:29 JR: And that’s for all subjects areas, I’m assuming, or is it just for phys ed?
19:33 NH: Yes, they have one electronic portfolio, it’s for all the subject areas, and within that they have a page that is specific to PE. So we’re putting a lot of their stuff in there so they can use that to sort of show parents, and especially grandparents and people who are… Like a lot of the people here are not from Singapore, but they want to sort of share with their family and friends back in their home countries, so that’s a perfect way to do that.
20:00 JR: Yeah, absolutely, so there’s two of the four Cs. Which C would you like to cover next, and talk about how you might…
20:05 NH: Well, I think talking about celebrating, I can tell you about portfolios and stuff. One of the big challenges I think in education with evidence is collecting it. How we’re gonna collect hundreds of kids’ worth of evidence, of photos, videos, work, stuff like that? So the other C that I’ve looked at is collecting, and I’ve used a variety of different ways of doing it. And I sort of have a system now which works for me, and might not work for everyone. But I think that Cloud services definitely are the way to go with that. I use Google Drive right now. I have used in the past, Dropbox, Evernote, things like that. But I’ve found we’re a Google Apps school, so that works really well, all the kids have Google Apps accounts. So, I use Google Drive, and I use an add-on. So Doctopus or, I think it was called gClassFolders, I don’t know if it’s called that anymore. But basically, I have a spreadsheet that I set up at the start of the year with all the kids and their classes, and I run the add-on through Drive, and it creates folders for every kid in every class, that is shared with them, and is shared with me, and shared with their class teacher. So any time that we’re doing anything in PE, using any of the devices, they can just automatically save any photographs or videos, or anything like that into their folder, and it’s then accessible to them, to me, to their classroom teacher at any time that they want.
21:41 NH: And then they can take that sort of stuff, and transfer that across into their portfolio. So rather than walking around with a binder full of photographs that I’ve printed out, it’s all there, and I have four years’ worth of student learning evidence in Google Drive right now.
21:58 JR: Amazing, and I think you touched on a really important point, which comes back to one of your previous points as well, about the collection and using Google Drive, that works for you. And the point here is that it’s about how you collect, it’s not necessarily about the tool that you choose to do that with. You’re getting the outcome with one tool, and someone else can get the exact same outcome in terms of collection with another tool. So it really sort of hones in on that message that you made earlier. The final C in connection, I’m assuming that’s something that you take quite seriously as well?
22:30 NH: Yeah definitely, and I think connection, it could be as connecting with me, as the teacher, connecting with other teachers, or it could be the kids connecting with other kids. I think my first thought about it is me connecting with other PE teachers, because often teachers are in situations where they’re in a department where it may only just be them, so they don’t get to have those rich conversations with people all the time about reflecting on what they’re doing, or sort of bouncing ideas off each other. So being able to connect with other teachers in other schools in similar situations, or in different situations, enables you to be able to think, have those conversations, even though you’re not in the same room. So that’s sorta one part of it. The other part of it is the kids, we’ve had some really great connections between schools, both here in Singapore and overseas. The thing that jumps to mind, immediately, is the BURP It On challenge, out of Deseronto in Canada. That started with a tweet between two teachers, that ended up with kids connecting with each other and physical activity. So we’re not limited in a way that we live anymore, that we’re stuck in our own little corner of the world. We can be anywhere, any time, right now with the technology that exists. So, our kids have access to that, and they use it in their own way outside of school, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t use it in school as well.
23:57 JR: For sure, and wrap good teaching around all those four Cs, and you can have some major impact. So yeah, I really appreciate you sharing the framework that sort of guides why you use technology, and how you best get results from it. How would people connect with you further, if they wanted to learn more from you and catch up with the stuff that you’re doing?
24:16 NH: Yeah definitely, there’s obviously the website, iphys-ed.com. You can go there and a lot of the stuff I’ve talked about is there. Like you said, I’ve blogged about it and there’s resources and stuff there. They connect with me on Twitter @PENathan, you can drop me an email or my contact details are on the website, so probably the website’s the best place to go and do that. And yeah, definitely, I’m more than happy to sort of connect with people. And I’ve had a lot of people like yourself help me out over the years, and I’m happy to help anybody that needs help and is looking for ideas around sort of making their PE programs more purposeful, and more meaningful, and if they’re using technology, helping them do that. So yeah.
24:58 JR: Excellent, I really appreciate it. And I wanna mention that you’re also a master class leader and keynote speaker at the upcoming ConnectedPE Conference. So if you wanna catch up with Nathan and join his master class sessions, then you can head along to connectedpe.com and find out more about that, including where that’s all happening and taking place. Do you wanna give a brief overview of what you might be looking at during that keynote, and so forth?
25:23 NH: Yeah, definitely. I’m definitely looking forward to getting to ConnectedPE. Yeah, it’s in Dubai, I haven’t been to Dubai before, so that’s exciting as well, to sort of get there and see what that’s all about. Probably gonna be looking a lot at sort of like I talked about, like Physical Education with a purpose, and looking at learning outcomes, and how we break down learning outcomes, and how we assess for that learning. So if we want kids to be able to demonstrate certain things, how can we assess them against that? A little bit of technology stuff, and how that sort of feeds into it. But just looking at PE is something that’s more than just collection of games, and how we can make it actually meaningful so that students can develop their physical literacy and become active and healthy adults.
26:11 JR: Awesome, couldn’t have said it better. That’s something that I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing in the program. And if you have any questions, then feel free to leave them below. For a full episode transcript, you can head along to thepegeek.com/59 as in episode 59. And I really wanna thank you Nathan for taking the time out of your day, just stop on in and share a little bit about your journey using tech in PE.
26:37 NH: No, I’m more than welcome to do it any time, mate. It’s a pleasure to speak with you.
26:41 JR: Awesome. Well, speak to you mate, see you.
26:44 NH: No worries. Bye.
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