Episode 66 – Saving Time Using Technology with Pat Coleman

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast I speak with Pat Coleman, a Physical Education teacher from Launceston in Tasmania, Australia. Throughout the episode, we discuss how technologies can enable us to become more efficient ultimately saving us time.

Topics touched on this episode include;

  1. Microsoft vs Google Platforms
  2. Accountability & Collaboration in the digital age
  3. Microsoft Sway
  4. QR Codes & Augmented Reality Webinar
  5. Follow Pat on Twitter
  6. Grab the QR Code Gym Posters inside ConnectedPE here

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


[00:00:29] Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to Episode 66 of the PE Geek Podcast and as always it’s an absolute pleasure to be here, now I’m joined by none other than Pat Coleman coming from Tasmania. How are you Pat?

[00:00:42] Pat Coleman: Yeah really well Jarrod, great to be here. 

[00:00:44] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, awesome. So set the scene for us, what’s the day like there right now? 

[00:00:48] Pat Coleman: It’s winter here at the moment, it’s blowing an absolute gale. All the sports grounds are closed, so yeah, not particularly pleasant Tasmania weather at the moment. 

[00:00:58] Jarrod Robinson: That’s now for those who are unfamiliar Tasmania is that island right off the bottom of Australia and you guys to refer as to Australia as the mainland and as I understand it you spent a little bit of time there doing your training? 

[00:01:11] Pat Coleman: Yeah I spent eight years on the mainland after school. So grew up in Tassie, did all my schooling down here and moved to Brisbane to do my teacher training at QUT and then from there managed to pick up a job in the nation’s capital Canberra and spent four years there before moving back home. 

[00:01:30] Jarrod Robinson: Awesome and I’m assuming that growing up there was this sort of affinity with sports and physical education maybe played a part in that. Did that lead you down the track of wanting to be in this field? 

[00:01:43] Pat Coleman: Yeah, absolutely. I think my parents put me into just about every sport you could imagine, cricket, footie, soccer, athletics, the works. 

[00:01:51] Jarrod Robinson: Sounds like me. 

[00:01:51] Pat Coleman: Yeah. You know myself and my brother were really fortunate in that regard that we did a lot of structured sporting activity but we’re also, when you get home from school and you’d run out into the backyard and be kicking a footie or playing a game of cricket or whatever. So sport was always a really big part of my life. 

[00:02:09] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I mean it seems to be something that a lot of us do have in common. Growing up it was definitely a passion of mine and it was how can I continue this passion somehow and make it part of my career and that’s definitely what lead me down this track and it seems to be similar for many people that I do work with. So I mean, what do you enjoy about the job these days, is there something that you find yourself getting a lot of enjoyment from? 

[00:02:37] Pat Coleman: I suppose, well going back to the first part about the passion that you have for physical activity, for me signing up to do teaching it was, the thought was oh yeah I’ll just go and play games all day. That’s what I wanted to do, that’s what I really enjoyed. Once you get into it you understand that’s not really what it’s about, it’s about actually the kids playing the games and not you. So you fall aside pretty quickly I think as a teacher if you think that you can just run into a classroom and play a game.

So I think the thing that excited me to start with as a teacher and the thing that still does is actually seeing the students succeed. Whether that be in the PE space or in other areas, those lightbulb moments that kids have where things just start to click and that’s probably the thing that excites me the most about teaching. 

[00:03:24] Jarrod Robinson: For sure and I think the great thing about Phys Ed is that that moment can be quiet visible too, we don’t always have it as clear in other subject areas because of maybe it’s not quiet apparent, but in Phys Ed it can be the product of something physical so we can see it quite readily and I think you’re right, those moments have been some of the best situations where a kid has finally grasped a skill and can execute that skill and I think that’s something that makes our subject quiet special. So somewhere along the line you’ve got an interest in technology and the role that it can play. Do you remember what sort of lead you down that path? 

[00:04:01] Pat Coleman: Yeah I think to start it’s more the administration side of things, being able to use some of the technology out there that made my life easier outside of the classroom. Things like being able to flag emails and assign tasks to people through the outlook system that was probably what mainly got my foot in the door with tech and just how that made life so much easier.

So for me I suppose my initial introduction to technology was really about trying to save time and make things easier outside of the classroom and I wasn’t really using a lot within the classroom setting just to begin with. I just struggled initially to find meaningful, I suppose meaningful learning experiences for the kids. So for me it was really about saving time. 

[00:04:47] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I mean and that’s a really valuable thing because if you survey teacher they will say a lot of the stuff they do outside of their face to face stuff really does take up most up their time and finding ways to leverage tech to support that so you can then spend more time focusing on the thing that we all got started, or the reason why we became teachers I think is really quiet powerful. So I value tech that does that. So what are some of the things that, I know you briefly alluded to Microsoft Outlook and there, what are some of the tools that you found that did help you leverage some of your time? 

[00:05:20] Pat Coleman: Yeah, I’m a big Microsoft fan, so Outlook and then the task system they have within Outlook. So for me starting to run say sporting carnivals, you’ve got this whole big list of things you need to do, everything from entering student data for events, bus bookings, actually having the equipment ready on the day. Those are all small things that need to be done and a lot of the time you don’t do them yourself you work within a team to make sure they’re done within a department.

So very early on I started to establish these to-do lists and then making them online and actually allocating tasks out to be, that way if it’s a shared task I can see when things are getting done and you can tap people on the shoulder if they’re not quite up to date and say hey, I need those bus bookings done, they should have been done last week can you get onto that. So it really allows you to keep on top of everything and include other people to make sure things get done rather than just relying on people actually doing what they say they might do, you can actually really check in and keep a close eye on what’s happening. 

[00:06:22] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah for sure and regards to whether you’re using a Google based system or a Microsoft based system, a lot of these things are possible across multiple platforms now and being able to share lists and collaborate is the theme here of why that’s being useful for you and I certainly agree. It also eliminates that paper trail which at its time can be a little bit of a mess when you lose things and so I mean I’ve found that just by being digital with a lot of the stuff that we did that was important we’ve seen a big progress in our direction. We’re a Google school and that’s how we tackle it. But there’s the cross possibilities are there in both platforms. So beyond the administrative stuff what sort of then lead you into then trying to use it in your classroom practice? 

[00:07:12] Pat Coleman: Yeah I suppose, a couple years of go I had to teach a maths class and I’d done maths at university but never actually had the change to teach it. So I was a little bit apprehensive in terms of teaching and knowing whether my students were actually learning in the class setting. So we used Jacaranda one of the add-ons they’ve got within their software package is something called Jack+ and essentially all it is a series of multiple choice questions that you can ask the kids and then from that you get the data back.

So for me what I’d do to teach a lesson, set five questions for homework that the kids would log on and do and then I’d get the data straight away back to say little Johnny only got 2 out of 5. So that would straight away for me, next lesson catch up with Johnny and say hey you only got 2 out of 5, what’s going on, are you not understand this, not understand this?

The other thing I actually found really valuable the fact that you’d sometimes set five questions for homework and the whole class would do really poorly. So rather than that being a reflection on the students’ understanding that’s probably more a reflection on me and then how I taught that lesson. So really created that solid data and evidence for feedback in terms of how my lessons went. So that was probably my first, real introduction to using tech and utilizing it effectively. 

[00:08:34] Jarrod Robinson: It’s something that a lot of teachers can get value from. I live how you’ve managed to flip what that data means to be a reflection on your own teaching and I’ve been in that situation before where I’ve collected data and it’s pretty clear that it must have been what I’d set up as a learning experience that lead them down that path. I mean I think we need to be open to this, because we need to be open to learning and experiencing new things and that data can be quite powerful. So what tool, you said you were using for that, that was a Jacaranda, like in-built into their program? 

[00:09:09] Pat Coleman: Yup, so that’s obviously not feasible for everyone, depending what system you’re up to, but there’s so many other things out there that you can do with. I know Google now have their own quizzes built within those sheets. But I’ve been a big fan of Flubaroo in the past and used that in other subject areas where the Jack+ hasn’t supported particular subjects such as health. So there’s plenty of options out there. 

[00:09:34]  Jarrod Robinson: Things like Socrative and Kahoot! Etc., they make it possible for you to create these quizzes and then get data on the back end. But I love the idea of how you use that to then front load the next class because you’ve sort of already got that idea of where kids were at and you can continue beyond there, it’s really quite powerful. How have the kids responded to these sort of things?

[00:09:56] Pat Coleman: I think the kids really enjoyed it because for them it was almost less homework time. Yeah, I think a lot of maths teachers fall into the mentality of just do 30 questions or do 30 minutes of homework whereas that’s often, I don’t think, not that meaningful. So for the kids it kind of, they could see it’s directly relating to the outcome for the next lesson in the fact that if I get everything right we can move on, we don’t need to spend any more time of that or if they found it particularly challenging we can spend the time there.

So I suppose there’s also those tech issues you have of kids oh you know my Wi-Fi was out or the MBM was getting connected and whatever and you just deal with those as you can. But the kids seem to respond really well to it, I mean their textbooks online, kids now are just so used to everything being accessible through tech that it’s just becoming the norm. 

[00:10:48] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah for sure, I mean we take it for granted in many places the availability of these digital tools and it just got reinforced to me recently when I was in Africa just how powerful they are. My tour guide in Kenya, he was talking to me about things like what you’ve just mentioned, just the availability of some of the digital resources and they were the first ever tools that his kids ever saw, they never had a text book, never. They never had access to the traditional resources that we sort of grew up and have become accustomed to. So they represent a big shift in what makes this third world up to date with some of the teaching that we have available, so I think it’s quite awesome.

You briefly alluded there to some of the issues that have happened across the way with kids. What are some of the hurdles that you faced with using tech in the program? You mentioned Wi-Fi, has there been anything else? 

[00:11:47] Pat Coleman: I mean probably the biggest challenge is actually just not relying on it. At the end of the day the tech’s just a tool that we use. The five questions you set for homework, if kids are having trouble with that, well you just print them and they get them done in another way or you can hold them back at in class time and get them to do those five questions there if it becomes a continual problem.

So there’s always ways you can overcome those tech issues and I think a lot of the time the kids know that they’re smarter than us with the tech, they use it probably more than any of us do and it’s, they’ve, they’ll use it as any excuse to not do things as well, so much so that I know there’s now a couple of videos going round with how you have to, when you restart your computer you get the updates and it seems to take forever, there’s a twenty video now that our kids are using at school to get out of doing work by saying oh look my computer’s doing updates and they just run this video and then as soon as the teacher walks away they alt tab and they go back to playing another game again.

So it’s, some of those, you develop your own little, I suppose methods for dealing with those things. So for me now teaching, if I’m in a classroom setting I actually sit at the back of the classroom. So I’ll teach from my device, so I use a Scribe and just project that up onto the board, I can see all the kids computer screens because I’m sitting behind them and that way I’m making sure they’re actually on task. 

[00:13:21] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I mean that’s exactly right, at the end of the day people have always found a way to get out of things, tech is no different. That’s right, good teaching is what makes these things work and an example of that is sitting at the back of the room so you can see screens whereas the people who are just assuming that kids are going to do the right thing will probably sit at the front and then find that that’s not the case and then blame the tech, but really it’s not about that, it’s about changing our, the way that we approach it to suit the situation. So I think that’s a great way to think about it. Beyond that, what are you excited about? Is there any sort of tools at the moment that you’ve looked and at thought I’d like to maybe use that but the situation hasn’t come about yet?

[00:14:07] Pat Coleman: Yeah, I suppose the whole virtual reality within education’s huge at the moment. But trying to find a meaningful integration to that within the classroom setting, that’s probably something I’m struggling with at the moment. I can see where it’s going to go and it’d be great if you could have kids, say wearing Google Glasses and they go home and you might be doing volleyball and they see a volleyball come over the net. I only need that couple of meters space to actually operate. So that’s really exciting where that’s going to be heading.

I suppose we’ve got some other things trying to look at implementing around kids being able to share some of it, their own learning experiences and their reflections within class as well. So there’s a program called Sway which I suppose is a little bit like PowerPoint, it’s a little bit more of a storytelling platform. So we’re working at the moment where kids can, we can have the demonstration of the success criteria of what a really good skill looks like that kids can collect some of their own evidence and then reflect on how they’re actually achieving towards that standard and that skill set. 

[00:15:19] Jarrod Robinson: Awesome, now I saw the work that you were sort of pieced up on the Connected PE website and it was about Sway and it was a new one for me. It looked quite, it was quite immersive, sort of things that you could build with it.

[00:15:33]  Pat Coleman: Yeah it’s got, I mean, the advantages, I can build say a ten plate around how I want it to look and then the kids can modify that to suit how they actually want to put their information across. So the end of the day it’s about them being able to share what they’re learning as well. That portfolio style system where they can share it with their parents and their peers and grandma and whoever on the other side of the world that they want to. So it’s got that flexibility there too. 

[00:16:00]  Jarrod Robinson: Yeah perfect, and I know another thing that you’ve recently got a little bit excited about is QR codes and had produced some really good resources inside of Connected PE as well. Do you want to touch on how you got introduced into those and sort of where that’s lead? 

[00:16:17] Pat Coleman: Yeah, so within the Connected PE member’s area there’s a webinar on QR codes and how they can be used and created so looking at that and then some of the resources there, particularly Joey Fife and he developed some skill cards for Hockey. So I ended up using a similar method to do some badminton ones where there’s the QR code so the kids can essential pick their own level of skill.

So how it practically looks in a classroom setting is there’s a skill poster put up on a wall, might be serving for example. Students walk over to the wall; they select a level, so one, two or three; scan the code and they can go away and work on that particular level. If they find that the level’s too easy for them they just walk up, scan level two, away they go or if it’s too hard they can drop back a level. So builds in that automatic differentiation in terms of kids being able to do meaningful tasks but also it doesn’t point out the fact that they’re not operating at say a level that the others in the class might be as well. 

[00:17:23]  Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, yeah I mean, that QR code skill poster is so impressive and I’ve had a lot of success using them and seeing the kids operate at the levels that match with their own thinking about where they’re at and there’s a bit of data behind, like research wise that kids are actually quite capable of doing that. So I think that QR code skill posters are tremendous. We’ll put a link in the show notes to the posters that we’re talking about, we can go and download them and check them out. But you also developed some gym equipment QR code posters. You wanted to share about what they were. 

[00:17:58] Pat Coleman: Yeah so that’s, just coming back to the badminton ones to start with, the big advantage is that it doesn’t whether I’m there or not, the kids can still have a meaningful lesson, they can still see what the examples are. So if I’m away, leaving a relief lesson is easy it’s just you give, you can give a teacher a set of cards and away they go. So similar kind of thing with the gym codes. Our weights room now, our gym induction is done online. So students watch the videos, complete some safety questionnaires etc., to make sure they can use the room safely. So we know if sit there and watch thirty minutes about how to use machines that we’re not going to retain that information when we walk to into the gym. So to try and combat that–

[00:18:45] Jarrod Robinson: It’s not contextually relevant is it, like it’s not in the moment. 

[00:18:49] Pat Coleman: Yeah that’s right, and I mean whether or not you use a particular machine and all those different things. So we’ve created QR codes that are now just sticky labeled onto each of the machines, goes through the safety considerations that people need to be aware of and then how to operate that machine. Technically sound so that you’re getting the best out of your workout. 

[00:19:10]  Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, it’s a tremendous example of QR codes being used to guide people through equipment and the opportunities there are vast, I mean it’s not just gym equipment, I mean you could have it tied to anything where there is the need for some sort of instruction related to it and then therefore people get that autonomy about how to do or how to use it and that frees up you to then be focusing on something a little more valuable, which I don’t think is the safety elements of those gym equipment. You’d agree, wouldn’t you?

[00:19:40] Pat Coleman: Yes, spot on. 

[00:19:41] Jarrod Robinson: Which I think is quite cool. So opportunities are massive. So I mean, where can people find out more about the stuff that you’re doing? 

[00:19:51] Pat Coleman: Yeah, so being a member of Connected PE that’s probably the best place to find out some of the stuff I’m looking at. So head along to the member’s area there. Not a big Twitter user I’d say, but you can connect with me that way, my handle’s @PSLColeman. But I definitely recommend people getting on into Connected PE, for me I find that a little bit more collaborative and a little bit more creative in terms of what we can do, Twitter from my end is just a lot of the times more of a distraction than a help. 

[00:20:24] Jarrod Robinson: It can be, it’s just so huge in terms of the sheer volume of activity. I will find myself going down a path that I hadn’t actually intended on doing if I end up on there, which I’m sure you’re familiar with. So absolutely recommend getting in touch, following him on Twitter, just connecting and talking because he is doing some really tremendously powerful things and if you’re inside Connected PE and if you’re not, come along, join us and we can definitely collaborate on some new ideas and I know that Patrick would definitely be keen to do that. So thanks again for jumping onto the episode and I look forward to speaking soon!

[00:21:03] Pat Coleman: Thanks Jarrod, cheers. 

[00:21:05] Jarrod Robinson: See you mate. 


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