Episode 65 – How I Got Started Using Tech in PE with Kari Bullis

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast we speak with Kari Bullis from Iowa about how she got started with technology in her Physical Education classroom. Throughout the episode we touch on becoming more efficient and effective can be a massive buy in for technology usage. We also discuss how apps such as Yoga Studio enable us to bring experts into the classroom for our students.

Resources for this episode include;

  1. Flubaroo & Google Drive
  2. Yoga Studio, Fitness Blender
  3. Twitter & Voxer – Follow Kari on Twitter 

Press play to listen to the episode below or listen here. Alternatively, download a full episode transcript here


 [spp-timestamp time=”00:00:29″] Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the PE Geek podcast, episode number sixty-five. Super excited because we have an interview with another Phys Ed teacher who has been doing some really exciting things with technology in their classroom in Kari Bullis. How are you Kari?

[spp-timestamp time=”00:00:46″] Kari Bullis: I’m great, thank you for having me.

[00:00:48] Jarrod Robinson: Absolute pleasure. Now I’m really excited that you’ve been able to get on this show because you are doing some really, really cool things. I think the best episodes we have are those with teachers to be perfectly honest. I want to start by saying where abouts are you teaching at the moment and what sort of grade levels and so forth are you involved in?

[00:01:08] Kari Bullis: Well I teach in a smallish town in Iowa called Williamsburg, Iowa. It’s on the Southeast corner of Iowa and I teach in a building that is 7 through 12. Most of my day is teaching 9 through 12 grade, just personal wellness is what we call it, but just general physical education.

[00:01:34] Jarrod Robinson: Cool, cool. So where did this whole idea of becoming a Phys Ed teacher happen for you? Can you think back to the time when you decided that this was a career choice?

[00:01:45] Kari Bullis: Well, it’s never been kind of one of those things that I thought about doing. Actually my freshman year of college, you have to take electives, and I think I just took so many like PE electives that one of the professors just assumed that I was a PE major and he kind of every time I had to be like I’m, this is just an elective class, you know, gymnastics or whatever it was. He eventually was just like hey maybe you need to really think about doing this, it’s obviously something that you enjoy doing. I

thought about it and he was right. Obviously those are the classes that I kind of of got drawn to. I was always in sports, but definitely not the most athletic. It was more a social thing for me. But, I think that kind of what made be become a good teacher was that I wasn’t always the most athletic and I kind of can show people that you can be healthy and active and enjoy these things even if you’re not the top skill, you didn’t play in college.

[00:03:08] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I feel like I have a very similar story as well like small town is where I end up teaching and the same, just sort of average at vast majority of sports, not a stand-out in sort of any but, I think that comes across. I mean, Phys Ed a really unique subject in many ways as well. Like why do you think that you enjoy teaching it now? Is it do you get to see that in students, this lifelong pursuit of Phys Ed or is it some other sort of quality that you enjoy?

[00:03:39] Kari Bullis: No, definitely. I think the biggest thing is kind of just turning around some of those kids that might have been turned off by physical education in general and all things sports. I don’t teach a lot of sports, I teach a lot of just healthy, active lifestyle type of activities, a lot of outdoor education. I teach a lot of swimming, things like that. So yeah, just

being able to get kids active even though it doesn’t have to be an organized team game and to realize that this is for their health.

[00:04:22] Jarrod Robinson: For sure. I mean, and it’s more realistic too because the team games are much shorter in our lifecycle but we tend to do these more lifestyle things for a bit longer. So that model I think is really quiet powerful. I mean, somewhere along the line you’ve become interested in technology and the role that it could have for you. Where did that begin?

[00:04:48] Kari Bullis: Well, I, my school became a 1 to 1 school, all kids have MacBooks. But kind of six months prior to that we had a PE for Life grant and some of my coworkers thought that it would be a good idea for us to get iPads for each one of the teachers and I was kind of against it, you know. I was kind of well we’re going to get these computers in six months, we really don’t need.

Now, I couldn’t live without my iPad. It just kind of, it kind of grew from that. I was never the most technological savvy person, but I just kind of grew to really enjoy it and see the benefits for my students and for me just as far as efficiency as a teacher.

[00:05:41] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I mean that’s sort of where it began for me as well, like and I think a lot of teachers have that initial success with tech just from their own point of view, like you’ve got some cumbersome process and then all of a sudden you’re able to make it a little bit easier with teach. It’s a pretty big buy-in I think. What about other staff? I mean, knowing what I know about schools, probably not everyone was as quick to get on board or is that not something that happened in your school?

[00:06:08] Kari Bullis: As far as teachers go?
[00:06:10] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, yeah. Did everyone relish it and jump on board into the iPad

as quick as you did?
[00:06:15] Kari Bullis: Not at all.
[00:06:16] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah. Pretty much everywhere.

[00:06:19] Kari Bullis: Right. Yeah, I think more and more less the iPad, more the computer. I was definitely, I’m the one that carries the iPad around and uses it every class period. They definitely got more into the computer side of it over the last couple of years. Just seeing Google drive has kind of changed our lives as PE teachers, at least in my district, all the things that we can do with it and Google forms and again just the efficiency of it.

[00:06:59] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, it sort of changes. Like that’s I think a really big entry point for lots of people is its efficiency stuff and Google Drive seems to be, it’s like a tipping point almost where that became quite popular in a lot of schools and districts signed up and all of a sudden there’s a much more sort of acceptance of what these tools can provide. So you’ve mentioned how it began, at the moment is there any sort of tools besides Google Drive that you’re enjoying and using in your practice at all?

[00:07:32] Kari Bullis: Sure, there’s, well I did a yoga unit. I’ve never actually been a yoga person, I was a gymnast so it kind of came naturally to me. But the yoga studio app.

[00:07:53] Jarrod Robinson: Oh my, and how amazing is it?

[00:07:54] Kari Bullis: It’s so amazing. Just to be able to, the greatest thing is that you can set up your own, kind of class. I can teach these certain poses and then just with a couple of check marks here and there, it’ll put on just those poses. That was phenomenal for me.

[00:08:16] Jarrod Robinson: I just love the fact that, and you would appreciate this too, in small schools like there isn’t the, maybe expertise of someone who you could bring in to run something like yoga potentially.

[00:08:28] Kari Bullis: Sure.

[00:08:28] Jarrod Robinson: I mean with like this, it’s not even, it’s about four or five dollars or round about that mark, you can have this amazing app which is of equal standard to having an expert come in. I found it to be really cool, to be able to provide opportunities that my students wouldn’t normally get because I’ve got no idea where to begin with yoga, it’s because of the app, I mean we’ve had units and classes where that’s been a core focus. Did you find that role changed during that or where you able to sort of walk around and join in or–?

[00:09:00] Kari Bullis: Oh for sure. I mean after teaching it, I was, our classes are set up the way that I, they’re a semester long. So I teach a unit and then the next semester I teach it again. So after teaching a whole unit of it, I became pretty good with it. I didn’t really need to yoga studio app going, but like you said being able to walk around and give feedback to those students, it’s invaluable, there’s, and being able to do the routine with the students, I think that that shows a lot too. At least my students really enjoy that.

[00:09:44] Jarrod Robinson: For sure, like I had the same, similar situation using Fitness blender and Pilates. Like I had a lot of Year 10 girls who said you know can we do some Pilates and I’ve got no idea where to begin with this but you know we’ll do it, and we put Pilates up on the screen and you can picture some 16, 17 year olds sort of assembling and the girls really came but the boys were like come on, Pilates. But because I wasn’t, I was in a similar situation to them, I could put myself in their shoes, I joined in with them, and it changed the whole dynamic because–

[00:10:19] Kari Bullis: It does.

[00:10:19] Jarrod Robinson: They say me as a learner like them, not the expert, not, just there. They eventually got really into it and would use Fitness blender on their own. So I think that dynamic is quite attractive for those sort of expert tools like Yoga Studio. Yeah I mean–

[00:10:39] Kari Bullis: For sure and then–

[00:10:40] Jarrod Robinson: Sorry you go.

[00:10:42] Kari Bullis: I was going to say I have to thank you because over these years I listen to your podcast and you’ve talked about having that, bringing somebody in, having it up on the big screen or something like that and being able to have a second teacher and it kind of, for me it was just, it was nice to hear somebody else say that because at times you kind of think maybe I’m not being a very good teacher, I’m not actually teaching when someone’s up there.

That was kind of the mindset that I had and this before was for, I think for Zumba. I mean, I would spend hours trying to come up with a 40 minute Zumba class and to be able to memorize

all of those, all of the routines and then you’re standing up there, you’re not able to give feedback to those students at all.

So it definitely changed the way that view it and I am teaching, I’m being a better teacher by having the experts do it and not spending four hours every night trying to memorize these Zumba routines that I wasn’t as good as the people that were on the screen by any means. So it was definitely better to have them up there.

[00:12:10] Jarrod Robinson: For sure, I reckon you made a really good point about you are maybe even doubly more effectively when you can do it this way because like you said the experts taking the class but you’re still really present, like your role becomes even more powerful doesn’t it because you’re now one on one with people, you can be doing other things, I think it’s phenomenal.

But you’re right, there’s a big mindset that we have to be at the front and we have to be the person delivering every single aspect of what we do or we’re cheating. I know when I went through university and college this was the idea. I just over time realized that I could provide more opportunities when I think of it this other way. So I’m glad, I really appreciate that that’s something you think of as well.

[00:12:54] Kari Bullis: For sure.

[00:12:55] Jarrod Robinson: So beyond the Yoga Studio, that’s obviously a situation where things have gone really well. What about like me, I’ve had so many situations where maybe things haven’t worked so well. Can you think of anything like that?

[00:13:11] Kari Bullis: Well, I mean of course there are so many just mistakes that are made through, with technology as far as not turning on the sharing settings correctly or forgetting to turn a certain add-on that I was planning on using and it was going to make everything great and I forgot to turn it on. The, I can’t really say that there’s like one for sure moment that was a big mistake. I think just over the years, just learning not to use technology for technology sake. Thinking that this is going to be so much better because it has technology in it or because it’s the coolest new thing, but it’s not actually helping to teach your students better.

[00:14:06] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah so, I think that’s a lesson that a lot of people go through like putting, making sure that the “why” comes first. Why are you using it, what’s the intended purpose, rather just because it’s shiny object and new and exciting. I’ve been guilty of that before, I mean finding something and using it and thinking oh hang on, on reflection that probably wasn’t better than the original way I used to do it. I think yeah, it is something that I think we tend to have, that tends to happen with teachers, but yeah eventually that “why” is quite powerful. Now I know you’ve had a lot of success with Fluberoo before.

[00:14:41] Kari Bullis: Oh yeah.

[00:14:42] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I mean, you shared in episode fifty of the PE Geek podcast. Do you want to talk a little about Fluberoo and sort of what that means to you and how you’ve used it in the past?

[00:14:56] Kari Bullis: Yeah, I’ve, the first thing that I used Fluberoo for and that I still use it for is like skills evaluation in swimming. I would, I always had my skills rubric, kind of, I would print out all of these papers and I would do the checkmarks down the rubric and then hand the rubric back to the students before they went into the locker room, it would get wet or at least just show them so they would have the feedback, but really they weren’t able to analyze it as well as I wanted them to.

So now I have it on my iPad, I have it in a Google Form. I can easily just check off the things that the students need to work on, as soon as they go into the locker room I run Fluberoo and then it sends it straight to their email or to their Google Drive and before they even get out of the locker room from getting changed they have that feedback on their computer that they can go and look at it, and hopefully analysis it and see the things that they need to improve on before they get back the next day.

[00:16:15] Jarrod Robinson: It’s just an incredible workflow thing isn’t it. Like you mentioned– [00:16:19] Kari Bullis: Oh it’s amazing.

[00:16:19] Jarrod Robinson: People lose things, like that’s real, that happens. But this is impossible for that to sort of take place. So assessment type data, is that the sort of stuff you’re capturing with Google form.

[00:16:31] Kari Bullis: Yes, yup. Just, formative assessment, summative assessments at the end of certain units, we, depending on what outcome we’re trying to reach, the students will have their computer out doing just a normal quiz. Then being able to grade it at the end using Fluberoo and I think Fluberoo was definitely a hook for a lot of my co-workers as well because it’s so easy, so simple, you’re giving that feedback right away when the kids need it, not waiting until the weekend when you have time to grade it. By that time you’re on to something new. This is almost instant feedback that the kids can go and work on right away.

[00:17:27] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I mean I struggle with that whole, back in the day before we had a lot of these tools the whole waiting until the weekend and then correcting something, heading back into class and the contexts lost isn’t it, like–

[00:17:39] Kari Bullis: It is.

[00:17:40] Jarrod Robinson: Here you are giving them results for something that happened a week prior. I mean, it’s not really effective feedback. So that’s why I love these tools and Fluberoo you mentioned was a really big hook. So I mean, I’m assuming that other faculties in schools, in your schools, sorry, areas in the school are using it as well?

[00:17:57] Kari Bullis: Oh yeah. Not as many as should. I mean sometimes I’ll go in and see someone grading a multiple choice test and I’m going what are you doing. It’s amazing to me that they’ve all heard about it, they all know about it, we have great technology PD in our district and I guess they just kind of choose not to use it but over the years I think most people have gotten on the bandwagon of Fluberoo.

[00:18:36] Jarrod Robinson: For sure. That’s, it becomes like the more and more people that do hop on the bandwagon, it sort of brings along more and more people, doesn’t it. It’s like this big

tipping point. Like it’s easy to be on the side of not trying these tools when only a handful of people are using them, but I’ve seen time and time again as soon as you get one or two key people in then things start to snowball and the benefit is quite large. So I’m sure maybe you’ll see that as well.

[00:19:05] Kari Bullis: I think people think it’s too hard to use when in reality anyone can use it.

[00:19:10] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I agree. These tools really do have an impact and if you’re sort of sitting here wondering what Google Forms are and you haven’t played around with them, then have along and check out Episode forty-nine which talks about them and there’s lots of references to how to set up a form and that sort of add-ons because we’ve just touched the surface on add-ons really haven’t we?

[00:19:28] Kari Bullis: Oh yeah.

[00:19:29] Jarrod Robinson: All these things really do give back time to things that we assume take forever. Then I think the key here is now you probably get to spend more time on what really matters like the one on one feedback becomes more relevant. Then you can maybe spend more time getting organized on a cool new lesson. Or have you found that it’s brought–

[00:19:52] Kari Bullis: Right, the planning.

[00:19:53] Jarrod Robinson: Exactly, like a lot of people get caught up in the admin tasks and then they just keep doing the same things in their PE practice because they haven’t had time to maybe think about how it could be changed or modified or– So it does it impact on a wider scale than just the initial. So I love that, I love that about technology.

So as we get towards the end of the episode, where can people find out a little more about you and the stuff that you’re doing.

[00:20:25] Kari Bullis: Well I am on Twitter, so @bulliskari and I’m on Voxer, on Voxer probably more than Twitter, but you can catch me on both. I think my Voxer handle is kbulli393.

[00:20:49] Jarrod Robinson: Perfect. [00:20:50] Kari Bullis: Yeah.

[00:20:51] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, so I mean there’s always talk about Voxer in our guest interviews. Do you just want to talk a little bit about how it works, because there’s lot of people listening that maybe have heard of it but maybe haven’t jumped into it just yet.

[00:21:05] Kari Bullis: Yup, Voxer is a, essentially a Walkie-talkie app that if you go to Voxerpe.com you will see that there are a number of different kind of subgroups. There’s one big, general PE chat, but there’s lots of different groups depending on what you’re interested in.

I’m in a secondary PE group where it’s basically just secondary PE teachers. We go there to share successes, to ask questions, to reflect on our day, things like that. It’s definitely place to get any of your questions answered. People are always willing to help. But you leave a message and then you kind of just wait for someone to respond and usually within in an hour or by the next day you’ll definitely have a couple of responses to your question.

[00:22:11] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, it’s sort of like, akin to a virtual staff room isn’t it? [00:22:15] Kari Bullis: It is.

[00:22:16] Jarrod Robinson: Like the chatter of, and a lot of people could think that they might get lost in it because of the fact they are sort of structured chats and themed around topics you can get into the topics that really you’re interested, that you have an interest in. I found it to be really valuable, and the fact that its voice it just makes it so much more deeper and real. So yeah, head along to VoxerPe if you’re listening and want to know more and you can connect with all of the amazing Phys Ed teachers that are present.

So thank you on that note, we’ll leave it there. I really appreciate you taking time to come on and share with us today and hopefully we can speak again soon.

[00:22:50] Kari Bullis: That sounds great! Thank you so much. [00:22:52] Jarrod Robinson: You’re welcome, see you! [00:22:55] Kari Bullis: Alright, bye.


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