In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast we chat with the man behind the amazing PE Specialist website, Ben Landers. Throughout the episode we discuss the power of reflection in our practice and how Ben has been able to leverage his GoPro to capture in lesson footage. This has been instrumental in enabling him to catalogue how lessons were setup for repeat sessions in the future, whilst also enabling him to pick up on the hidden nuisances in his teaching.
Resources & topics shared in this episode include
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 number 74 of the PE Geek Podcast and as always it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. Now my favorite episodes are those in which we get to interview phys ed teachers out there in the wild doing good things and it’s my absolute pleasure to welcome to the show Ben Landers. How are you?
[00:00:46] Ben Landers: I’m doing great man, happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
[00:00:49] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, welcome. It’s definitely someone that I’ve followed very intently over the last couple of years since we met in North Carolina, when was that like August in 2015?
[00:01:00] Ben Landers: That’s 2015, yeah that was really, really cool.
[00:01:02] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, definitely was for the National PE Institute and since then been following intently with the things you’ve been doing online and was really excited to be able to get you onto the episode. So are you teaching in North Carolina or South Carolina or where about are you in this part of the world?
[00:01:20] Ben Landers: Yeah I’m in South Carolina so I’m about three hours from where we were at that conference.
[00:01:24] Jarrod Robinson: Okay cool and what’s the, what sort of school are you involved in?
[00:01:28] Ben Landers: The school I’m at is called River Springs Elementary, it’s a 4K through 5th grade elementary school with 650 kids and they come through PE about once a week depending on the grade level. There’s like a few little weird schedule things but pretty much everybody gets PE once a week.
[00:01:45] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah and you can imagine the enthusiasm they get when they finally get into that room, is that the case?
[00:01:50] Ben Landers: Yeah they’re pumped, they’re like ready to go.
[00:01:53] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah for sure so a big part of your strategy is being on, and I know seeing a lot of your content around the management of those students when they roll in and you’ve produced this amazing webinar for connected PE called the phys ed hacks, do you just want to talk about what you did there?
[00:02:09] Ben Landers: Sure man. I actually kind of designed that session for ESPE chat which is the elementary school twitter chat and they do like an online summit similar to Phys Ed Otago and that was the first time I ever did it and that just, I didn’t really know what to do, I didn’t have anything planned. I was like I’ll just kind of tell people everything that I do that I feel like kind of helps me run a successful phys ed program. So just kind of go over all the strategies and mindset things and then little systems that I have in place to save time and help kids take responsibility for their learning in class.
[00:02:46] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah and I think one of the big things that came out of that that I remember people were talking about in the Connected PE session where you repeated it was the conflict corner idea which you’d sort of taken from I think Joey Feith and repurposed for your own needs. Do you want to explain how that works?
[00:03:03] Ben Landers: Yeah man that’s, so I got that idea from J.D. Hughes, he was at a conference and he had this thing called the work it out corner and then I was like that sounds like a really cool idea and I just watched this Ted Talk on body language and so basically I just kind of added these two concepts together and made a poster and the idea is any time kids have a problem before they come and talk to me about it they have to go try to resolve it on their own and they just go over to the corner, the conflict corner and then they go through the steps of conflict resolution and it’s been really, really, really helpful me because as an elementary teacher you’re just dealing with so much tattle-telling, so it’s a nice little filter to kind of help filter out the problems that aren’t really a big deal and Joey redesigned it and put it up on his website as well which is really cool.
[00:03:53] Jarrod Robinson: Excellent, it was just a brilliant, eye-opening example of a framework that really brought about a massive result because you’re right most of those things that would, we tend to react to aren’t that important, they might seem important for the kids but they can work them out with a cool framework, so I thought it was brilliant. So obviously you’ve got this keen interest in our profession. Where did that grow for you? Like where did you end up in the phys ed classroom? Was it always something that you had in mind or just came later in life?
[00:04:24] Ben Landers: I kind of just fell into in college, I mean I always enjoyed PE class as a kid but I went into school as a business major just because I’m, my mind is kind of bent that way and after one semester of college just decided that it was just mostly common sense, like I felt like I was just wasting money, I was like I can just go start a business without knowing and taking all these classes. So I kind of wanted to find something that would actually require a degree to do because if you get a business degree that’s great but you don’t really need it to start a business.
So I was just thinking about what are some things that actually you have to have the certification to do this job. Then I just started looking around and my original idea with the business degree was to start an eco-tourism type business where I would take backpacking trips and surfing lessons, that kind of thing. So the teaching side of business but not, I never really considered being a teacher until I switched my major and started looking around and there was no like adventure education type degrees available where I was and PE was kind of the closest thing and then I just took a couple classes and when I got into to schools and started hanging out with kids I was like oh man this is where it’s at, this awesome. So I just fell into it and really fell in love with it.
[00:05:46] Jarrod Robinson: That’s crazy because there’s just so many different paths to get to education really isn’t there? There’s no direct one way that tends to happen and I think that appeal is quite powerful when you finally get into a class and see the kids and see them engage in your lesson and it’s pretty addicting.
[00:06:05] Ben Landers: Yeah, yeah for sure. I’ll be honest like when I switched my major one of my thoughts in the back of my mind was if I don’t like teaching at least I’ll have summers off to figure out what I really want to do. So I’m glad that wasn’t the case, I’m glad I really do like teaching, but it nice to have that school schedule as well, I think it’s really healthy.
[00:06:25] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah I think so. I mean being able to switch between some different projects and that’s really appropriate for you because you’re running a really innovative website at the moment over at, where’s the website?
[00:06:38] Ben Landers: Thepespecialist.com
[00:06:40] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, so you’re running a website there and the fact that we have these opportunities as our teacher’s schedule you get a chance to produce resources that then go on and benefit people. So what are some of the hot items on that site that people could find useful?
[00:06:55] Ben Landers: Like you said conflict corner that’s probably one of the most shared things that I have. Then there’s a lot of game videos, I think one of the things that I tried to do that I hadn’t seen a lot of people do is just GoPro myself teaching because I feel like one of the best things I get from conferences and things like that is just the little nuances things that people do in their teachers that they probably wouldn’t even notice but you just pick up on the way they say things or the way they kind of do their management. So that’s the way that I share games on my site is I just put a GoPro and a tripod and then clip together me doing the different tasks for the games and things like that. So I’ve gotten some good feedback on that and then I have just little downloadable posters and little systems that can help people save a little time if it works for them.
[00:07:42] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah for sure, so we’ll have all the links to the website in the show notes over at the pegeek.com/74 for episode 74 but I do encourage you to head over there and download some of the available resources. Now you mentioned a GoPro as being a tool that you’ve used to capture your teaching and then be able to review that. Has tech played a role in your classes over the last few years?
[00:08:07] Ben Landers: Yeah for sure. I could talk about like there’s tons of little apps that you could use and you’ve talked about them before on your website. One of the biggest things I use is the Google Drive suite just like Google Drive is my best friend. It’s, I use Google Photos, this year is the first year I’ve really, really taken advantage of Google Photos and what I do that is if you’re not familiar with it, if you have Google, Gmail then you have a Google Photos account and you can download an app on your device and it backs up every picture and video that you take totally free to the cloud.
So one thing that I do with Google Photos is once a week I try to put my iPad and a GoPro on a tripod and I just record with both of them. Since it’s on my iPad it backs up to Google Photos and then I just have a log of every lesson that I’ve taught over a whole year and I just organize those in little folders at the end of each week so that at the end of the year when I’m teaching that again the next year I can go back and kind of review it and it’s just a great way to reflect and when you’re thinking about how did I set that game up last time I can’t remember oh yeah I have a panoramic of my set up on my Google Drive, it’s a really helpful tool.
[00:09:28] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah excellent, I mean that’s a great way to capture what’s happening in a class isn’t it because I think a lot of the time we try and remember things like this but we’ve only got a limited capacity for that and being able to store it somehow so we can reflect on it or see it again next year I think would be quite powerful. So besides from those things is there any other sort of tools that you live with? I mean Google Drive is a big staple of mine but there are these other little things like you mentioned we could talk about. But what about other essential ones for you that you’ve found to be quite useful?
[00:10:01] Ben Landers: So right after I started the website I got a TV, like a big flat screen on my wall and that was big thanks to you because I read your big screen TV post and then used all that info to kind of submit to my administration to get approval for that and that’s pretty much like been a big avenue for me to bring tech in. Most of the time I don’t really like to rely on internet so what I do normally is just download the videos I’m going to use for the lesson and I put them on a USB drive and then I plug those into my DVD player which is hooked up to my TV and then it’s like two seconds I turn it on and the videos are all in different folders. So I don’t I ever have to worry about internet which is really nice.
[00:10:48] Jarrod Robinson: For sure, that’s a common reason why a lot of people sort of get stuck in this practice of not having reliable internet and there are ways around it like you mentioned. So I’d imagine that that screen becomes a focal point for teaching cues, like any classroom. Most teachers, like your mass English teachers they’ve probably got some sort of projector screen to share stuff. So I think that phys ed can be benefit as much if not even maybe more when they include things like a big screen in their practice for sure. So what videos and any other apps that you might share with the big screen?
[00:11:28] Ben Landers: Sometimes I’ll do Team Shake and throw the teams up, I have an Apple TV so I can mirror it if the Wi-Fi is working. Well actually not that I got the new iPad so I can actually do it with Bluetooth so I don’t even have to worry about the wireless for the Apple TV either which is really nice.
[00:11:44] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah so that’s such an exciting way to generate teams though isn’t it because everyone’s watching it and they get to see it in real time and it looks like it’s done fair and they shake the device and the teams are made and then all of sudden they can generate and get active I think a little bit quicker than previous methods of picking.
[00:12:03] Ben Landers: Yeah it’s nice.
[00:12:04] Jarrod Robinson: It is for sure. So along the way using tech there’s obviously going to be a few little mistakes and issues that are being made. What do you think they might be for you? Does anything ever come up that sort of sidetrack the lesson?
[00:12:18] Ben Landers: Yeah I was, because I don’t, I have had the internet go out on me and that is why I’ve kind of switched to downloading everything because when you had a lesson that’s totally based on having internet access and it goes out then you’re just like oh man like it’s not that you can’t continue the lesson because hopefully as teachers we’re all capable of being flexible and you need always to have that plan B just in case but it’s too easy to have a lesson that doesn’t depend on the internet. So I usually just go that and in the reason I’ve done that is because of the failures I’ve had when either the district filter is messed up and it won’t let me get on YouTube or the Wi-Fi is just totally gone.
One thing that this is like very, very low tech but one thing I’ve tried to do the last couple years is make really, really good notes to myself. The way that I do my curriculum and plan my lessons is I just have a Google Drive folder or I have my Google Docs and it’s like week one, week two all the way down to week thirty-eight and then I have the plan but then as I’m sure like many teachers out there, like you have your plan and then you actually get the class in there and you get everybody set up and you realize it’s not going to work so you have to totally change the plan.
In the past I would have not done a very good job making, going back and refining those plans in my Google Drive because it’s like once you’ve taught it you don’t really need to go back and do that. But then the next year when you’re like back in the same content so helpful if you actually take the time to go back, make the notes on what you do and just think about your future self and how much you’re going to appreciate it when you print off that document next year and you realize all the things that you wrote down.
So one thing, another thing about that is like putting the panoramic of my set up like I was saying the Google Photos things, sometimes I’ll drop that into the Google Doc then the next year when I have that page and it has a picture of my gym, the exact set up, it’s just so nice. I’m like thanks last year Ben Landers appreciate that.
[00:14:37] Jarrod Robinson: There’s other flow on benefits too like in case you had to leave some material for another teacher you’d probably access to something that you could use to give to them much quicker if you had to disappear for a week or so. It’s not just in the immediate for you but there’s a lot of other reasons why that sort of approach would be useful. So what does the future hold for yourself in terms of the things that are happening at your school as well the future of your website, anything that’s happening in the background that you’re excited about.
[00:15:10] Ben Landers: For myself? Just trying to continue to be the best teacher I can be and the best dad and husband that I can be. Part of that is the website, the last couple of years have just been incredible. I feel like I hadn’t ever really seen the power of the internet until I started the blog and just being able to, and honestly that conference that we met at was a really big lightbulb for me because I got to meet you, I got to meet Joey and Nathan, Andy Valsani and all these guys I had been following for a couple of years online and then like I was just like these guys are just like normal guys that work really hard at putting stuff out there and so that was big moment for me to be like I think I can actually do a blog too and I have some good ideas, maybe people would want to read those.
So seeing the power of like this podcast that you and me are going to spend thirty minutes talking and then you’re going to spend some time uploading it and all that but then thousands and thousands of people are going to actually sit and listen to this, I mean that’s like sitting down and thinking about the power of the internet and how we can put information into the world is just incredible.
[00:16:28] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, yeah I agree. I just am so fond of the internet for a medium. Its potential is great. It brings the cost of education down for many people to zero and sometimes we take it for granted. When I was in Kenya earlier in the year and talking with someone who had, he was my tour guide, he really never had an education growing up but because of his smart phone and because of the ability to get access to the internet his kids were learning English, mathematics, so not just learning a foreign language but they were learning mathematics in that foreign language and they were doing it all from their tiny house in Kenya and I think that’s just phenomenally sort of speaks to how powerful this stuff can be for sure.
[00:17:19] Ben Landers: Yeah that’s incredible.
[00:17:20] Jarrod Robinson: It really is. If you’re listening and you think I’ve got an idea for a blog and I don’t know where to start and there’s a lot of different ways and the way I started is just to head to wordpress.com and start writing and I wasn’t writing for anyone but me in the beginning and if I head back there now it looks pretty amateur and doesn’t really, wasn’t all that helpful to anyone but it was helpful to me, it helped me think about my lessons and what I was doing and if that’s what you get from it then I think that’s absolutely worthwhile and if you end up doing a website like the PE specialist and start producing valuable content for others then that’s great as well. So I want to thank you for stopping by Ben and sharing some awesome insight into how tech fits into your class but also we went a bit deeper than that on how you can sort of contribute to the phys ed world that we are all part of.
[00:18:12] Ben Landers: Yeah it’s by my pleasure, thanks for having me.
[00:18:14] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah absolutely, speak soon man.
[00:18:16] Ben Landers: Will do.
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