Episode 72 – 7 Observations About Technology in PE

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast I share 7 Observations I’ve made over the years surrounding the use of emerging technologies in PE. These observations have come from working with teachers all over the planet in offline and online capacities and form the basis for my thinking in the field. The list is certainly not exclusive or complete, but these observations recurrently come up in my work others.

The 7 Observations are outlined below, however we dive deeper into their context & meaning in the episode

  1. No correlation between resources & good tech use in PE
  2. The best tech use is invisible
  3. It’s becoming irrelevant which device you actually have
  4. Big screens can be a game changer
  5. Common challenges and triumphs globally
  6. It’s become possible to clone yourself
  7. Tech can help us increase student activity time

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


[00:00:30] Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to episode 72 of the PE Geek podcast and as always it’s an absolute pleasure to have you hear listening. Now I really mean that and in the recent months the PE Geek Podcast has reached a new level in terms of the amount of downloads that it’s receiving on a weekly basis and that figure has sort of grown by about 30%, which is really quite extraordinary and it sort indicates in many ways how podcasts have 


become part of more popular culture and they’re not just such a niche type of content these days, you can get them accessible via even your in car dashboards in some brand new cars and it just becomes so much easier to consume the content.

So if you are someone who listens to this podcast and you enjoy it the best thing that you can do is just to explain to others what podcasts are, if they happen to ask 


where you’re getting some processional development or what you’re doing while you’re exercising or traveling let them know what podcasts are, show them how they can actually get started because from my experience when people have been given that they tend to become quite addicted to how powerful podcasts can be. I know personally that’s the same for me and having just shown my mother exactly what podcasting is all about she’s got right behind it.

Now in today’s episode we’re going to be diving into


seven observations I’ve made around the use of technology in physical education. Now these observations have come from many years of working with teachers all over the planet both in workshops and online through this website and they definitely aren’t an exclusive list in terms of there are way more observations that I’ve made but these tend to come up over and over again in workshops, in emails, in all the different forums


that we communicate in and I wanted to sort of break them down, talk about them in a bit more detail and just give you something to think about as we move into 2017.

Now one of the first observations that I’ve made over the many years is that there is absolutely no correlation between resources and good effective use of technologies in the PE classroom. Now what


do I mean by that essentially is that to think that all you need to do is to get more resources, have more iPads, have more devices, better connection, better this, that you’re going to therefore lead to you using the technology better for student learning or for student engagement or whatever that may be that you’re after is a little bit of a fallacy.

Now I’ve observed this in so many situations having worked with personally consulting


lots of schools who have what you would say is abundant resources, absolute sort of to the point where they don’t really necessarily have to say no to anything if they want and they can showcase it, it might be useful, they end up getting it in their practice. As a result of that they often lead down this path of thinking that the way to solve their problems is by just purchasing more and more and more. As a result a lot of the times some of the worst 


practice happens in these types of schools.

Now, I sort of have a real personal connection to this in that I come from a school that was not incredibly well resourced, they, we had not necessarily bad resources but we were somewhere in the middle and it meant that we had to be a little bit more creative with how we used things. So for a long time we didn’t have Wi-Fi access in our practical spaces or our PE spaces and that meant that therefore we couldn’t use some of the tools 


that other schools and places could so it meant that we had to be more mindful about what we did do. So this idea that just simply throwing money or resources at the solution is going to equate to better practice is so wrong and more often than not it’s these schools with the least amount of resources with good teaching practice sort of molded in that can make things really work. 

Now the second observation that I’ve made over the 


years is that the best tech use is invisible, now what I mean by this is that I really don’t care what device you’re using or that it’s present and front and everyone sees that you’re using a device and it’s this wow factor or whatever it is that sort of appeals to technology and I’ll be honest I’ve had that before where I’ve been using the latest thing and thinking that that’s the reason why something is working. But to be honest the best tech use


in a classroom is invisible. If whatever it is that you’re attempting to do is so not needed by the fact that you don’t need to be seeing the tech, it’s just part of the lesson and it integrates perfectly then you’re on to something.

Now when tech is so visible that it’s obvious that something’s going wrong or that it’s put in place this extra step in the process that once was not part of the process and all of a sudden it’s 


become so obvious that technology is in there and it’s not working and it’s clunky and you’re sort of getting away from whatever it was that you were putting in there for the first place. So in all situations that I’ve seen when tech use has become invisible and the task that the tech is enabling is the priority and the focus and the tech is just by-product they’re the best situations and in all the situations where I sort see best practice that is very evident.


The best tech use is invisible. 

Now the third observation I want to make with you is that it’s really becoming irrelevant which device you actually have access to. Now in the days gone by obviously there was a lot of preference to downloading IOS and Apple devices and Apple apps and if you look through the blog now you’ll see I have a big emphasis on those and that’s becoming less of the case, I personally


have an android device, I have a Windows device, I run a MacBook as well. That’s purely because I get the opportunity to write content for as many platforms as I can, but the reality is that still far too many of us are asking that very question of we’re a Mac school or we’re a Windows school and that means we can’t do X, well it’s really not the case anymore, it’s sort of becoming irrelevant.

What was once quite difficult to navigate as separate entities


is really become blurred by this amazing thing we all have access to called the internet. The internet is the leveler, it doesn’t mean you have to have the latest technical capacity on your device as long as you’ve got that internet connection to the browser then you are probably going to be able to do the same things and features that the kid who has the latest and greatest tech can do because the internet is where all of the stuff that we are doing these days tends to take



Now no better sort of example of this then you’re looking at a lot of the cloud tools that we use, things like Google Drive, you can experience that on a $100 android tablet or you can experience the same thing working from your laptop, all be it with a couple of differences of how you interact with it. But the tool is almost, like I said before invisible and the object of whatever you’re attempting to do is the real focus.

So it is becoming irrelevant


where or what device you’re using and as that continues down the lines we’re going to get to a point where it doesn’t really matter if you’re running an iPhone, the same possiblities are going to be happening on your device as if you were using another device. So watch out for that to continue to grow, try and check into that conversation if you hear people saying that we’re really a Windows school or really a Mac school and that means we can’t do X. That’s really not true, and if anyone’s trying to sell you that


then they’re certainly not up with what is really, the reality of the sort of current environment. 

Now the fourth observation that I’ve made over the last sort of probably two years more than anything is that big screens can be an absolute game changer for smart use of technology. Now you will have heard me blog about these a lot, dedicated episodes to them, but essentially a big screen I mean having a projector or a large


screen TV or whatever it may be in your practical space so that students can be immersed in whatever it is that you’re doing on your device at a larger scale.

Now I think the reason why this works so well is it changes this mindset about PE simply being roll the ball out and make kids active. I think absolutely that’s fundamentally what we do but there’s so much more to our profession than we 



So the more that the PE classroom moves into a classroom environment where deeper learning happens, where reflection happens, where some actual discussion happens and we use that to craft these experiences that develop people who are physically literate and what to be active life for better. I think the big screen environment really helps with that because we actually get the change to craft learning experiences that aren’t just one 


directional run until you can’t run no more and jump and skip and whatever, but they are inclusive of other modes of instruction which can be really quite powerful in a big screen setting. So I’m seeing a lot of schools and working with a lot of schools that are doing exactly that, they are getting big screens into their practice and working in ways to use tech to help deliver content in a more meaningful way. 

Now the fifth


observation that I’ve made over the years is that there are very much common challenges and triumphs that are happening on a global basis. Now what I basically mean by that is that I cannot go to any county in the world and not hear the same types of issues, the same things that are working for schools. I think that’s both reinforcing of many of the things that I believe to be quite powerful, they are seemingly quite powerful across other places and they


transfer into other countries and so forth and it sort of shares many of the same things that we’re attempting to do.

But at the very same token there are many of the same challenges. So I go to countries all over the globe every year and I have same things, things like we don’t have access to X or our students are getting distracted by the use of these tools and what are some of the different things that we can do to prevent that. These are very similar across the planet.



in the next episode you’re going to hear in many ways some of the data that came from the 2016 World Tech in Phys Ed audit which some of you may have participated in and you’re going to hear some of those common challenges that people face and they are not pinpointed to specific countries. 

I tend to get this type of email a lot where people say hey Jarrod I want to go and visit a school or a country or a city, who’s using this stuff the best so that I can visit three or four or five 


place at once and make the trip worthwhile and to be honest I say look around your own area, you’re probably going to find very similar use of these things done in a good context as you would if you crossed the planet, crossed the country and went into a school because what I’ve noticed is that we are struggling with many of the same things and many of the triumphs that are happening across the globe are also quite shared.


Now the sixth observation that I’ve made is that it is possible to clone yourself using technology. Now I think this is quite powerful and in many ways a lot of you are teaching one to sort of many relationship where it’s you and the students and you’re passing on information to them, they’re reciprocating with that and we go on and we value this one to one opportunity where over the course 


of let’s say an entire year you may only get a handful of moments with students one on one and if you added those amount of times and extrapolate it across the year it’s not a lot of time that you’ve got individually to work with students. That is I believe the massive assets that technology has in that it is possible to clone yourself. 

So if you think about that initial what tends to be happening in a PE setting where you’ve got instruction and a teacher’s standing at the front and they’re sharing something, with tech we


can make that a little more personal so that the student gets to pick or they get to watch a video or they have some sort of deeper engagement in that conversation that initially is triggered and then you as the teacher are almost freed up to walk around and assist one on one even more so because the 80% of the students who have managed to grasp that concept through what was a video or another type of instruction delivered digitally,


you’ve freed up that mass amount of time so that you can now spend a little bit more time working with the remainder 20% that are probably going to result in needing further assistance and you’ve now got more time to be able to do that.

So I really do like to think of technology as being able to clone yourself, I think that’s inherently one of its massive potentials. I think if you can wrap good teaching practice around this then you can do some pretty 


extraordinary things. I think we always talk about wouldn’t it be nice if we had more teachers or less, smaller class sizes. Well tech can help us be a little bit more efficient and then that time that we do have with the student can be a little bit more valuable than it currently is. 

Now the seventh observation that I’ve made is that tech can increase our student activity time. Now I commonly hear that or maybe a little bit more in the past that if you’re using 


technology then it means that you are probably not going to be active. That may have been the case when laptops and desktops and lap type situations were the norm related to technology. But as we’ve evolved to mobile devices and as we’ve evolved to items such as Fitbit and Apple watches or whatever it may be, this notion that tech is somewhat something that we do discreetly and can 


only happen when you’ve stopped and you’re not active is probably not the case. 

Now in terms of accessing and using things like Fitbit devices and so on there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that they’ve increased physical activity in students, in adults etc. and the big reason is that their data helps trigger more physical activity by being aware of it. So I don’t believe that necessarily throwing out the conversation that if they’re using tech they’re not active is accurate.


But I also don’t believe that just because you use tech you’re going to make kids more physically active. There’s got to be good teaching wrapped around it and there are a myriad of examples of people who have introduced tech and at the very same time they’ve given more physical activity time. 

Now I think the best example of this comes to mind is using tech to help select teams in your class. Now this may be something that you do every single week and the traditionally way to do it to 


stand there and assign students between different groups and so on but with a tool such as Team Shake available for your iPhone or your android device you can instantly create teams that take in account ability levels and who should and shouldn’t work together and as a result what was taking you three or four minutes has now taken you instant and you can then spend that default time to get started. 

The other example is that imagine your students are rolling into 


class after having being changed or just coming from their previous class and we know what it’s like, they don’t all get here at the same time. So you can use tech to get students instantly active with some sort of instant active say Sworkit or Fitness Blender or something along those lines where they’re getting active straight aware and the remainder of the students are coming in and you can be there, present to deal with their situation and 


check them off and mark attendance and deal with their minor issues and at the same time the tech is augmenting some physical activity for the students that are already in the room. So I absolutely fundamentally believe that smart use of tech can increase student activity time when it’s placed and wrapped around with good teaching.

That brings us to the end of episode 72 and as I mentioned at the start this isn’t an exclusive list of observations but they’re some of the most pressing


ones, the ones that come up a lot, the ones that I find myself saying quite often to teachers who email or get in contact related to various ways that they’re using technology in their practice. Now I will follow up in the future with another series of observations that I’ve made around the use of technology and I hope you found this episode useful. So even if you take away one of these observations and use that to form your thoughts or reaffirm something that you believe


yourself then I believe that it’s going to serve its purpose as a podcast episode. 

Now in the next episode we’re going to be diving into the results from the 2016 World Tech in Phys Ed Audit, you may know this is something that we do on a yearly basis and it gives us a little bit of data just to share with you about what people are doing, the sort of devices they have access to, the troubles they’re facing and so on and the 


episode will dive into the results from that session and some of the insights that we’ve gathered. It also helps us prepare the content that we’re going to roll out for the following year. So more often than not the sort of things that people are struggling with and want training around, well they become the sorts of things we end up giving that training around. So I look forward to seeing you in episode 73 and we’ll speak soon. Bye!

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