Episode 71 – Fostering Whole School Buy In with Arron Gardiner

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast we interview Geelong Based Physical Educator, Arron Gardiner. Arron discusses how his school introduced a value driven PhysED program that has led to increased engagement and school wide buy in to his PhysEd program. This has been assisted by the use of various tools such as Padlet & portfolio curation tools such as SeeSaw. He also reinforces the power of global connection with likeminded educators through social tools such as Twitter & Voxer.

Resources & topics shared in this episode include

  1. Padlet & SeeSaw
  2. Aussie Physed & Asquared Physed
  3. Collaboration on Twitter & Voxer

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 71 of the PE Geek podcast and as always it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. Now these are my favorite episodes particularly when we get a chance to interview Ozzie phys ed folk and today’s no different, we’ve got Arron Gardiner. How are you Arron?

[00:00:44] Arron Gardiner: Good, thank you Jarrod. I just appreciate being here and being given the opportunity to have a good old-fashioned talk to you.

[00:00:51] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah man, thank you for coming on and where abouts are you joining us from?

[00:00:54] Arron Gardiner: So I’m down in Geelong, little estate called Armstrong Creek just outside of Geelong very close to the beach and yeah, very quiet down here. It’s lovely.

[00:01:07] Jarrod Robinson: So I’m guessing based on the proximity to the beach that you’ve always had this sort of appreciation with the outdoors and being in nature and doing a bit of sport. Would that be true?

[00:01:16] Arron Gardiner: That would be true, that would be true. I’ve been very lucky coming from a family who has very much sport orientated, very much probably had a bit of a draw to the ocean, my dad and my brothers. So it was almost sort of we, we didn’t love close to the ocean as kids but we were always down there and I met my beautiful down near this place, so she’s from down this way and it was only natural that we were eventually going to end up here. So yeah.

[00:01:41] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, so I mean Geelong’s a pretty impressive place, if you’re listening and you’ve never been into the lovely place of Geelong you should. I barrack for the Geelong Cats so there’s another real reason why I say that. But what about yourself have you been always teaching in that area or have you moved around a little bit? 

[00:01:59] Arron Gardiner: Yeah, no I’ve moved around a little bit. So I started in [00:02:02] (unclear) and I went to university down in down in [00:02:05] (unclear) and I met my wife down there, so she was teaching at a school at Maryville Promise School down there. So I actually got the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the school being a uni student. I spent a lot of time running their after school Blue Earth programs and that’s probably where the love of phys ed really and wanting to teach phys ed, the basis formed. So that’s where it all began for me.

When I was twenty I did manage to go overseas to London and I spent a week in a school over there, I spent six months over there just doing some trade work and I met, just one of my best friend’s sisters was teaching at a school over there and that was my initial first introduction to teaching and when I decided when I got back from London I would try and get back into uni and do teaching. So that’s where it initially started but the love of PE probably came yeah from running those afterschool program’s at my wife’s school.

[00:03:07] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, it’s fascinating I mean so many people have got different journeys to how they end up in the classroom. They’re all quite unique in many ways. Can you trace yours back even further to when you were a student? Do you feel like that was one of your subjects that you were really passionate about?

[00:03:22] Arron Gardiner: Absolutely, absolutely. If my mother and father were to pull out my old reports they would be the comments you’d probably be reading that yeah Arron was always more attentive in PE than he ever was in the classroom. So–

[00:03:36] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, why do you think this phys ed subject that we both love has this appeal with students. I mean what do you think the reason is?

[00:03:45] Arron Gardiner: It is, it’s the competitiveness and I know we ought to tend to steer away from the competitiveness these days but–

[00:03:53] Jarrod Robinson: Life’s competitive isn’t it?

[00:03:54] Arron Gardiner: Life’s competitive absolutely. It is probably the biggest thing that I have issues with at my school at the moment and the resilience that the kids don’t come into school with. It’s exactly like you said life’s competitive and we need to be building this resilience with these kids for future loss. But yeah just a love of outdoors mate, that’s my family’s always been an outdoor family so without a doubt I had an absolutely fantastic PE teacher who went on to be a principal and yeah, he just probably started the love of it for me.

[00:04:28] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, it’s very similar to myself, a good phys ed teacher that sort of had been recognized by the phys ed teacher by having some skills in particular sports and it was through that that a lot of the learning in other subjects would flow which I find to be quite true with students I teach as well. 

[00:04:47] Arron Gardiner: Absolutely

[00:04:48] Jarrod Robinson: It’s like a gateway sometimes to open up their potential. So I think it’s fascinating and obviously along the way you’ve sort of got interested in the use of technology in your practice. Do you remember how that all started?

[00:05:01] Arron Gardiner: Oh to be brutally, phys ed’s not something I’ve always done so I went over to London with my wife straight out of university and spent two years teaching over there and was lucky enough to actually pick up a head of PE department job straight out of university [00:05:19] (unclear).

[00:05:19] Jarrod Robinson: That’s amazing.

[00:05:20] Arron Gardiner: Yeah, lovely little school called Sanderdamn [00:05:23] (?) Primary School, I worked there for two years running their phys ed department with two phys ed teachers underneath me and had a ball over there and that’s, that probably set the foundations, there was no ICT in that school there whatsoever and we slowly built up over the two years, got back here to Geelong and could not get a PE job for the life of me. So ended up in the classroom for close to six years here and that’s really where the love, I mean I’ve had a love of ICT but the love of ICT was built there and using it with the kids and the Victorian government brought out an initiative in my first year back in Geelong where every year five student was given a free laptop. So that’s, it really built on from there.

The work we were able to do in that first two years with the kids and the laptops they were given by government was just sensational and eventually got into the PE side of things and met my good friend and mentor Andy Hair and for those that know Andy know that he’s a big advocate for ICT in PE and he just asked me to do a little project with him and it’s just built on from there. We’ve gone from what we say strength to strength with just building ourselves a little website and incorporating as much ICT as we can in a meaningful way in our classrooms. So yeah, it’s pretty fantastic, it’s been a steep learning curve though Jarrod, that’s for sure.

[00:06:49] Jarrod Robinson: Awesome, very similar pathways, I do remember the roll out of those machines to the year five students, that happened to my school as well and it was nice to be able to have a guaranteed list of tools that you could use and then look at ways in which that you could implement and use them meaningful, so very similar pathways there. Yeah, it’s exciting stuff. So over the time what sort of tools have you found to be quite useful for that meaningful use of technology?

[00:07:19] Arron Gardiner: Yeah, so look my school’s probably gone down the path of the portable devices at the moment, so we —

[00:07:26] Jarrod Robinson: That’s a reoccurring theme globally too, it’s not just happening here in Oz, it’s happening all over, mobile devices for sure.

[00:07:33] Arron Gardiner: Yeah, absolutely. So look those iPads and just giving the kids the opportunity so this year we, with my 5/6 students we’ve really tried hard to develop a portfolio for them to have something actually take home and share. 

[00:07:48] Jarrod Robinson: Tangible thing.

[00:07:49] Arron Gardiner: Tangible thing, yeah absolutely, that their parents can access at any time. So we’ve been using Seesaw this year.

[00:07:55] Jarrod Robinson: Oh, amazing how crazy powerful.

[00:07:57] Arron Gardiner: It’s phenomenal. But just being able to incorporate things into Seesaw so we’ve had a big focus on Padlet, again Andy Vasley and Andy Hair did an amazing project on Padlet, it must have been about eighteen months ago where Andy Vasley was in Nanjing and Andy Hair was at Leopold Primary School and they were teaching side by side a striking fielding unit or whatever it was, no sorry it the invasion games unit. The power in that was phenomenal.

So I just set myself a target this year to make sure that that’s the path we’re taking and so my kids have, we probably haven’t been collaborating with schools in that depths as such but my kids have been collaborating through class to class and it’s just been phenomenal and the feedback from the parents and the staff at my school has been sensational, so and more importantly the feedback from the kids. The feedback from the kids and the learning that they are, they’re able to express through their reflection and everything’s been phenomenal. So yeah, big steps, big steps. 

[00:09:02] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, lots of opportunity. I love how you mentioned the parent buy in and like the other classroom teachers buy in because I think that’s something that can be hard to do in a phys ed context. Not all schools look favorably upon phys ed and that’s unfortunate but these tools can be used to buy in some of those core stakeholders and you mention that like the parents, you mean talking about Seesaw is that where they’re sort buy in?

[00:09:30] Arron Gardiner: Yes, they’re able to access the kids’ Seesaw so we’ve been able to send them home, basically that the parents can get on and register and they get their own password and they’re able to then access it from home but they can only view their child’s work which is brilliant.

[00:09:46] Jarrod Robinson: A gateway into what you’re doing, it advocates for why it’s valuable and so many reasons, it’s awesome.

[00:09:53] Arron Gardiner: Absolutely and it’s a funny point that you mention the buy in from the parents and look my school, we haven’t had a sensational run with PE teachers before I took over and I say that in the nicest possible way. I’d love to say that PE was being taught maybe in an old school sense that it was a pick a sport, teach a sport, teach a skill in that sport and that the kids, there wasn’t a lot of buy in from the kids. We sort of changed it up a little bit and try and give the kids that idea that there’s a lot more thinking, that deep level thinking in PE is so important.

We’re running a new values education. I run a thing called the Mick Fanning Factor and being it sort of surf coast town and the kids really have a draw to the ocean I just picked a sportsman that really resonated with me but I knew that would resonate with the kids. So obviously those that know Mick Fanning know that he’s sort of the, the troubles he’s been through in the last twelve months, so we picked him and we discussed the values that Mick Fanning has shown in the last eighteen months of his life and throughout his surfing career and we’ve got six values that we run off in a PE class that match up with our school values and–

[00:11:15] Jarrod Robinson: Love it, such a good idea.

[00:11:17] Arron Gardiner: Man the buy in from the parents on that one has been phenomenal. So I run my school events now and we run house points based on the values that the kids are showing and the feedback and the buy in from the parents has been just insane.

[00:11:31] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I mean that’s a tremendous value system driven education rather than just skills and balls and using those values to sort of be the proxy for the things that happen. So yeah, that’s some exciting stuff. I mean along the way you’ve sure to have made a mistakes. Would you agree?

[00:11:47] Arron Gardiner: Oh absolutely, absolutely. My first year of teaching phys ed was an absolute nightmare and really even coming back, so I taught in London, thought I’d made some real good progress, got back, taught in the classroom, was given the opportunity to teach PE at my school here in Geelong and to be honest the first year I would like to like to write off. I met Andy Hair late in that year and he was just, he was a godsend, he, I guess for me I taught PE the way it used to be taught to me and I think we’ve progressed from that, I haven’t been at school for twenty years and I think we can offer the kids a lot more than what I was offered at school and not that my PE teacher didn’t, my PE teacher was amazing and you can only work with the resources you’re given and where you are, I guess in life at that time. So I met Andy and we’ve started this Ozzie phys ed team and whatever you want to call us but our Ozzie phys ed group and we’ve just gone from strength to strength, it’s been the best move I’ve ever done. So it’s being able to really push myself but the other 80 people we’ve probably got in this group at the moment to new levels in the way we teach PE. So but yeah huge mistakes made in that first year I can tell you right now.

[00:13:05] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah for sure, what about with specific reference to tech. Can you think of any moments where–?

[00:13:12] Arron Gardiner: Jarrod I couldn’t, can I be perfectly honest, I couldn’t even tell you what technology I used in that first year of PE mate.

[00:13:21] Arron Gardiner: Not even in the first year, any time across your existence yeah.

[00:13:25] Arron Gardiner: Yeah, probably, do you know what, probably not giving the kids enough credit for that idea, I mean these kids are brought up on technology these days and you, you can be very quick to make the mistake that you know everything and–

[00:13:42] Jarrod Robinson: Love it. 

[00:13:43] Arron Gardiner: Yeah, it’s about letting the kids go and letting the kids discover because nine out of ten kids will be able to probably take what you’re doing further and possibly almost know a lot more than most of us teachers do these days, they, I mean my five year old son mate he can pick the iPad up and probably navigate a lot better than I can and I consider myself quite handy. Look, we’re not big ones for him being on it all the time, but it’s a natural progression, they use it in the classroom, they use it in PE, they’re using it all the time, it’s, I guess it’s the way life is now isn’t it? 

[00:14:22] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah we make these assumptions sometimes about what we think they should know and sometimes our curriculum that we develop prohibits progression of them showing their true understand. I think you said a really important thing that it is a okay for a student or students to know more than you and we shouldn’t feel threatened by that and we should put conditions in place so that can be thrived rather than sort of restrained. I think that’s fantastic advice. What are some other lessons that you found along the way?

[00:14:53] Arron Gardiner: Got me thinking there mate.

[00:14:55] Jarrod Robinson: I’m [00:14:55] (unclear).

[00:14:56] Arron Gardiner: It’s challenging isn’t it, it’s challenging these kids and you are you meaning as far as technology or–?

[00:15:03] Jarrod Robinson: On any, yeah tech.

[00:15:04] Arron Gardiner: Yeah, it’s about challenging those kids. I think my biggest thing has been that the importance that PE can actually play on a child throughout their whole school life. I’ve been trying to push at my school the idea that if we can get these kids in to PE, get them active, get them thinking throughout a PE lesson, there’s actually research to suggest that this is only going to benefit them in their everyday school life.

So my kids used to come and we used to play a game and it is what it was, you’d teach them a skill they play a game and there was no reflection, there was no afterthought of PE until the next day or the next week. That’s probably been the biggest thing I’ve learnt that PE can be so powerful and we can have these kids thinking so deeply throughout a PE session about anything, about the way a game works, about all sorts of things and that can be really powerful and that can be taken back to the classroom and used as a skill backing the classroom. That’s probably one thing I’ve noticed and one thing that it’s starting to probably shine in my school at the moment that this is starting to work, there actually is validation behind the way that we’re teaching PE at the moment.

[00:16:23] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I love it. That depth is something that is a noticeable change in the way that people are delivering and there’s more to it than what we may have done in the past. I mean from values like you’ve mentioned and having an understanding of why we’re doing things because to be physically literate for life it’s not just about the movement part, you’ve got to have this other fact which is the why and how and the knowledge part. So I think we are starting to see more phys ed programs treating it more like a classroom rather than just a place where they go to let of steam and run around.

[00:17:01] Arron Gardiner: Absolutely Jarrod, absolutely and that comes through the collaboration and then you really got to look at Twitter and that was another new thing for me, that was a big, wide world for me when Andy Hair introduced me to Twitter, but the collaboration and the things you learn from platforms like Twitter and Voxer are just mind blowing, absolutely mind blowing.

[00:17:22] Jarrod Robinson: For sure, I mean it’s come along way. I still remembering logging onto Twitter in 2008 and sending the first tweets and no phys ed teachers were connected, like, it was a very different environment and still with the vast majority of people who listen to this podcast and email me, etc., I’m connected and that’s fine but there are very easy ways to get connected now and Twitter’s a great place to start at a depth and a pace that suits you, you don’t have to be following everyone, you don’t have to be on there 24/7 but it is a great way to connect with fresh ideas. So are you finding that Twitter and Voxer are the places that you hang out most or are there a few others?

[00:18:02] Arron Gardiner: Voxer’s probably my main port of call at the moment, Andy Hair and I, look it was Andy’s idea but we had a group of Ozzie phys ed teachers about probably, I know Christine spoke about this with you last week but we started humbly with three teachers in that Voxer group, probably about almost twelve months ago now and that was Sean Demonton, Andy Hair and myself and we brought another bloke in Daniel Zito probably about a month into and we’re going now about 80 strong with teachers from all over Australia, Andy Vasley’s part of that group I know you Jarrod you’ve just joined the group recently, so that’s going really strong. That’s probably been the main platform, but yeah look Twitter, Twitter’s probably been a big one for me as well. So yeah look Facebook, just your usual for me. I have a young family so it’s try and make sure that work-life balance is still there as well and I think that’s a really important thing.

[00:19:04] Jarrod Robinson: Oh for sure, absolutely. It’s not really about the tool but there are obviously a variety of different ways that phys ed teachers can connect so you pick the platform that suits you, the thing that resonates with you whether it’s voice like Voxer or whether you want to just follow along with some messages, but you don’t have to be alone anymore I think that’s the real thing that you’re getting across, it’s there’s no need. So where do you guys tend to write your ideas, do you have a website or something that people can go and check out?

[00:19:30] Arron Gardiner: Yeah, so Andy and I, we have a website asquaredphysed.com that we post to. Andy obviously has his own mrhairphysed Weebly and we’ve just started an Ozzie phys ed weebly which is just sort of kicking off the ground as we speak. But both of the web I do with Andy Hair is posted to asquaredphysed.com. So yeah.

[00:19:56] Jarrod Robinson: Perfect stuff. So that’s the best way to wrap up the show. For anyone listening you can head along to the pegeek.com/71 for a full word for word transcript of today’s show and as well as links to all the resources and websites mentioned today by Arron. So that will include everything if you want to go back and check it out. Thanks again Arron for stopping by.

[00:20:18] Arron Gardiner: It’s been a pleasure Jarrod and I really appreciate you giving me the time.

[00:20:21] Jarrod Robinson: Always, always good to have the Ozzie phys ed crew on.

[00:20:25] Arron Gardiner: Fantastic mate, thank you.

[00:20:27] Jarrod Robinson: We’ll speak soon.

[00:20:28] Arron Gardiner: Will do, thanks mate. [/spp-transcript]

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