In this episode of the PE Geek podcast, we speak with International PE Teacher Pat Hughes about his journey to the classroom and beyond.
Topics discovered in this episode include
- International Teaching
- Video Delay Apps
- QR Codes
Follow Pat on Twitter or Subscribe to his podcast here
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The PE Geek (00:00): Hello, everyone, and welcome to episode 116 of The PE Geek podcast. As always, it's our pleasure to have you here. Now, I'm joined today in a little bit of a reciprocal type of setup here, because I was a few weeks ago on his podcast, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring him onto the show and have him share all the things that he's doing in the world of phys ed. That's Pat Hughes. Welcome to the show.
Pat Hughes (00:55): Thanks, Jarrod. I'm really excited to be here and talk about some tech in phys ed now.
The PE Geek (01:02): Well, that's what we like to hear. Paint the picture for those of the people who are listening, whereabouts in the world are you currently and where are you working from?
Pat Hughes (01:13): I am currently in Hanoi, Vietnam. I teach at an international school called St. Paul American School. Next year I will be moving to China when the borders open, but that is currently where I am now.
The PE Geek (01:26): Nice. You spent a fair bit of your time overseas growing up from what I gather as well.
Pat Hughes (01:33): Yeah. Both of my parents are international educators and they still are, but when I was about one years old, they got a job at Department of International Schools. I actually grew up a kindergarten all the way through 12th grade graduation in Jakarta, Indonesia. international feels normal to me.
The PE Geek (01:52): Yeah, yeah. Obviously that international school thing is in your blood and you can't probably imagine not being in that scene. So, what is it that attracts you to the places that you pick currently related to international schools?
Pat Hughes (02:06): Well, as many know and as you know, you're always trying to advance your career and try to find places even as a young educator where you can not only make a difference, but learn from other people. When we heard about the programmes that they run and what they're building, smaller school, but they're really trying to change the mould of education and how we reach students, and in that interview, that really spoke volumes to my wife and I, and we decided to come along for the ride.
The PE Geek (02:37): Yeah. Nice. I often get messages from people who are teaching in non international schools, and they might've heard me mention the word and all that sort of stuff, and they ask how they can get involved. What's the very short answer here around where they could go or how they learn more in that particular topic?
Pat Hughes (02:58): I'll do two parts. If you're actually ready to take the jump, there's two websites that do a very good job. I think there's a third one now, but basically my wife and I have used searchassociates.com and iss.edu, which is International School Services. What they do is basically they give you a referee, I guess you would call it, and they helped you set up your profile, your bio and stuff like that. Then all the international schools just start posting jobs, it's on your dashboard, and then you can register. I think they have about eight to 10 international conferences, job fair conferences a year. There's plenty in the States, there's some in Australia, some in Europe, and a lot in Asia. So, it's just to your convenience. Both those companies do that, but I think there's a new one called the GRC that has been doing it a lot too. My advice would be to try to sign up for all of those. It costs a little money, but it is worth it because it really helps you get your name out there and get ahead of the pack when it comes to gaining interview and interest.
The PE Geek (04:18): Nice, nice. Awesome stuff. Yeah, I often do get messages and emails, and it's good to hear some of the processes behind that. But I'm interested, because of the fact that you grew up with your parents being educated, is that what led you down this path as well? Or was there some other tipping point or moment that you can trace back to that made you think, "I want to be a PE teacher."
Pat Hughes (04:41): Well, I always really enjoyed playing sports, and I think, as you know, Jarrod, I'm very a big advocate of different types of play and just creating your own play, so that was a big part of my life. The interesting thing is when I was young and naive, when I went to university, I had the thought of being a personal trainer. I thought that no matter what, I would get an easy career with a professional sports team and be an athletic trainer for that. Then the more I learned about it, obviously that's not the case, but I also learned that I don't want to just train people to be fit. I want to educate people.
Pat Hughes (05:21): Then as I grew older, I valued what my parents did for so many kids, and I thought if I had one niche, it was definitely in the physical education realm. So, I actually switched my major two years into my programme, extending my university time, but I never looked back, and it's definitely the happiest. They say chase your dream job, and I know that's difficult a lot of times, but I'm definitely living it. So, it was an up and down paths, but eventually I found my way here.
The PE Geek (05:53): Awesome. Yeah. I mean, it is amazing when you can look back in retrospect and think how you arrived at a certain spot and what were the things that might have encouraged you down one path or the other. It's always interesting to hear that journey. I'm going to ask a similar type of question, and can you remember what it was that led you down the path of exploring how technology might have played a role in your practise? Like, was it something that was there from the beginning, or was it something that you sort of have grown into along the way?
Pat Hughes (06:24): I definitely grew into it. When I first started, when I was a young PE teacher, I was really nervous. My first job was actually in Kazakhstan at a small school that was an oil school, basically all the people that are drilling oil in Kazakhstan, their kids needed a place to go. So, I really had no training other than my university training. I was kind of referring to my father, who's a very old school PE teacher, and he helped me a lot. There's nothing wrong with old school PE, but as I grew and I listened to your podcast with Rachel, and I couldn't agree more, that I needed to immerse myself in learning technology in order to make it relevant, and also being able to adapt to the new type of life that students are just dealing with in their regular life. I am fortunate, obviously I've followed you for a long time and some of the tech things that I use I'm sure we'll get into, and I learned from you, but also my wife is the tech director. She really has helped me learn how to implement different things, try different things, reinvent the mould of physical education by using technology in a positive aspect.
The PE Geek (07:44): Yeah. Awesome. I like it. I sort of really appreciate when it's organic and you've grown into it because needs and you've found that certain things can help in certain ways. The mistake that people make, I think, is forcing it, forcing use in whatever that context is. I think the best stuff is organic, and it's very similar to how I began back in 2008 in exploring tech in PE. It was just like I needed to find solutions to certain problems as they arose. It wasn't about gimmicks. It was really just in the moment trying to find things. I reckon that's where the best stuff sort of originates from. So, in those early days, what were some of the things that you first started to explore within, and you may not use them now, but what was it like back then? What were you doing?
Pat Hughes (08:37): I guess in the early days it was, and this is going to sound really basicm but again, this is when I first started out and this has been around forever, but the use of music has really helped me, especially with the elementary development, because when you're looking at local motor skills and moving to different levels, high, medium, low, you can pick music that the kids cater to, like a high beat would be at a high level, a medium beat you'd go a little lower. Then a slower low beat, they would go to their lowest, like a crawl or something like that. You can also use that for tempo when you're trying to teach different speeds and stop and go and stuff like that. My earliest days was really just learning how to use music in my practise, and not just to have background music, which I think is important as well, but how to cater different movements to different types of music.
The PE Geek (09:37): Yeah, setting the tone with music, not just using it to entertain, which has its place, but obviously using it as a cue or a prompt or whatever that may be to help with the lesson outcome. Music is a super power, isn't it? It's not going away anyway. It's just become a bit more easier for people to roll it out now, hasn't it? Streaming tools, wireless portable speakers. It probably wasn't as easy when you first begun.
Pat Hughes (10:04): No. Well, so I started my first job in 2014. We had a gym that had terrible acoustics. So, basically, if I had to speak to a kid across the gym, there's no way they would understand me because first of all, my voice tends to be a little bit mumbly when I get excited sometimes. So, I would always have to call him back in. So, I had to figure out how the speakers and music could work without taking away from instruction. We had basically your, not old school, but semi old school portable speaker, but it still had to be plugged in into the jack and into my phone or whatever I was using, or computer. Then that worked for a while, but then when I started to use more tech, it was kind of like I kind of need my phone or my iPad for different assessment things and stuff like that. So, without buying a new device, it did become difficult for me.
The PE Geek (11:08): Yeah. Yeah.
Pat Hughes (11:09): But that's always [crosstalk 00:11:11].
The PE Geek (11:11): Yeah. It's good to trace back to those early days. Obviously we've progressed a little bit now and we've had a pretty monumental event in the last few months that sort of have seen PE teachers take to technology in ways they probably haven't previously. But what are some of the things that you have evolved to more recently that have become big staples in your class? Obviously music is a big staple. It plays a big role. Is there other things in that same calibre of importance, whether that's assessment or whether that's a tool that you use or whether it's something else that you feel has a big role in your current environment?
Pat Hughes (11:48): Yeah, for sure. I think it was two years ago where you presented at EARCOS at ISB Bangkok, and I learned quite a bit there. One of the things I use a lot now is the video delay replay. The reason I use that, I don't only use it with physical education, I also use it with my athletes and varsity sports. The reason I think it's so value... like you think it's a simple concept by slowing things down and being able to view it. But I think so often, we can show examples as physical educators, "This is how the movement should go," and stuff like that. Then sometimes kids still aren't catching on because they think they are doing that because they can't view themselves on their own. So, with the video delay, and it's a great peer assessment tool as well, they can actually see what their form looks like in a slowed down environment, and then notice, "Oh, I thought it was doing it this way, but I can see I need to tweak my arm a little bit more as coach was saying," or stuff like that.
Pat Hughes (12:55): So, I think that's really been beneficial for skill development in any age, really, but it works really well with athletes and middle to high school PE because first of all, they enjoy doing it. It's a fun little app. Then they can really see what motions they're going through slowed down. That's something I've definitely enjoyed using. Then the one other thing I think we've really... I think that QR code thing is awesome. I've done QR code scavenger hunts and stuff like that. So, you can do a fitness scavenger hunt throughout the school and stuff, pending you notify the rest of the school that kids are going to be walking around outside looking for things.
Pat Hughes (13:44): But we actually opened a fitness centre, and we give parents and the community, I think it's one day a week where they have access to it when there's no classes in that. My wife Lisa actually came up with a great idea. Instead of sending out a video, this is how you use each machine and whatnot, because some people might not know how to make a machine, you put a QR code on the machines, and when you do a weight training unit with your students, you can have your students demonstrate the correct way to use the machine or how to do a proper curl, squat, stuff like that. That was another way that's not necessarily physical education focused, but it's another way that this is an easy way for me to learn without having to YouTube, YouTube, YouTube. If I'm about to use this piece of equipment, it's right there in front of me, all I need is my phone.
The PE Geek (14:39): Yeah. Amazing stuff. I like how they've sort of found ways to be used across multiple different environments, whether that's the coaching environment or junior kids or older kids. A lot of tools that I like and the ones that I think have the most value are those that are pretty universal and you can use them in a variety of contexts. I really like how you mentioned that telling and giving your vocal feedback is great. It's one layer of information that we all leverage, but we can add in additional layers and they just sort of work like a bit of a superpower to help people communicate in ways they couldn't before. That's really what it's about. These tools help you communicate. That's it. You can use a tool to make you communicate a little bit more effectively, you should. That's why I like tech.
Pat Hughes (15:29): Yeah, for sure. It's been super helpful, and everything you've put out, there's always a new, not even just app, but a new way to approach technology. We're constantly learning, and I know this is your show, but I want to thank you for all the content you put out, the podcast, everything is super helpful, the apps. When I became a member of Connected, it really changed and innovated the way I could approach my technology in my classrooms.
The PE Geek (15:58): Appreciate it. The good part about it is we just talk about stuff we enjoy, that being how to use tech in PE. This podcast wouldn't exist if I didn't particularly have a fondness to that particular topic. So, really just sharing the work that people do. It's good to hear what others are up to. I've got a couple of questions to wrap up here, and obviously we've spoken about a few tools and things that people can go and try. Do you have any things that come to mind, maybe it's a piece of advice or a lesson that you learned along the way related to tech? Sometimes these things happen as a result of a failure that might've took place or something along the way that sort of prompted you and you thought in reflection that there's a lesson in that. Bit on the spot here, but what have you got?
Pat Hughes (16:47): Yeah. I would say that basically when I was... I don't know how to say this, new to technology and PE, I noticed that there was a lot of difficulty with classroom management. I think if you know how to incorporate different ways, like I said, with the video delay, and that doesn't even have to be movement based. It can be done through behaviours and stuff. If you do that in peer assessments or just peer [inaudible 00:17:23] share, using technology just to have the kids to see how what they're doing and how they're reacting and stuff like that. We did a wellness and social model, and basically we just had the kids film a skit, which sounds really simple, but they really were able to reflect on, "Man, maybe I'm sending the wrong body language." That wasn't the purpose of the, but one of my students said, "I really never knew that I spend most of my time when I'm listening crossing my arms, and I think I'm sending off the wrong signal."
Pat Hughes (17:58): So, using just video and stuff like that and having kids be able to see themselves, I think that's one of the greatest things about the implementation of technology is you think things are going some way, but the ability to instant replay, basically, your experience in a classroom, and I think that can measure to not just physical education, things all around conversations and stuff like that. That was a way that really helped me fix classroom management, because not only are they experiencing this, but I could fill my own class and realise maybe the way I approached a certain situation or reprimanding a behaviour was not the best practise. Now I know what I need to do to fix it because I actually could see myself making these errors. I know that sounds kind of simple.
The PE Geek (18:58): Yeah, no, using tech in multiple different ways, not just for students, but as a way to also up skill yourself and reflect on your own practise. I like the idea of using it for multiple contexts. I think that's some real takeaway there. One last thing I want to ask is you've got your own podcast, and we alluded to this at the start of the show, and I came onto it recently. What is it and how can people find it?
Pat Hughes (19:24): There's a couple of ways you can find it. It's called CoachPatChat. Basically what it's about is just talking about physical education, wellness, and even athletics and stuff like that. Mainly just education. I do have some non-physical educators on there, and just getting perspective. I basically started it during this epidemic as a student assignment, and then I just really... and that's another way I use tech over online learning is having kids reflect on their childhood and have play was important to them. So, long story short is it started as a student assignment and then I noticed it'd be a great way for educators to get together, share ideas. I have learned so much from the people that have been on there. So, sorry, blabbing. coahpatchat.com is my website. If you click the podcast tab at the top, you can scroll down to the episodes. You can also just search on Spotify or Apple podcast CoachPatChat, one word.
The PE Geek (20:30): Awesome. Yeah, go and check it outm people. There'll be full links to the podcast and any of the tools and resources throughout this episode, and also your profile on Twitter as well as a word for word transcript. If you've missed something, you want to go back, then you can head to the website and check it out. But I want to thank you again for stopping by and sharing some of your journey through the tech and PE landscape, and I look forward to seeing what's next.
Pat Hughes (20:57): Awesome, Jarrod. Thanks so much for having me on, and I hope you're doing well and stay safe through everything.
The PE Geek (21:03): Appreciate it. Speak soon.
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