A few months ago I received an email from an interested listener asking me to share the background story around The PE Geek Website. Initially I was reluctant to do so, however after thinking about it, the story itself includes many lessons around the progression of technologies in Physical Education. During the course of this 3 part mini series, I’m going to share how the website started right through to my my aspirations for it in the future. I hope you enjoy.
In this particular episode we touch on the following
1. The first website I ever built
2. How I ended up a PE Teacher interested in Technology
3. Why I decided to make a blog & how a spam comment led me to continue writing
4. How my blog led to my first conference presentations
5. What led to my first eBook & Mobile App production
[00:00:29] Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to episode number 82 of the PE Geek Podcast and wherever you’re joining us from I really thank you. It is without a doubt because of the fact that you listen that we continue to do this and put in all the work behind the scenes to schedule interviews and create the show notes and upload the episodes, pay the hosting costs, and all of it and the reason we do it is because people actually listen. So the greatest vote that you can do is just to continue to enjoy the podcast and we’ll just[00:01:00]
keep making them.
Now if you’ve missed it over the last few weeks we’ve released a brand new update to the PE Geek app and the PE Geek app is available on iPhone and android and also on your tablet devices, etc. and it’s a free app and you can basically go and download it and listen to the podcast, watch the YouTube channel, listen, read the blog post, see our latest webinars, look at the latest upcoming events and all of that from[00:01:30]
your device. Now the cool part about it is that if you listen to the podcast and I’m assuming you are because you’re listening to this right now then you’ve got this really easy place to be able to listen to the podcast from the place where we actually make it accessible. So head over to your app store of choice, search the PE Geek and you’ll be able to download that free app.
Now in today’s episode we’re going to be diving into a bit of, I guess it’s a story, a founder’s story around how[00:02:00]
the PE Geek website and so on sort of came to be. Now a little bit of background around this in probably six months ago I got an email from someone who listens to the podcast and they just wanted to know more about how the website founded, they just sort of stumbled across it, they enjoyed the content and they wanted to know some of the background story around why I was writing this stuff or talking about[00:02:30]
technology and phys ed and where that sort of came from.
Now I think in and amongst this story there is absolutely some lessons around technology and where it’s started from, where it’s headed and in the process of sharing this history which was very much an accidental sort of path, I think there’ll be some insight into the sort of progression that technology has gone on. And also where it[00:03:00]
may be headed. So strap in, if you have any questions about it feel free to contact me on any of the social platforms. But hopefully you find this interesting.
So to trace back to the very first interest that I had around technology it would be well in my childhood. I got my first ever[00:03:30]
video game consuls and absolutely loved them. Obviously at that stage we only had one television at home and I could only play it occasionally but that sort of probably made me more interested in it. I didn’t get sick of it. And eventually the internet came along and that really changed everything. We got a computer and we had the internet and we had the dial-up connection.
But it wasn’t sort of long before I realized that you could build websites and[00:04:00]
anyone could do it. We, I remember that the internet provider that we got gave us some storage on their server, it was only about maybe 20 megabits or something. And with that 20 megabits I decided to build a website. And funnily enough the website was all about track and field which was the sport that I was most passionate about and the particular website was in some ways almost like Wikipedia in that[00:04:30]
it was about all the different events in track and field and the different records that were held and the progression of those records.
And I basically coded that myself using HTML and really loved it. And built up this skill set around and then eventually when I got to my senior years in school, so 17 and 18 years of age I was proficient enough to pick building a website as my final[00:05:00]
oral presentation to my colleagues or my peers at school. And I preceded to teach all of them how to build a website using HTML and got great marks for it. And it was during that time period that the teacher said to me you know Jarrod this is something that you seem to really enjoy, you did a really good job sort of explaining this to the people in the class. How about you look at being a teacher? And that really the[00:05:30]
idea of helping other people learn something and then also wrapping it around something I was interested in. So that lead me on the path of building a career around PE and a second teaching method in technology. And with that sort of background story in mind you can sort of see how that led me down the path that I’m in now.
But in those early days it was super difficult to use technology. You had to have that high specialty and interesting in coding and building[00:06:00]
from scratch, which is pretty much the only way you could do it back then. Went through my university and eventually at the other side of it got into a classroom and that was the same time that tech was really starting to mature. And we’d move from this web 1.0 world.
Now web 1.0 is the internet that we started with in the sort of early 2000s where literally it was a one way street. You could just read stuff and consume[00:06:30]
stuff. But when we got to web 2.0 that was the point in time where web 2.0 was starting and it was right time, right place for me, I started a blog just out of interests sake because I thought maybe my students could blog. And web 2.0 came along and it was really easy to build so I had some comment and it was becoming much easier for anyone to do it regardless of your skill and as[00:07:00]
a result I started a blog and did my first post. And I didn’t know what to write about so I wrote about my class that day and sort of how technology was something was something that I was interested in and how I thought definitely it was something people should be focused on if they’re looking to cement their skills as a teacher in the future. And you can go and read this post at the moment it’s called “Sink or Swim” still there. I keep it up because it’s a great little reminder of where this all began.
once I posted it, I sort of enjoyed the whole process of creating something and I mentioned it to people. They went on and they had a bit of look at this site and they thought it was pretty cool that you could make a website and a blog.
And then I made a second post and third post and fourth and fifth. And somewhere in that line I must have got people listening and interested in it. And there as one particular person who left a[00:08:00]
comment on a post. And the comment said “This is the truest and most brilliant thing I’ve ever read.” Now at the time I remember sort of thinking this is the best thing I’ve ever read as well, the fact that someone would leave a comment like this sort of inspired to keep writing when at the time I thought this is cool and fun but why am I actually doing it. And that sort of propelled me to keep writing.
I remember sitting down and dedicating my[00:08:30]
time and my holidays and so on to coming up with different ways to try new technologies that were web 2.0 based back in that time. We weren’t talking about mobile devices because they were sort of pre-mobile device times. But we’re talking about web 2.0 tools, things like Poll Everywhere which is still around, things like Utterly which is no longer around. So a lot of these tools sort of came and went and I used them in the early days to sort of[00:09:00]
explain how they could be used in teaching.
But the cool part of this was that and I didn’t realize it until about three or four years later, but that particular post, the comment “This is the truest and most brilliant thing I’ve ever heard” was actually a spam comment and it was what someone had basically left on my site, it wasn’t real, it wasn’t a real person, they didn’t think it was the truest and most brilliant thing. Burt for two years I basically wrote assuming that there was at least one person[00:09:30]
that thought that it was useful and brilliant. And within that time period I obviously ended up building up a following of people, not great, not a huge amount but enough to sort of motivate me to continue to write.
And in amongst that same time period something magical happened and that was social networks really began to sort of start becoming easier to share on. Facebook was around at this stage at well but it wasn’t really[00:10:00]
used for that purpose. But Twitter exploded around about the same time that I started my blog, I signed up to Twitter in September of 2008. And at that stage there was no PE teachers online, compare it to now there’s so many phys ed teachers online as you may know. But back then there wasn’t and to share the content that I was producing I was literally just talking with general classroom educations. So if you look at the early[00:10:30]
posts on the site they have a very generalist education theme.
And it was sort of during this time period that I started to connected with some PE teachers who were also finding some value in being on social networks like Twitter, Brendon Jones who is still online, still active was one of the first ever people and we decided that we’d talk around technology in phys ed. Out of that became[00:11:00]
this idea of creating a hashtag that sort of was an easy way to communicate that sort of interest and the logical thing to choose was PE Geeks which was the name of my blog at the time. But at that stage it wasn’t thepegeek.com it was mr.robbo.wordpress.com and I had just sort of called myself the PE Geek based on a conversation that a student had had with me[00:11:30]
in the early days where they basically had almost attempted to insult me in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way by calling me a PE Geek and I sort of ran with that.
So at this stage it was sort of right time, right place. Blogs were becoming easier to do, web 2.0 was there. So a lot of people were starting to create websites and blogs. Compare that to now, the numbers are far greater. But back then it was just happening, and at the very same time[00:12:00]
social media was started as well.
So I had this space to be able to write on the WordPress site and I also had a place to be able to share the different things that I was talking about. So I did that for about three or four years, writing posts every single week and I didn’t miss a week, just talking about technology and different things and it was very much pre-iPhone days at that stage, sort of three or four years, 2010/2011[00:12:30]
that’s when the iPhone started to happen for me on the site. And I just sort of kept doing that.
And eventually people got interested and these sort of people were conference organizers, they were people who might have been running a conference around a particular topic and they wanted someone to come and talk to teachers around technology. So I ended up getting to those sorts of things and the cool part was that you would get to go to the conference and then you might have to present for a[00:13:00]
60 minute slot. So it was a great way for me to meet people and level up my own use of tech and understanding and then at the same time work on my presentation skills to other people because I had no idea how to do any of it.
It was literally do you want to come and do a presentation, I said sure, why not. And eventually started becoming quite comfortable with that and talking about technology and at that stage it was[00:13:30]
something I had to pursued much harder than I do now in that all the tech that we spoke about was way more difficult to access, more expensive, less available than it is now and ultimately meant that the teacher had to be more invested.
So it was very early days and we eventually continued to do that and at this sort of time period I had been emailed, so we’re talking about 2010 here, I’d been emailed by an[00:14:00]
organization that authored an educational magazine. And that educational magazine was called Active Education and it no longer exists. But every two months they would release a magazine and they asked if I would like to contribute and article every single time the magazine came out and use that article to talk about technology and how it was being used in sort of phys ed and sport, those were the[00:14:30]
basic brief. And they only said that every article had to be unique, so 1500 words, unique articles and I had to get them in. And I didn’t really know what I was agreeing to at the time. But it took a lot to come up with that amount of words every single two months that wasn’t already on the blog. And it was some of the best work that I ever did.
Eventually after doing that for around about sort of I don’t know maybe a whole year, I think I wrote about 12[00:15:00]
articles, I wrote a lot of them and they never got released. And the magazine went bankrupt or they shut it down for whatever reason and I said what I can I do with these articles, they’re the best work I’ve ever written. Can I put them on my blog? Someone in the email basically said well why don’t you put them, make them into an eBook and put it up and see if people would like to download it. And I thought that’s a[00:15:30]
So I literally went on and started Googling how to make an eBook and then I found that I had these individual articles but they didn’t make a lot of sense, they were individual pieces to the puzzle, not really congruent as an overall theme and at this stage there was some articles that had been proofed by the editing team and there were others that hadn’t. And I thought wouldn’t it be good if I could get someone to proof all of them. So I found someone[00:16:00]
on the internet to do that and it cost me around about $150 to get all the articles proofread and sort of made a little bit nicer and formatted properly to fit this particular e-book platform that I was looking to put the e-book on.
And the crazy thing was that I, at this stage made the realization that I could actually get that money back by putting a small price on the email. I’d gone and spent[00:16:30]
the $150 of my own money to do this, so maybe I could put $1.99 on the e-book and if people thought it was useful because it had twelve by 1500 word article word articles in there and they thought it was useful they might download it and they might purchase it.
So I put it up as a bit of a test. And I thought it was really high quality stuff at the time, I wouldn’t want to read it now because it would be, it would be so outdated. But at the time I[00:17:00]
put it up and I sort of went to sleep and I woke up the next morning and I distinctly remember seeing that someone had thought it was valuable enough to actually pay for it. And if I could know who they were I would definitely thank them because it, it set in motion a very different mindset around the PE Geek website and that we had an audience of people who thought things were valuable enough to reward us for it.
And then we just got sort of really interested in[00:17:30]
producing material for the audience and at the very same time that this was happening maybe we made, I don’t know $100 a month on the e-book, it was something along those lines. I ended up using those e-book funds to build my first every iPhone app. And the iPhone was just launching at this stage too so writing about the iPhone, writing about how that was being used in technology in a PE class but had also made a couple of[00:18:00]
hundred dollars selling an e-book and then used that exact same couple of hundred dollars to build my first ever iPhone app called The Twelve Minute Run. Now that is still on the app store, it’s actually called the Twelve Minute Fitness Test now and you may have seen it or downloaded it, pretty simple app.
But that particular app itself cost 500 US dollars to make and the only reason I could actually build it and make it was because[00:18:30]
I had made an e-book. And the only reason I could build and make the e-book was because I had made these articles for this magazine that had gone into liquidation, no longer available. So if you look at the different things we do now they all sort of snowballed and started from this particular point with an e-book, with this couple of hundred dollars that we made from selling the e-book[00:19:00]
and then eventually got to the point where we built our first iPhone app which like I said cost 500 US which is a lot of money for me to be sort of handing out there with no guarantee that people would ever use it. But it certainly, from this point onwards exploded in terms of the possibilities that we were able to produce for the audience by building more apps and so forth.
And in the next part to this little series, a three part series,[00:19:30]
I’m going to sort of explore the iPhone phase, I’m going to talk about what that meant for physical education and sort of opportunities that I saw most PE teachers jump after. And throughout the next sort of chapter we’ll talk about how I got started doing the workshops, the podcast and all the other different pieces of software that we produce. And the funny thing is they all trace back to that initial e-book launch. That little side project that we[00:20:00]
made had a bit of interest, bit of fun that lead to 100 plus iPhone apps and the workshops that we do all around the planet.
So hopefully you found that first part interesting, if you have any questions feel free to let me know if you’ve enjoyed it particularly so leave an email, get in touch us with on social media and we’ll be back for part two. Speak soon.
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