In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast we speak with Wellington Based Physical Educator Carl Condliffe. Carl shares his expertise in the area of flipped learning, discuss what exactly it is and how people can get started implementing it in their practice. We also touch on how he has taken his love for this method of content delivery to a new level with his platform ‘My Study Series‘
[00:00:29] Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to episode number 81 of the PE Geek podcast. And as always it’s an absolute pleasure to have you listening. Now I’m really excited today to welcome Carl Condliffe to the show. How are you Carl?
[00:00:41] Carl Condliffe: I’m good thanks Jarrod, thanks for having me.
[00:00:43] Jarrod Robinson: You’re welcome man, where are you joining us from at the moment?
[00:00:47] Carl Condliffe: I’m currently sitting in at work, it’s pretty dark here, Rongotai College in Wellington, New Zealand.
[00:00:55] Jarrod Robinson: Lovely memories of flying into Wellington around about this time last year or there abouts. Windy Wellington they call it, is that right?
[00:01:04] Carl Condliffe: That’s right, it’s pretty hectic here when it gets windy. It’s really strong, yeah. You don’t want to be flying into Wellington on a windy day.
[00:01:11] Jarrod Robinson: No, I’d heard this, and I’d heard this whole Windy Wellington and I sort of dismissed it. But that particular night when I was flying to Wellington the plane ended up having turbulence and this was announced over the speakers of the, by the captain and we were sitting on the ground after we’d landed. The probable worst landing I’ve ever been on in my life. And they told us to buckle our seats in even after we’d arrived at the gate. So that sort of, that was a bit of indication of the Windy Wellington name for sure. But have you always sort of grow up there in Wellington?
[00:01:46] Carl Condliffe: No, I grew up, I spent the first twelve years in Auckland and then we moved to Wellington for a couple of reasons. On the flip side too, the Windy Wellington they do say you can’t beat Wellington on a good day. I’m just not sure that you’ve been in Wellington on a good day. But when it is good, it’s amazing, it’s a beautiful place.
[00:02:02] Jarrod Robinson: Yup, yup and did you grow up with this passion and enthusiasm for sport and Phys Ed as a student yourself and did that happen in Auckland or just all throughout the journey?
[00:02:16] Carl Condliffe: No it really, it really developed once I moved to Wellington. My parents, they did something that was really, it ended up being really good for me. They made me chose one summer and one winter sport. And because of that and because I focused all my attentions on those I ended up getting quite good at those two sports. So I’m thankful to the for that, it meant I missed out on a lot of other stuff that I really wanted to try. But having those two sports which were track and field and basketball I got to some pretty high levels in those which was pretty cool to achieve.
[00:02:47] Jarrod Robinson: Well that’s very parallel to mine too. I had track and field as my summer sport and Australian rules football as the winter sport. And again like really enjoyed it, really liked the fact that you had this foundational bedrock over many years in that one sport. And I think particularly athletics that was like a grounding for so many different other activities that you do. People don’t really think about it, but it does. It has so many foundational layers that just keep coming up in everything that we do. So I think it’s a tremendous sport.
[00:03:21] Carl Condliffe: Yeah we’ve been thinking about, with having two young kids now we talk and discuss what sports are going to be good for their development, not necessarily what sports we want them to participate in, but what’s going to be best for their development and athletics definitely sticks up there.
[00:03:36] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I am so fond of it even to this day. And it was probably one of those early indicators for me that technology could play a role in sort of sport and I got this really fond memory at being at an athletics day and I might have been 13 and we had just got a video camera and that video camera was pointed at me running a 400 meter race and I remember being so motivated by just being able to see myself, because it was pretty difficult back then just to get some footage of you doing something, let alone how it is today. So yeah tech probably is really closely connected to track and field. Like what about you, where did this technology sort of interest for you begin?
[00:04:20] Carl Condliffe: I was a big gamer growing up. I had a thing for videogames. And a lot of my friends at the time had access to videogames but I never did simply because of the situation that my family found themselves in. And it wasn’t until I got a little bit older and I could save some money, get a job that I managed to buy my first consul and that really was probably my link to technology, just a lot of the gaming and how I could see how that was the direction that was heading and what the future could lie just in gaming.
But then I moved and decided to get into teaching and I could merge the two, and I could see I had this passion for technology and challenging the status quo and the way that we do things, I could bring in those skills and some of the knowledge that I’d learned from gaming and merge the two and blend the two. And that I guess really started my journey of trying to find the next piece of technology that was going to help me in the classroom but also help the kids who really, they’re the end product and they’re the ones you want to have the positive impact through the technology for.
[00:05:29] Jarrod Robinson: Oh completely agree and it definitely does help when you have a personal interest in it as well because I know for me that helped me discover things and experiment and try stuff. But at the end of the day the children and the kids made the decision on whether it was successful or not. But for you in the early days you had a lot of success with the use of videos and sort of flipped learning. How did that start?
[00:05:56] Carl Condliffe: Yeah I got to the point in my career where I was a head of department really early, I think my third year of teaching I was acting head of department, opportunity came up and I jumped on it. And I had a really supportive principal at the time who just encouraged us to follow our passions. But being a young teacher and a young HoD and some of the pressures that came with that, I found myself, I got to a point where I was, just feeling a bit stale. I found myself a bit stale and I wasn’t enjoying teaching and I thought there must be a different way to do this.
And I remember watching some Ted Talks and Sal Khan from the Khan Academy. I watched his one and I thought wow that’s, that’s a really unique approach to learning, having students watch these videos. And then you can refer to them in your next class and that was kind of cool. And I dug a little deeper and I discovered Jon Bergmann and he has this book called Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class, Every Day and I picked that up, I just got a, I purchased that on Kindle from Amazon and I read that in like three hours and I was absolutely hooked after that. And I think I started, I think I may have even made my first video that night. And these were terrible videos by the way, they were so bad.
But it was just, I could see the value and particularly in our learning area where the kids that we get they want to be active, they don’t want to be in the classroom and they just want to be working in context that are real to them. And all of a sudden I was presented with this opportunity to say hey we can watch these for homework and we can do a little bit of learning when I see you in person but then we can just spend that lesson exploring the concepts in real world context which are more meaning for our students. And that’s, that’s kind of where I got started with it all.
[00:07:48] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah I guess the fundamental basis for those people that don’t understand flipped learning is really flipping around where that teaching or that content delivery part happens. So and it tends to happen with video but it doesn’t always have to be video, right. Am I right in saying that?
[00:08:07] Carl Condliffe: No, no not at all. And flipped learning is not some new concept that popped out of nowhere six or seven years ago. Tertiary education have been doing it for years that you have your readings before a class. There’s you can listen to podcast or audio, whatever it doesn’t matter. But when you’re doing some prior learning, prior to the lesson that’s a form of flipped learning. That prepares you for what’s coming, it allows the lesson or the lecture to be at a much, more detail because you’ve picked up those fundamental skills already or you’ve touched on them and it just allows as the teacher just to deliver a much better learning experience for the student.
[00:08:50] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah for sure and like I said, and like you said it’s particularly valuable in the practical sort of PE realm where the kids do want to be out and active. And like in the New Zealand curriculum and the Australian curriculum there is this theoretical component that sort of goes with Phys Ed and I don’t know about you guys but in here in Oz that tends to creep into the practical time a lot. Is that something that used to happen a lot for you guys as well?
[00:09:18] Carl Condliffe: Well, to an extent yeah. But the big problems that we have are, our curriculum is really flexible and I love it. We’ve got such a fantastic curriculum in New Zealand. But we go from, so we have in secondary school from year 9 to year 13 and year 9 and 10 is just about getting a taste. You don’t do a whole lot of theory work. We generally avoid doing any form of writing or critical think, we do a bit of critical thinking but there’s not a lot of assessment and written assessment in particular.
Then they get to year 11, so their third year of high school and all of a sudden we say okay now you’re going to be doing written assessments for every single achievement standard bar one practical standard and good luck to you. And we, a lot of our students struggle with that literacy component. And that’s where we have struggles. All of a sudden kids have to write and read and form paragraphs when all they’ve been doing is practical. So that’s some of the struggles that we have in New Zealand anyway.
[00:10:20] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah I mean it’s quite similar here in Oz. They might get some early introduction stuff related to theory in the PE classroom. But then at some point as they go up the level that theory expectation increases and the thing that has to give away to make it happen is usually the practical side.
So I know my early days exploring flipped was, it was sort of in line with well how can I give more activity time back by sort of giving some of that lecture, that content away into the homework realm so that when we’re together we can do prac and I think that was sort of a nice bedrock to sit it on where we’re able to do something more meaningful in the actual class time. So do you think that teachers who maybe start exploring flipped learning in their practice get into this mindset of thinking if they’re just doing a video then they’re doing what flipped learning is all about. Or is there actually more to it than that?
[00:11:19] Carl Condliffe: No there’s so much more and people get really caught up in the video creation or the content creation. And that’s the least of your worries when you’re wanting to do something like flipped classroom. For me flipping the classroom presents and opportunity where you can repurpose your classroom time. And that doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t, you don’t all of a sudden give them a video and then bam you’ve got amazing practical based theory lessons instantly. It requires a bit of determination, a bit of planning to take place.
But how a typical lesson that I flip would look like would be say a five to ten minute video that they would watch the night before. Then they would have to come to school with some notes. Early on in my flipping days we, I used something called a wsq sheet which was, they were developed by a teacher called Crystal Kirch, in America, she’s a maths teacher in America. And that stands for Watch Summarize and Question. And they play a really crucial part in checking student understanding. Because you can create all this great content and put all the bells and whistles on it. But if a kids not digesting the content then you’re wasting your time. So you put some of these principles in place, these concepts in place that allow you as a teacher to insure that the students are digesting the content.
So they’d watch it and you’d teach them how to watch a video. Kids need to be taught how to watch a video because there’s so many distractions these days and you get them to use headphones and you explain why you need to minimize your Facebook page or your Snapchat or whatever and put your phone away and you’re teaching them how to focus on a screen for five to ten minutes because our kids are really good at multi-tasking but when you wanting to learn something and understand the concept you need to remove those barriers.
So you teach them how to watch a video and how to explicitly watch a video and then they have to summarize that and again that’s, that requires a little bit of teaching around that too, what students should be looking out for, what points they should be writing down. That’s one of the cool things about the flipped classroom is that a student can pause at any time, they can pause the video the video and write stuff down and think about a concept that you’ve just presented.
In the classroom you might be talking about something and we have a big, wide range of learners in the classroom. Little Jimmy over there is going to be struggling while John over in the corner is like come on man, hurry up, I know this stuff already. So you’re trying to appeal to all these groups but with a flipped video anyone can pause it at any time, they watch it at their own pace, if they know it they can skip ahead, move onto the next video if you’ve got those lined up back to back. So it’s really powerful having that there. So they summarize things as they go.
But the most, one of the most important parts I found for me was getting the kids to create a question and that’s based on the content that they watch. They, it could be related to a new word that they heard, it could be something they misunderstood about the content, it could be anything really as long as it’s related to the content. And when we go into the lesson the next day or whenever their next lesson is, that would normally be a theory lesson. We always start, they would come and they would know that the first thing they’re going to do is sit down in their group and they’re going to compare questions.
Now I give them about five minutes for that and while they’re doing that I would go around the classroom and check off, I’d have a little cheat sheet to make sure they’re doing the work because again you got to make sure they’re doing it otherwise the next step in the process becomes irrelevant. So while they’re doing that, they’re having a good discussion and then we go into about five minutes of student led questioning.
So within their groups they pick the best question and they’ll present that to the class. And I step back from that and I allow them as the class to work through those questions and answers themselves and you see some really good discussion and critical thought coming through on that step. And that would usually last maybe another five to ten minutes. And then you’re left with 40 minutes to just explore those concepts in the real world. And that’s just so much better for me in terms of comparing it to standing at a whiteboard and chalking and talking, I hate that that’s–
[00:15:43] Jarrod Robinson: For forty minutes.
[00:15:45] Carl Condliffe: Yeah it’s a killer. You don’t want to teach like that, it’s not good teaching. You want to be exploring these ideas, allowing the students to create things and enquire and stuff like that. It’s so much more powerful to go have that time in the bank where you can just approach the concept in any way you want.
[00:16:03] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, yeah it is, it’s time in the bank. And the critics would say I like the concept but I don’t want to go ahead and produce all this content ahead of class. But I mean essentially you’re doing it anyway. You’re making the content, you’re just sort of reversing the order in which you’re delivering it. And then a lot of the content that you’re doing in your class is probably student generated through things like activities and things that you set up. So if you just change your mindset around it it’s probably not as much work as you think. Now am I right in saying that there’s a lot of value in also just picking out a couple of key units that maybe you can do it with rather than saying alright I’m going to do my whole year and start now, just pick out a couple of those key things.
[00:16:48] Carl Condliffe: Yeah especially if you’re staring now, you want to pick something that’s going to have, is more suitable to the flipped classroom. You can flip anything pretty much but there are key standards that are much greater, you’ll get much greater buy-in from the kids. For us I always started with the, our biomechanics units which are generally our toughest units. But you can be talking about something like full summation and instead of talking and talking you can give them a five minute, ten minute video and talk about what is segments and timing and sequencing and stuff like that.
And they have all that content and then the next lesson instead of talking on that you’re outside throwing a ball around or kicking a ball and removing body segments so they have to try to throw the ball without generating as much force and you’re linking back to that content and they’re expecting in that first hand instead of a traditional classroom where you introduce the topic, you talk and talk for 45 minutes and then you say alright for homework go out and throw a ball a couple of times and throw from your waste and you’ve got no support from your peers, you’ve got no support from me and then we, well good luck for the assessment. Now that’s kind of where our traditional classroom is. Don’t get me wrong there’s, we’ve taught in a traditional way for years and years and years and it’s been fine. But that doesn’t mean it’s good teaching and a good approach to how we can deliver learning. So yeah.
[00:18:28] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, yeah. I mean I like the idea of picking those couple of units that have some real leverage and introducing there and when you were saying that I’m just thinking about all the analogies and parallels in the real world where we don’t do what the classroom traditional setting is. I mean imagine we were kids and said alright you’ve just done your drivers license test, the paper written version now we know that you can understand this stuff and then we just said out onto the roads with no adult supervision and that’s the parallel I guess to the flipped learning where you’re actually providing some assistance with the people where they are which I think is the powerful force.
Now my next question sort of relates to the next thing that I would probably hear people mention occasionally which is this sounds great but I don’t teach any theoretical components in my world, in my PE space. So does this apply in a practical setting? And I mean have you ever had any thoughts how you could do it even in a small way, whether it was just front loading kids with the next skill they’re going to be doing ahead of time or whatever that might be?
[00:19:43] Carl Condliffe: Yeah I like that concept of, excuse me, front loading some kids. I mean there’s nothing wrong with that. For a lot of, we have a lot of learners who learn in different ways and some are more visual, some are more kinesthetic. So it’s a little bit about appealing to the different style of learner.
But if you can provide a bit of knowledge around a skill and break a skill down and have students getting a better general understanding of things to look out for at different segments of a skill or around timing or whatever. But introducing a skill and being able to elaborate a lot more and they have that prior learning before they come into class than you’re going to see, I guarantee you’re going to see much greater success in terms of performance on the sports field and that practical setting, guarantee it, hands down.
You bring a kid in fresh with no prior learning or prior experience and say okay today we’re going to learn how to pass a rugby or throw an American football or whatever, you’re starting from scratch, so you’re going to have to make some time up. But if you can present some good teaching around some skill learning then there’s always going to be a benefit there. I mean it’s much easier for us because we have that theory component but that doesn’t mean if you don’t have that theory component that you can’t flip a classroom.
[00:21:10] Jarrod Robinson: Oh completely. You know Christina Polatajko she did a session in the Connected PE online conference where she was using it pretty much primarily in primary PE settings and in practical situations. And she was flipping her class but it was just like front loading, getting the kids excited about the next activities that they were doing in the next week, little things they could home and do just to practice those skills so that the concept and the names and things weren’t foreign to them. And I guarantee when the kids get in the next week they’ve probably practiced that, they’ve probably had a bit of an experience with it and familiar with some of the names and I think that serves a really wide purpose. So a lot of value in that practical setting as well.
And then my final question for you after all of your experience around flipped learning and seeing it work you decided to go down the path of building this platform to help people deliver this for their own schools in New Zealand. Do you just want to share a little bit about what you’ve done and how it all works?
[00:22:15] Carl Condliffe: Yeah so I’ve spoken in a few places around flipped learning, presented in Tasmania and I’ve done a couple of other presentations around New Zealand and I’ve done some of the online conferences. And I’m such a big advocate for flipped learning but the same answer I get over and over again is no the content creation is too hard, and I don’t want to do the content creation, I don’t want to build this, I don’t have time to do this. And I saw that as a real barrier for teachers who want to flip and it comes back to what I said before, it’s not about the content, it’s about being able to repurpose your classroom time so that you can develop a more meaningful experience for your students.
So I thought well why not just build the content for the teachers. And as you know because you’ve had a lot of input into me starting off on this venture and helped me along the way but we decided that it was something that we were, that is as going to build and I got started last year by creating this content which is essentially videos paired with automated quizzes which are self-graded so that checks off the whole student understanding side of things. So they immediately can see how well they’ve understood the concept and then the teacher can get that data as well. So it’s videos for every single achievement standard that we offer in senior PE paired with automated quizzes and we also have in some badging systems to increase student engagement and motivation so that’s gamification which I’ve spoken on earlier in the ear and the Connected PE online conference.
And we sell this package to schools and they purchase access for their students and teachers and the kids log in and a whole range of ways, different schools are doing it in different ways but generally it’s to support their learning outside of the classroom with teachers then coming in and repurposing their classroom time.
So it’s, we’ve had a lot of success so far. We’ve got a tad over 60 schools on board which is much greater than I anticipated when we started out and that equates to around about 5,000 students once they’re all on board. Which is really cool, it’s such a cool feel to know that I’m adding some form of value to not just 120 kids I teach each week but students all over the country and the feedback so far has been really good and positive and I’ve learned a lot through this process, it’s been really cool.
[00:25:00] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, no it is. I mean it’s the ability to impact is massive. And I think it, the real leverage here for teachers is that big reason why they might have said no to taking on this approach, the content is done for them, they can sort of just go ahead and start to use those repurposed time ever more meaningfully. So I think it’s such a tremendous thing that you’ve built over at My Study Series. And if you’ve seen it head along there, check out what he’s got to offer and sign up. I know that you’re, you’re always innovating in that space so I’m certain that there’s going to be even more things that are racking away in your head about how you could take it to different levels and directions and I’m sort of excited to see what you come out with.
[00:25:47] Carl Condliffe: Yeah definitely it’s, yeah. Once you start learning about some of the things that can be done it does get exciting and you do want to push the envelope a little bit more and challenge the status quo. So that’s kind of what we’re hoping to do.
[00:25:58] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah absolutely. Well I love it. So thanks for stopping by, I think it’s a really important topic this idea of going a bit more, I guess the real basis is allowing us to go a bit more deeper than what we tend to see as a traditional classroom experience, whether that is in a practical setting, theoretical setting, how you can flip the dynamic of what we’ve always done and maybe use the time that we have with the students in a better way. And I think you do it better than anyone in our PE space does and yeah thanks for stopping by. Look forward to seeing what’s up in the future.
[00:26:31] Carl Condliffe: Really appreciate you having me on the podcast Jarrod, cheers mate.
[00:26:34] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah welcome. Everyone you can get a link to the session notes over at thepegeek.com/81 for episode 81. And for any questions you know where to go at thepegeek.com/contact. Speak soon.
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