Today the NZPETeachercast has its first international guest in the one and only PE Geek, Jarrod Robinson. Jarrod develops and builds apps to support PE teachers in the classroom and contributes significantly to the professional development of teachers around the world. We talk across a range of topics including where he started from, Connected PE conference and community, emerging technologies in PE and his latest app, Monsuta Fitness.
Check out Monsuta Fitness.
Explore The PE Geek.
Join the Connected PE Community.
Listen to Jarrod’s podcasts.
Music by Bensound.
Episode 09- Jarrod Robinson
Jarrod Robinson: So there's going to be a lot of Kodak moments, a lot of tech that we look at now and think that's, could never possibly impact education. It will, it absolutely will. So smart teachers will look at ways they can embrace it to be better.
You're listening to the NZ PE Teachercast! A podcast sharing some of the inspirational stories from amazing health and physical education teachers.
Today's episode is sponsored by My Study Series, an online learning platform by New Zealand PE teachers for New Zealand PE teachers and their students. Check it out now at mystudyseries.co.nz.
Carl Condliffe: Kia Ora everyone today I'm extremely luckily to be hosting Jarrod Robinson also known as the PE Geek, a teacher who's really changed the PE landscape, someone who's played a big part in advocating for the use of technology in PE and lead the way and creating innovating approaches for teachers to use technology with their classes. So Jarrod welcome to the podcast.
Jarrod Robinson: Yeah thanks for having me.
Carl Condliffe: First of all tell us, tell us a little bit about where you’re from, your teaching background, a little bit of your experience.
Jarrod Robinson: Well I'm from the great state of Victoria in Australia. So near Melbourne, the capital city probably about a 90 minute drive from there and I've taught in a class for the last sort of eight/nine years. Small country school of around about 200 students or a little bit less and the great part of that school is it gave me a really big license
to be able to innovate. We weren't so dictated, we had a lot of autonomy because there wasn't many staff. So you're given many hats when you're roles like that. So that's the only school I've ever operated in and it's very much the catalyst for what lead me down the path of the PE Geek journey and writing blogs and stuff because I had the opportunity to innovate and it was a real testament to the school and the trust they put in us.
Carl Condliffe: So it's a middle school or junior secondary, what sort of?
Jarrod Robinson: It's funny though it's a secondary school in that when I first started teaching it was from year seven, you know 13 years of age up to year twelve. Because of the fact that it's a small school eventually the school merged with the primary school. So we went from only dealing with the 13 and above age group to then all of a sudden combining two schools together getting a brand new
campus, state of the art facilities like open learning spaces, lots of technology and having to deal with kids from 4/5 years of age. So that didn't limit me.
We ended up having to teach phys ed as specialist PE teacher down in that younger level and it was great for what I do online because I now, and working with teachers I now get to understand both sides. But it wasn't without challenge. If you go from teaching 13 year olds and all of a sudden you've got 5 year olds, there's a massive difference and assumptions I had about that part of the school were changed a lot by being involved in a school of that much breath.
Carl Condliffe: Yeah it must have been quite powerful for, I guess for these, two weeks ago we spoke to Celia and she mentioned some issues around, I don't know whether it's the same issues in Australia but in New Zealand we have some teachers and primary who might not be as
prepared, or not prepared I guess, might not have the knowledge to deliver really good physical education so you are in a sense a PE specialist and all of a sudden having a teacher with these younger students it must have been really good them, must have been some really good learning, rich authentic physical education for them. So it must have been pretty cool being able to do that.
Jarrod Robinson: It was, yeah, and that was a big comment from the primary parents who'd grown up mostly with their just classroom teaching running phys ed, so we got to step in and take over that load. But it wasn't without issues as well. So there's a massive culture change that happened between the schools, you had primary staff and their culture and the secondary staff and their culture and it's still being battled with now and it's, I don't think it's going to be something that's instantly fixed or maybe it will never be fixed but there's a lot of the stuff that was gained and there's also some stuff that was lost.
Carl Condliffe: So how did you get started in this whole technology in PE thing? What was your
pathway or your transition into the PE Geek? So kind of like what's your story?
Jarrod Robinson: So in 2008 when I first started teaching we had to be collecting evidence of things that we were doing in our class on our way to be full registered teachers. So when you first start in Australia, in Victoria at least you become a provisionally registered teacher and then you have to show evidence and become full registered.
So I started a blog purely to capture evidence of things I was doing in my class and for that purpose, so I could show my principal and I could get marked to full registration. But along the line it was a heavy focus on tech because I loved it, I was always interested in it as a kid and then I did my second teaching method as technology. Then all of a sudden I realized that this blog thing people were actually turning up to and leaving comments and they weren't from my school they were from Victoria, they were from Australia, they were from all over the world. I got addicted to being able to share
stuff to people even though in the early days it wasn't all that innovative. Maybe it was but we were just quite limited with what we could do.
Carl Condliffe: Why do you think people arrived at your blog and started reading it and following? What do you think the catalyst there was?
Jarrod Robinson: Well it was definitely Twitter. So around the same time I signed up for Twitter, so it was early 2008. If I longed onto Twitter at that stage I wasn't really communicating with phys ed teachers at all, it was mostly with people who were doing e-learning type roles in schools and I guess they were turning up at the site, they were seeing applications of things I did in phys ed and a lot of conversations and friends I made in those early years were with people who were in those sort of roles. And that trickled down they shared the site with their phys ed teachers and eventually when mobile became more prevalent, that's around about 2010 and '11 that's when the site became this,
much more dominant resource in the phys ed space and it was probably just right time right place. It already had two or three years of writing at that stage, just nothing but sharing resources and then the right device came along that matched with phys ed and yeah it went from there.
But the funny thing is round about two months in I got a blog post comment and this is what it said, exactly to the word: "This is the trust and most brilliant thing I've ever read." And I read that and I was like whoa someone, this is amazing and you know how motivational these things can be and only two or three years later did I realize that was a spam post. That was not an authentic that was legitimately a spam.
Carl Condliffe: That's hilarious.
Jarrod Robinson: So I think about that all the time and think if I hadn't got that post would I have continued doing it? Would that have led to me finding a real audience of people and would that have led to where we were are now. It's funny to think.
Carl Condliffe: Yeah it is. You say right place, right time and stuff like that
but I know you've read Outliers and I've read it as well and it's a fantastic book, but there are, I think there's a whole lot more in that path of being of innovative in PE, so I think you still would have got there.
Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, cool.
Carl Condliffe: From there you went on and started designing some apps, how did that pan out?
Jarrod Robinson: Sure did. Again it was the early mobile phone craze. I remember getting my first iPhone and just being amazed at the possibilities. I remember searching on the store for just forever trying to find things that were appropriate for my industry and my audience and writing about them. I realize there wasn't a lot, there was a few things and this stage there was the Run Keeper app which I was just blown away that you could do that and I got thinking about that well that's cool but it would be nicer if it did X. So I set about to build an app that did that and in particular the Cooper's test, which is the 12 minute run fitness test, quite common here in Oz
and ever where else in the world and I thought about how I could appetize that, I don't even know if that's a word, but it is now and --
Carl Condliffe: Sounds good.
Jarrod Robinson: I wanted to build an app that would let you run for twelve minutes and then at the end of twelve minutes it would give your distance and your fitness and it would be a much easier way to facilitate the test then setting up the cones and markers and having kids run around a track.
Carl Condliffe: So none of this, you didn't start out wanting to make money in apps you wanted them for your own teaching to make, you found, you wanted things to be able to operate in a way that was going to make life easier for you.
Jarrod Robinson: The catalyst of this app was I had some kids who missed the day where we did it at school where I had to laborious set up the thirty minutes, the fitness test and I thought they've missed it, now I've got to go and do it at lunch time and set up again. I thought wouldn't this be so easy, I'd been using run keeper at the time, wouldn't it be easy just to have an app that did that and I'd just say go and run in your own time and then I'll have your results for the test. And that's what set about that journey.
It was about
solving a problem for me and if I solved it for me and I was my target audience then it's probably going to be useful for other PE teachers as well. So I remember putting up the job on a website when you can find talent to build stuff like this and it cost $500 to make it and I remember at that time thinking this is a lot of money and I don't really have much, I just did it and got the first app successful. It wasn't great in terms of how it looked but it functioned and then just kept doing it.
Carl Condliffe: Easy. Looking at your website, thepegeek.com you've got on your homepage there learn how to use game changing technologies in your PE classroom. So that's kind of, that's what you do now, you host workshops and you do this around the world. And they seem to be really popular.
Jarrod Robinson: Yeah we love it. So obviously stuff is where we have most of our audience, we can't travel everywhere. But there's nothing more satisfying
than running a workshop in a place, New Zealand's been a massive supporter of what we do. We love getting over there at least once or twice a year and walking away from a group of people that you've had a chance to do a workshop with, there's no better feeling.
The follow up stuff that happen after that, it's great to see people using stuff in their classes that has an impact, not just because I say it does or because it might be nice to do some tech because it's the hottest thing but because the thing that they're looking to do is benefited by the technology and that becomes, that becomes a motivator to do more and yeah we've been to 30, 32 or 3 countries so far and we just continuing doing them because of the success that each one brings and it's a great chance to see the world as well.
Carl Condliffe: Yeah, yeah I've been to two of yours now and I think the one thing that stuck out for me was at the start of the one that was in New Plymouth you said we're going to look at maybe twelve apps but you encouraged us to really
just pick one or two that are going to help us in the classroom, have some immediate effect and not try to do everything all at once but focus specifically on those two and I think that's some really good guidance around or for teachers who are really just getting started with technology and PE, just focus on one thing that is going to help you and allow you to be innovative in the classroom. So that was some really good advice that you gave. You also have Connected PE community, what is that?
Jarrod Robinson: Well we've, I mean obviously the phys ed technology stuff and the Pe Geek has been a real big driver for the trail and so on but it really ignores many of the other aspects of the phys ed landscape.
So it's all about technology in phys ed, because we've grown this big audience globally we still get a lot of emails of stuff that was, how can I do assessment in this class or what can I do in this area or that area. And I would typically say it's not what we do the PE Geek but having
seen all these questions it just made sense to create a community that was much more diverse and then use the connections that I'd made online to bring in experts who could answer those questions because I only really see myself as quite knowledgeable in the tech space and other areas I have a basic understanding.
So it was about providing a framework and the mechanism and the service, I think it's more of a service around arranging content that is from other experts. So other people in that, professors and doctors and so on in the phys ed landscape. It's been good. We've deliberately slowed down social media, I think social media has this tendency to be too fast for many of the people that we serve and the Connected PE community is about slowing it down, making the essential stuff available for people on demand, it's sort of like a buffet of professional development, they come, they get what they need when they need it and they don't have to come back for a month or so. But when they come
back there's something there for them, to professionally grow.
Carl Condliffe: There's definitely some good content in there that I've seen and the online conference that you ran this year was just generated a ton of really good content from great experts in our learning area. So there's heaps to take in there if you haven't looked at it yet or haven't visited, go and check it out it's definitely worth a look. Keeping on this theme of supporting and helping teachers you launched or you ran a conference this year which was, that's a pretty epic task running alone and not even in your own country. So how did that pan out for you? What was the deal with that?
Jarrod Robinson: Yeah well honestly our workshops have been successful but they're 30/40 people in a room max. One person, one facilitator, one topic. But we wanted to do something bigger than that because we realized that there's more impact in there
if you can get more people and you can focus on more topics. We decided that we'd launch the Connected PE conference in Dubai and we picked Dubai for reason because it's really accessible to the world and there's no major phys ed conference already happening there.
So we set out this time last year to lock all the pieces together and it took a whole year to get it going and we stopped at no, we didn't really put in limits on who we'd invite, we invited the people that we thought could bring the most value to the conference from all corners of the globe as our expert master class leaders. It was a conference but we put heavy emphasis on this workshop model of deliver where people go into extended sessions to get a bit more into the activities that they're doing rather than just sitting, conferences tend to be--
Carl Condliffe: That's that bell.
Jarrod Robinson: Conferences tend to be more about grabbing something quickly and moving onto the next session
and sometimes it's all hype but no real cut through. So we wanted to really focus in on depth in it but maybe attend less sessions. So it was really successful, we're currently just about to confirm our date for our 2017 one and bring the same model also to places like Kenya and Singapore and hopefully in two years’ time also we've got the Connected PE conference running in all continents.
Carl Condliffe: That'll be awesome. I love how you can, now that you have this Connected PE community you can pair those together and the professional learning doesn't end at the end of the conference like we see, I think you touched on a little bit that you get all pumped up and then you leave the conference and then it's like what next but you have this ongoing supportive environment.
Jarrod Robinson: Yeah that was a real focus of ours. So it had all the pre-webinars, so even if you weren't attending the conference you still got the benefit of the eight or nine pre-webinars
that happened for the conference and then we recorded as many sessions as we could at the conference so that even if you were in Alaska and you were part of the community you could still watch it. The eventual goal, the ultimate goal of the Connected PE community is to make all of our face-to-face stuff zero cost. We don't want to charge for those. But the community would be the one time annual subscription or whatever we choose to do and then that gives you access to attend whatever face-to-face events you can do and if it's running in every continents then you can attend it probably pretty easily.
Carl Condliffe: Yup. What was your best take away from that in terms of a presenter who really made you go wow that's something really cool?
Jarrod Robinson: I think Doctor Dean Dudley, someone who I followed online on Twitter for a long time, he's like an academic and researcher and [00:17:48] (unclear) Sydney even. And he presented a framework for physical literacy that was just absolutely really easy for people to grasp. We hear this word physical
literacy a lot but what does it really mean? What are we trying to achieve? What are the things that make it up?
He presented this core framework that is backed by research that is absolutely easy to attach to in terms of your school focus and your school vision. He also liked physical literacy and the pursuit of it to early 1800s the actual challenge to get everyone to be able to read and write and that was successful, most of the world can, there's still a percentage that can't but he looked at what they did to make that possible and sort of related that to what we could do as physical educators and people trying to get people active and so on for life. And there's a lot of lesson, there's a lot of commonalities and he's saying that most of the physical literacy literature doesn't even look at the success of literacy as a bit of a catalyst for what they could do. So he wants everyone to be mindful of where we've been.
Carl Condliffe: Yeah that makes sense, you've got that term literacy there, you'd think there someone had thought to kind of look at those relationships and the approaches.
Jarrod Robinson: No they haven't, they really haven't and there's so many parallels between what we did to get the world literate and what we could do to get the world physically literate. It's amazing when you start to think of it like that.
Carl Condliffe: Is his presentation up on the community?
Jarrod Robinson: Yeah it is, it's inside the community and it's definitely been one that's generated quite a bit of discussion and rightly so because it's a hot topic.
Carl Condliffe: Cool, cool. Looking forward to hearing more about your dates for next year and I know that one Kiwi attended this year, he didn't come from New Zealand he's in international school but it'd be cool to get some more Kiwis heading out to attend. You're, gee well we're at what, 21 minutes already, you, the reason I had this podcast is you're developing a new app and you presold this
app but I think it's launched now. From what I've seen it appears to be super innovative and something that I think probably quite a few New Zealanders or New Zealand schools will be interested in this, Monsuta Fitness, so tell us a bit about that.
Jarrod Robinson: Yeah there's a couple of schools in New Zealand already using it which is good. But we sort of looked at early Pokémon Go crazy and we just, as it swept through the planet and people were all over it and there was obviously phys ed teachers looking at ways they could grab it and repurpose it and jam it into their curriculum and while that's got some inherent good aspects to it. It's, a little bit wrong to just and try pick up everything that's hot and active and throw into our curriculum without much thought.
So we thought well what are the best attributes of the Pokémon Go that are getting people, everyone crazy, everyone thinking about it and it's like the hunting and the adventure and it's the gamification, leveling up aspects and it's the social
aspects around it. And we thought well they're transferable into other situations and just related to this game and they're not just unique to this game. In fact they're not new to this game at all, Pokémon Go. So we grabbed those core elements and we tried to build a game around something that's a little bit more phys ed centric.
So in this particular example we wanted to build a fitness experience. So rather than capturing a Pokémon so you can progress it and battle other Pokémon we wanted to put the person who was doing the hunting into an exercise experience and that was our goal. Same sort of idea, you find them, you hunt them, you then get presented with an activity and you have to complete that activity and then you then progress through the game. But the real difference is that the schools have decision on where they place them. So you as a school head, whatever, head of PE can use your school as a canvas and place
these different activity monsters through the school and go and battle them and kids progress. So that's been the real difference I guess, the complete control over the experience which people have enjoyed.
Carl Condliffe: I like that idea. I listened to a presentation yesterday at one of the Wellington PE workshops and a teacher spoke place responsive education and how we're really quick to leave our local community and seek experiences away from our school which means the students don't necessarily have as much bind or it doesn't have as much meaning to them and I think Monsuta fitness has the potential for students to be able to explore their area more and I know these students are within the school every day and they know the place really well but being able to just, for a teacher to place it somewhere that maybe is area that's not accessible a lot or the students don't go there,
but just making them more familiar and more appreciative of their environment, I think that's really cool that the school or the teacher actually can place these things where they want, I think it's kind of--
Jarrod Robinson: Really focused so we have these custom monsters too which aren't tied to a prescribed activity that we've set. So you could very much create a path around the local area and in it you could have questions that revise students about topics or you could create a sort of historical journey through an important part of your community. So it's not just limited to the exercise world and the warm up activity, it could be a real learning path and that's been exciting to see what people are creating with that in mind as more tied to other subject areas.
Carl Condliffe: Yeah that's fantastic. I do a little bit geocaching and there's a lot of those. You can do some memorable
walks or landmark walks where you go from one to the next landmark and find caches in there. So that's very similar and I think that's important that we acknowledge other learning areas and because I think PE's, I think we're one of the most innovative learning areas. I don't know why because phys eders tend not to be too techy but for some reason we just embrace technology and we do that really well but I think other learner areas, more learning areas should get on board but that seems to be a pretty slow uptake from what I can see, my personal experience anyway. So that approach to allow things like you mentioned being able to explore other areas has a lot of potential.
So aside from Monsuta fitness which sounds awesome, looks awesome from what I've seen can you tell us about any emerging technologies that you're aware of that kind of has a potential to be a real game changer for PE? I know this morning a few of us
were on Twitter having a few Tweets about virtual reality, is that something that's going to be big or is there some other thing that you know of that we might not.
Jarrod Robinson: Yeah I did a podcast episode about this recently in my series. Bit of a rant, and I spoke about quite a few emerging technologies that will disrupt education whether you want to or not. But we have the opportunity to embrace them and sort of deliver learning opportunities that match up with good crafted experience or we cannot. So I'd rather embrace them.
A couple of those tech that we should be on the lookout for are things like virtual reality and it was easy to dismiss it when it was polygon type experience, where you didn't really feel like you were immersed. But eventually within the next two or three/four years the virtual reality experience you get through the lens will be at the same framerate as our eyes can detect. So you'll actually have no difference in being able to tell if this thing is real or not.
Now that might sound scary but it presents major opportunities for learning. If you can be transported through a virtual experience, you're sitting in Auckland and all of a sudden you're in Paris and you're walking through the Louvre and it's like you're really there. We can start to craft a completely different learning experience. And the same is true for phys ed. If you can use VR to craft an experience that feels authentic that is maybe you are in a game and it's a game like scenario and you're making decision, you're being assessed on those decisions, I mean this is all going to be possible.
And then when you tie that with other disruptive technologies like senses, I think we're going to reach a stage where we get to there being over 100 billion different sense as in you know like cameras are a sensor, accelerometers are sensors, they’re going to be in everything, including our wearable shirts and that presents opportunities. So the shirt that a kid are wearing in a
sport class or in your PE class that's just a normal shirt could have heart rate technology in it without being able to wear anything it's just present. The very same token it could give you feedback to either run technique or all sorts of things and it sounds farfetched but it's reality and it's quite predictable now because of how fast things progress and the exponential growth pattern that we're on. It's exciting, it's also a little bit scary but I'm just here to say that people should embrace it. It's not going to replace you, it's going to enhance you.
Carl Condliffe: I think that's, I hadn't really thought about, you just mentioned there about it's rolling and technique through element and stuff like that. So like having a skins pants and top and performing a movement and then I'm pretty sure and in no time you'll be able to get feedback on how far off you are off the most efficient technique or movement, that's, that doesn't sound too farfetched to me and that’s' just, it's phenomenal.
Jarrod Robinson: Not at all and quite personalized too. I mean
we're really subjective with a lot of the stuff that we do related to that. This wouldn't be, it'd be objective and it would be personal and it would be all the things that we talk about as being good practice. But we'll have a tool to augment that. I had a podcast interview recently about 3D printing which I think was tremendous example of the ten/twenty years away from here where this whole idea of ordering sports equipment and having it delivered to you and the sports equipment is not really custom it's sort of designed for a general market, it could be quite obsoleting that you could print on demand the equipment to match with the learning stage of your student that was relevant to the weight that they could use and we could craft these experiences much more deeply than what we do now.
Carl Condliffe: I think it's, it's a really interesting time to be a teacher and seeing some of these technologies emerge I've, I almost wish I was a teacher maybe in another, I'd started my career in another
five to ten years where I'm going to get the benefit of all this technology as it's emerging, but yeah we'll see, we'll see what happens in that space and what comes from it and how teachers choose to embrace it.
Jarrod Robinson: I mean for the most part a lot of the tech, I mean people are going to be skeptic, like that's fine. And the reason they can be skeptic is for the most part all these tech have existed for a long time, 3D printers 1980 they came out, virtual reality 1980, but they've been so minimal power and so small opportunity that they've been mostly disregarded, they're deceptive, they've been sitting in the background slowly building in capacity and we've just ignored them because they haven't really done much. Same with robotics, I mean robotics we look at them, they're not very smart but each year they get more powerful, they get more capable and eventually you reach a point where they supersede the fact that they could do stuff much better.
I love the Kodak story
as just an example of how these things change. You know Kodak was this enormous company in the early 1800s and into the 1900s and they did obviously print, film cameras and that was their thing. They had an in-house technician build what would become the first digital camera and they presented it to the board and they said we can do this and this can be our thing and we can own the rights and it got dismissed and it was because at the time it took a 0.1 megapixel photo and why would you need like when you have these beautiful prints that come out really crystal clear. But each year that tech kept getting better and better, exponentially increased to a point where Kodak is now bankrupt. So there's going to be a lot of Kodak moments, a lot of tech that we look at now and think that's, could never possibly impact education. It will, it absolutely will. So smart teachers will look at ways they can embrace it to be better.
Carl Condliffe: Yeah, yeah and we need to. It's just, I just Googled Kodak just then and they've just launched the camera phone which is interesting and the title is Kodiak the iconic camera company that famously failed to adapt to the world of digital and smart phone cameras.
Jarrod Robinson: They did, yeah.
Carl Condliffe: They might be a little bit late to market though I think. Last question, you're a pretty big gamer much like myself, just not as good. What are you playing right now?
Jarrod Robinson: Couldn't help myself I didn't get the new Call of Duty Infinite Warfare. Big, big fan of the series, always keep up to date with it and play it and I just know that if I, if I get sucked back into the game, the multiplayer thing I might lose some hours in my day but a just sort of testament to how well-crafted these game experiences are. It's easy to dismiss them if you don't play them but wow they're immersive. They encapsulate so
much of what we should hope to aspire in our classrooms. That's why I like them because they really do immerse in whatever the game is about and I think that's a lesson for us.
Carl Condliffe: Yeah. Yup, I'm a big fan and I actually, I remember being a lot younger and thinking man wouldn't it be cool to one day. I used to play a lot of the basketball games, wouldn't it be cool to one day just be able to play someone from America, someone who's lived basketball their whole life and it didn't take that long for that to become a reality but they are immersive and I think teachers can learn a lot from video games. I've got a gamification presentation that I do and try to encourage teachers to be more accepting of games and they're coming around and once they see some of those game mechanics and how they have applications in teaching and they're more willing to embrace those.
Look I really want to thank you for stopping by. I've
gotten to know you over the last four/five months and you've been a big support and help to what I've been trying to achieve with some of things I'm doing on the side and I really appreciate that, you've changed the way I look at a few things and you've been really helpful and you've also changed I think phys ed teaching for a lot of people around the world and I don't know too many people that have had a really big impact on education and I think you're one of them and we owe you a lot for everything you've done. So keep it up, keep innovating and again I really appreciate you stopping by to have a chat and I'll put some of those links around Monsuta Fitness and Connected PE community and all that I'll put that in the show notes. So listeners make sure you check some of that out. But Jarrod thanks again for coming along.
Jarrod Robinson: Absolute pleasure, any chance to talk tech and games and anything, I'm just going to be all over it. So yeah keep up the work that you're doing, I look forward to having you on my podcast soon.
Carl Condliffe: Alright mate, cheers.
Jarrod Robinson: See you.