Episode 85 – Begin With Why with Mel Hamada

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast I speak with superstar PhysEd Teacher & good friend Mel Hamada. We touch on her experience in the International School World & how others can get started on the same path. Throughout the episode we explore how powers and perils of technologies and why its important to always start with the WHY!.

Topics and Resources Mentioned include;

1. The Power of Blogging

2. Screencasting in the PE Classroom

3. Going Tech FREE in PE

4. Using GoPros for self reflection

5. Mels Website  & Twitter

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 number 85 of the PE Geek Podcast and as always it’s an absolute pleasure to have you listening now. If you are unfamiliar we do have the PE Geek app which you can download on your iPhone/android, just head along to the pegeek.com/app and it’s probably the easiest place to listen to the podcast because it’s right there on your device and it’s not better place to tune in. Now I’m really excited today to welcome Mel Hamada to the show, it’s been a long time coming, we’ve met each other a number of times now in a couple of countries actually, a couple of continents if you really want to get technical, and I love everything that she does and it’s an absolute treat to have her on the podcast, so welcome.

[00:01:14] Mel Hamada: Thank you Jarrod, it’s lovely to be here. It’s taken us a long time to get to this point though.

[00:01:19] Jarrod Robinson: It has, not through lack of trying though I must say.

[00:01:22] Mel Hamada: Oh no, no, not for lack of trying. I think it’s, no it’s interesting because I think you and I have been, if I think about sort of social media and getting on social media I think I’ve met you early in my social media days and so it’s been quite a long collaboration really.

[00:01:38] Jarrod Robinson: Absolutely yeah, and you were a, one of our absolute master class rockstars at the first Connected PE Dubai conference in October which was really great to have your involvement and over the years I’ve sort of followed the things that you’ve been doing and I know that you’ve been around the world a lot in terms of your teaching practice and the international school scene. So where are you based at the moment.

[00:02:06] Mel Hamada: Okay so at the moment I am currently living in Beijing, in China. We moved here in August and I’m currently working at the International School of Beijing which is a pre-k through 12 school. We do standards based grading and learning from I guess kindergarten through grade 10 and then the kids have an option to do the diploma program the IB in grade 11 and 12. We, I’m teaching middle school PE at the moment, there are 5 of us in this department and there are I think currently we have 23 different classes in middle school which is grade 6,7 and 8.

[00:02:47] Jarrod Robinson: Amazing and prior to this, I mean you’ve been in some other destinations like I know that you were in Japan before this school and prior to that another Asian school?

[00:02:58] Mel Hamada: Yup, so I was at Yokohama International School for three years and then prior to that we were at the United Nations International School in Hanoi in Vietnam for seven years. And then before that if you want to get even later, earlier into it we were in the International School of Tanganyika which is on the east coast of Tanzania.

[00:03:18] Jarrod Robinson: Amazing, so I mean I work with a lot of people in different schools all around the world, I’ve just finished our Australian workshop tour and a number of people always ask me the question about international schools and they’re working in Australian school system and they’re like how do I get involved, what it’s all about. How did you get involved, like how did you end up–?

[00:03:36] Mel Hamada: What, I was going to say what do you normally say when people ask you that question?

[00:03:41] Jarrod Robinson: Well I tend to point out people who like yourself have come from Australia and ended up there on a, working international schools and how they end up continually going from one to another and once they get in the system they sort of find that they just really love it and yeah. So I mean how did you get involved?

[00:04:00] Mel Hamada: Well there’s a short and there’s a long version. So the, if people are interested out there in getting international the best way to do it would be to look up different job fairs that run, I know there’s a job fair that runs out of Melbourne in December/January, they sort of change the dates depending on holidays and all the rest of it. But generally the big fair organizers are the ones to hit up.

So what will happen is you’ll look at their website, so for example Search Associates is one the big ones, you have to pay a little bit of a fee to register with an associate for your region. So if you’re in a Australia you’ll register to the Australian region people.  And then they get you to fill out this paperwork which is arduous and long process so don’t think you can log on and do it in ten minutes. It includes references from supervisors and references from parents which is kind of freaky. And then they say yes you’re ready or no you’re not and they really screen you quite carefully because they really want you to be successful. And if they feel that you’re not going to be successful that’s a counseling process and they’ll talk you through that.

But if they think you will be successful for the schools that they have at their job fair then they’ll invite you to come to the fair and it is like a massive adrenal rush. So you spend two days meeting with all these different people and interviewing and then second interviewing or going to information booths from the school. It’s all very hair raising and scary but also really exciting because you get to meet, instead of going to one school and having a job interview with one person I think the last time I interviewed at a job fair I think we interviewed with seven different schools in one day and everyone wants different things.

So everyone, it might be that this school wants a middle school PE and this person wants a middle school and high school and this one’s looking for an aquatics director and like it’s crazy. But it’s really good fun because you get to really see what different schools are looking for. And then you get to sit down and sort of make some decisions and they might offer you a job or they might not and so you go through a process of looking at what you want to do. But my husband is also a teacher and in the tech community. So we interview as a couple, so that’s also interesting because the school is trying to best fit both of you in the same process.

[00:06:20] Jarrod Robinson: Awesome, so I mean they always bring in a lot of new experiences for people who like yourself have been quite fortunate to travel a lot as part of your work, is that true or there’s lots of hats that sort of end up on your head?

[00:06:34] Mel Hamada: There’s lots of things that happen, absolutely. So depending on the school, now not all international schools are made equally just like I would say in Australia not all schools are equal. Some schools I’d say are much better and more effective in terms of professional development or facilities or whatever opportunities to live in city or country. So you have to make a decision about what’s important to you. F

or Clint, my husband, and I it’s been really important for us to have different things in different parts of our lives. So right now we’ve got three children, so it’s really important that our kids have great opportunities to do all the cool things that they like to do. So we’ve arrived at this school and this school has awesome professional development backup so I was very fortunate to have leave to come to the Connected PE and then I was able to take some of my professional development money and go to APAC in Hong Kong and then I was also given some money to go and present at the Shape America in Boston just last month.

So there’s been a lot going on. Not all schools will give you time and money, they have a lot of in-service training. But generally good schools are really after your growth as a teacher because they want you to be the best you can be so you’re offering the most effective student learning for the population. So they’re really, really pushing you to do better.

[00:07:54] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, absolutely and like is that sort of connected to how you eventually ended up to the social media community? Where you in a school–

[00:08:03] Mel Hamada: Yeah I think so.

[00:08:04] Jarrod Robinson: — that sort of celebrated that and at the same time obviously I know Clint very extensively is heavily involved in that as well.

[00:08:10] Mel Hamada: Yeah Clint’s heavily involved. So I think the first thing was that–

[00:08:12] Jarrod Robinson: So is that what sort of lead you down the path?

[00:08:14] Mel Hamada: Well Clint met you, I think. And I think I had already sounded out around what you were doing but I’d not met you. So he met you at the Learning To right?

[00:08:24] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah.

[00:08:24] Mel Hamada: Is that there it was?

[00:08:25] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, China in Shanghai.

[00:08:27] Mel Hamada: Clint came back and he was like have you heard of this Jarrod Robinson dude the PE Geek, I’m like I’ve heard of it. He’s like well I’ve just met him and you need to do this. So I sort of sat down and got onto Twitter, I was taking a look, I think that was in 2009. And the school, I think most schools were a bit scary about social media, they weren’t sure, we were doing different social platforms and the school had to write policy around what we could do and what we couldn’t do and whether we could have videos of kids and YouTube things and so it was a lot, it was a big gray area.

So I think those of us who’ve been on social media for a while, although we’ve done a lot of learning I think our schools have had to do a lot of learning with us to write policy around use of social media and video and all those things that we’re doing as part of our workplace. And I think Clint and I have done, have been involved in a lot of those conversations and that policy writing. I’m sure you have too in your own way.

[00:09:22] Jarrod Robinson: Well in many ways its pioneering. So you look at the, just by the fact that the many of the people that we spoke are their first, you sort of have to pave the road for a lot of the things to happen. And that happened at our school, the same conversation, the same things happening everywhere and that’s good in many ways because the, it’s very authentic, you’re sort of doing it as it happens and the challenges that it brings up are real.

[00:09:49] Mel Hamada: Well I remember it was, we were sitting in a professional development in Vietnam and they’d brought in this amazing speaker and we were doing, I can’t remember exactly which program we were using but we were doing a meet being the meet, so we were typing what we were saying and there was a little back channel conversation going on and we were doing Twitter. And then our head of school come over and told us off in the break for not, for being distracted and being on email or doing something that wasn’t related and I was like–

[00:10:15] Jarrod Robinson: Hang on.

[00:10:15] Mel Hamada: What are you talking about and we showed him what we were doing and he was totally blown away by the fact that there was so much thoughtful conversation going on with questions and comments. And so he became quite, he found it then really hard to know whether people were involved in the back channeling or whether they were doing email or something else. So, but he was very apologetic and came away with I think his brain blown a little bit about what it would look for teachers who were a little bit more nerdy then what was being offered right in front of us, so yeah.

[00:10:48] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, absolutely. So in and amongst there somewhere you’ve managed to find a bit of an interest for technology and maybe how it made things easier for you or helped you connect with someone else in a different part of the world and or how it maybe played a role in your classroom. So do you remember how that interest sort of came about and maybe one of the first things that you ever tried and explored in your teaching practice?

[00:11:13] Mel Hamada: I do, I really do. So after getting on social media and I started blogging which was a really, if anybody, I know you’re a big advocate of blogging, but for those people who are listening if you don’t blog I really recommend that you do. You don’t have to write stories and lessons you just need to write a little bit, a little bit at a time that you can feel growth as a teacher and if you are looking for jobs internationally that is a great way to advocate for yourself, just a bit of a plug there.

So I was blogging and I decided that one of the things that was really in front of me when I was teaching my gymnastics class was that the kids, I was videoing the kids and they were getting a change to watch their routines and I was sitting with them and offering them some feedback. But some of my learning support and English as a Second learner kids they needed a lot more scaffolding and conversation than I really had time for with lots of kids in the class.

[00:12:09] Jarrod Robinson: Sure.

[00:12:10] Mel Hamada: So I went and talked to some other people about [00:12:13] (unclear) at my school and no one was really had a solution for me. So I did a little bit more investigation and discovered screen casting. And so then I went back with some questions for our tech people about what screen casting was and which programs our school would allow us to use with the different channels and feeds and blockages. And so I tried, I think it was Screencastly was the one that was the easiest to use those days, is that the one?

[00:12:41] Jarrod Robinson: Yup.

[00:12:42] Mel Hamada: Or the Screener, I think Screener was the one I started with, but they don’t work anyone. And so I screencasted each of my kids videos, I just went and took ten minutes to watch the video and quickly give them feedback using the rubric and the specific gymnastics language that we’d been practicing. And that was a breakthrough for that class. Those girls that were really struggling with language, that video got watched 52 times. Now I don’t know whether they were watching it because they were just watching themselves and they wanted to see what they were doing.

[00:13:12] Jarrod Robinson: Powerful at the same time, even that in itself.

[00:13:14] Mel Hamada: Well I don’t know what they were doing, but the fact that they had an opportunity to listen and watch and correlate that together without me having to sit with them was the biggest, biggest moment for me and for that type of unit. It was just [00:13:28] (unclear).

[00:13:28] Jarrod Robinson: It’s really leveraged teaching and leveraged feedback in many ways. And if you’re sitting there and you’re wondering what screen casting is essentially it’s you talking and having your screen be recorded. So if you can think in this cast it was videos that were being played and the recording over the top. That’s a screen cast and they can be as simple or as complex as you like and there’ so many tools that you can use. I mean I know that you at one stage were using QuickCast which was three minutes and I still use this extensively with me just sharing stuff to other people. But that three minute timeline is sort of really quite powerful because you’ve got to record it–

[00:14:09] Mel Hamada: Well you have to get what you want to say in three minutes and you don’t waffle along. I found kids didn’t watch more than three minutes. Even a minute and a half is about the amount that they will watch or listen to. You really have to be succinctly getting your message down there.

So for me I then sent those videos to through Twitter and I found a gymnastics expert in our midst and she came on to Screener and she also made comments to the kids which kind of was awesome to validate the thinking and to have an expert and the kids were blown away that there was an expert, I think she’s in the US now who was able to come out and offer them all this advice. There were just, and it really inspired them because they were like you mean other people are watching this beside us? I was like oh yeah. They’re like oh we have to do better, we have to do better than this. And so that was really inspiring too.

[00:15:02] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, opening it up made it real.

[00:15:04] Mel Hamada: Absolutely.

[00:15:06] Jarrod Robinson: Not just here it is in the classroom scenario, the tech made it authentic because it connected it to other people and then the tools like just a simple tool like screen casting enabled feedback to be captured. So I mean I think that’s a tremendous example of the power of this when it’s used and harnessed well. I see so many times where tech can be that shiny object syndrome where because it’s new, because it’s there sometimes it gets abused and sometimes it takes away from the activity. I mean have you ever had moments where you’ve tried something and you’ve realized that hang on this probably wasn’t as effective as I might of thought because I know I have.

[00:15:42] Mel Hamada: All the time.

[00:15:44]  Jarrod Robinson: I think it’s part of the journey through, but does anything come to mind where you thought hang on that didn’t work so well?

[00:15:52] Mel Hamada: I think when I had my school purchase iPods to do a trial, we wanted, we didn’t have the money to buy a class set so I took a grant out from our tech office and bought six iPods. But it just became this process of they’d run out of memory, they’d run out of battery, there was such much work behind the scenes to keep them going. I had to really come up with a system that worked well for me.

But I was finding that what I wanted to do in one of my badminton units is I wanted the kids to video what they were doing and then leave a voice reflection. And then download that onto their computer so that I could see it. But it just became the game of now it’s my turn, now it’s your turn, now it won’t download, now it won’t upload, now I can’t share it.

And it took away from them playing and it took away from them observing their playing and actually becoming stronger players for the observations of others and peer coaching because it became all about the iPods. And so I had to take that away and start a different approach which involved no iPods just to get them back into playing because they’d, they were so concerned about the tech part and I’ve only got one lesson to get this done and there are six of us that need to record and how are we going to, and it just became too hard to manage.

[00:17:13] Jarrod Robinson: So yeah I mean sometimes people seem to suffer from shiny object syndrome and place the technology before they’ve even really iven any thought into the reasoning behind why they do it and they may have the best intentions at all, I’ve done this many a times, but sometimes the best things are the things where they are tech free, agree?

[00:17:34] Mel Hamada: I agree, yes, totally. I think also before, I see a lot of people being on Twitter and they’ll write and they’ll say my school has just agreed to let me have an iPad, what should I do with it. And I think to myself–

[00:17:46] Jarrod Robinson: It’s backwards.

[00:17:47] Mel Hamada: — I’m really happy for you but surely part of the grant for you to have that new, shiny tech should have been how you’re authentically planning to use it so that you already had a mission around some learning that you’d chosen as an area for focus, not can I just have an iPad.

[00:18:03] Jarrod Robinson: Completely yeah, and I, that particular email hits my inbox every single week, where someone has been given something but the secondary question is now how can I now use it when the best practice always comes from it being flipped in the other direction where the reason why is first and then the tech becomes invisible then because it’s actually about whatever it was that you were trying to do with it and the tech’s there to simply make that happen, make you more effective, bring about something that you couldn’t do before, it’s not the other way around where it usually [00:18:45] (unclear) disaster.

[00:18:47] Mel Hamada: No it’s really interesting because I’ve now worked at three schools that have a really focused on technology as integration with student learning in all areas. And my, a lot of my units or the way that I’ve built my units are around that seamless use of technology and I’m finding now that I’ve just recently changed schools and I’m in China where Google is not a given, I would, you might raise your eyebrows at me Jarrod because you know that I’m a Google fiend but we can’t use, we can’t rely on YouTube and Google which has really, really challenged me.

And also I’m working in a variety of different places and sometimes the places that I am in don’t have Wi-Fi. So if we go outside on the field at one point my invasion games units relied on kids looking at Google slides to identify problems in game play or challenges is a better word in their game play. And I had kids who were subbing off were going through these Google slides and looking and seeing whether they could identify challenges in play and I can’t do that anymore. So it’s, I feel in some ways I’ve had to really revert, I’m still doing the same thing but I’m not able to do it as seamlessly with tech as I’ve been relied on in the past.

[00:20:06] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, yeah. I mean at the end of the day tech is a tool so it’s, and as teachers we have to adapt to the different settings that we have. The whole idea of you having Wi-Fi and sometimes not having Wi-Fi is very universal, I work with a lot of schools and some schools would just, it’s just not going to happen for them at all, no matter how hard they lobby they just can’t get it and that’s fine, it’s just, I don’t see this as a you have to do all these things to have any success. It’s like this continuum and you can do you a little bit here and a little bit there and as long as it’s helping you and useful to the student population I think it’s worthwhile pursing.

[00:20:50] Mel Hamada: Yes, I agree. I think I always am surprised when I discover that people are teaching without a whiteboard. That’s my–

[00:20:58] Jarrod Robinson: I think so, yeah I mean I agree.

[00:21:00] Mel Hamada: [00:21:00] (unclear) is my best piece of tech is I need a whiteboard and at least two different colored markers.

[00:21:05] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, yup and the reason I say this is because ultimately the PE classroom is a classroom and it’s a very big indicator of how that class and that school perceives Phys ed when you walk into a place and there is none of that. It’s sort of almost immediately indicates to me that all they’re really doing is sort of rolling the balls out, there’s no teaching happening.

[00:21:31] Mel Hamada: Yes, I agree.

[00:21:33] Jarrod Robinson: A big indicator and I was in a school recently just the other day and it became very apparent, they had all the money in the world when it comes to resources and equipment but there was just no teaching at all seemingly happening from that observation and it sort of indicates that maybe they’ve got a bit of a way to go in terms of a contemporary view of Phys ed.

[00:21:57] Mel Hamada: Yes and I think if you’re using a whiteboard or you’re using paper or you’re using a blackboard or you’re using a screen with your computer as a whiteboard, whatever those things are, you’re still teaching kids about the fundamentals of hopefully of movement and tactics and strategy and you’re teaching them to be better people by able to communicate effectively with each other. So there’s so many things. The tech provides another option for those of us who find that to be useful or are integrating that straight in. It’s just as it’s another tool in the bag.

[00:22:38] Jarrod Robinson: It’s a tool yeah, I mean it’s just like group work. You have moments where group work is appropriate and you have moments where it’s not and the same with tech, that’s how I view it.

[00:22:46] Mel Hamada: Absolutely. And I find now there are some units that I use tech a lot, I lean very heavily on it and then there some units I don’t use it at all because it’s not, it’s not adding to what we’re doing.

[00:22:58] Jarrod Robinson: Sure, I absolutely agree and I think the biggest mistake is that people think that it has to be all in and really there’s no strategy that you use in a classroom which is all in. Something that you do every single time you teach and every single minute of every single time that you teach, it’s really not appropriate for any strategy. Maybe just enthusiasm if you, I think you need to be in all there at all the time, but yeah it is a tool, I view it as a tool and I know that we both agree that and that’s where the best stuff comes from. So I know you mentioned blogging throughout this particular episode and I know that you’ve been heavily blogging some of your recent practice over at your sight. Where do people go to read about more of the things that you’re doing?

[00:23:46] Mel Hamada: My blog is called melhamada.com and if you log on there it’s just a WordPress blog and it’s not very pretty looking at the moment, I can’t find the right theme, I’m always having to fiddle around with it. Recently —

[00:24:00] Jarrod Robinson: You’re a learner, you’re a learner that’s why.

[00:24:02] Mel Hamada: Oh I’m always fiddling with it. The last couple of episodes that I’ve been and what I’m blogging about currently is professional development and looking at I had someone come in with a GoPro and here’s another piece of learning, okay so I had a colleague come in and GoPro my lesson, following me. So he came in and videoed me and I’m putting up a series where I am talking about what I have noticed and what I’m wondering about with my practice based on the videos of me teaching, watching myself teaching which is very humbling I have to say.

[00:24:39] Jarrod Robinson: It would be.

[00:24:41] Mel Hamada: And I, if you haven’t done it I highly, highly recommend it to you and I think it would be awesome to get into the practice of videoing yourself, if you teach multiple grade levels pick one grade level for the first six months or year and then focus on the next one so you can see if you need to make any adjustments to your teaching based on what you see happening with your students in your lesson. So I’m currently blogging about that and I’m finding it to be very, very eye opening.

[00:25:10] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah it would be for sure. I know Ben Lander’s in one of our previous episodes spoke about how he was doing the same thing and again realizing stuff that he had no idea was happening in his classroom practice and then using that to improve it. It’s, I would imagine very humbling, maybe some people find that intimating but at the end of the day it could just be you that views it, if you wanted to give that to others to critic that would be the next step and again would be really quite powerful to see what you’re doing. I know I’ve seen my videos of workshop sessions that I’ve ran and they’ve been able to identify stuff that needs to be eliminated and things that I could improve and ramp up. So I think we assume things some times and when see them it can change the game for us if we get that feedback.

[00:26:00] Mel Hamada: I definitely have made a lot of assumptions around what I’m doing. And I, it’s funny because I’ve been very cognoscente of just simple things like body language, like trying not to put my hands in my pockets, trying not to cross my arms across my chest and trying to be more available to the kids because I think some body language inhibits your availability to students. One of the things I notice was I don’t do that anymore, so I was like so pleased to see that. But then there were other things I’m now doing and I was like ugh I stopped doing this and now I’m doing this instead. So I need to get on with that. But I find the most powerful way to have a look at what you’re doing is to have someone come in or set up a video so you can really see yourself and then consider what you notice and what you’re wondering about, and phrase those as questions so that you’re not framing that in a negative viewpoint or you’re not biasing yourself, you’re just being very open minded to what you notice and then what questions come to mind so that you can really have a much bigger picture of what’s happening rather than focus narrowly on maybe one set of things.

[00:27:06] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, amazing advice. We’ve covered a whole host of things in this episodes, right from international school job seeking, now I’ve got a particular thing I can point people to when they ask right through to tech and some of the mistakes we’ve made and then we’ve wrapped up with some teacher feedback. So I really appreciate you stopping by. For those of you listening mid-interview my puppy chewed the modem and I lost internet connection, so what you’re listening to is a recording that took place over two distinct period, so I really appreciate your time on this episode Mel.

[00:27:44] Mel Hamada: No problems. Jarrod I just want to finish by saying a big thank you to and to our social media crew who continue to inspire me and I think hold me to a higher standard and I really appreciate your ability to give such personal interactions to people when I know that you have a lot going on and that you have a lot of people that you’re working with all the time. And I really appreciated working with you for quite a long time now. So thank you so much.

[00:28:10] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah welcome, thank you for stopping by on the podcast. There’ll be all the links to the things that Mel has mentioned including her website and a full word for word transcript over at thepegeek.com/85 and I look forward to seeing you in whatever country or continent we meet each other next.

[00:28:28] Mel Hamada: I look forward to it as well, have a great day mate. Look after that lovely dog of yours too.

[00:28:33] Jarrod Robinson: Well, I well. See you.

[00:28:35] Mel Hamada: See you mate.


The easiest way to listen to The PE Geek Podcast is via our dedicated mobile app, which you can download for FREE for iPhone/iPad & Android. The app will let you know when new episodes go LIVE & allow you to listen to all of the episodes while on the go. We even let you store files for offline playback so you don’t need to use your mobile data. Go download here.

Scroll to Top