my passion wakes me!


Technology and PE – Round 1.

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.”

Bill Gates

When it comes to PE and IT one of the comments PhysEd teachers often hear is – it must be hard transferring this technology into Physical Education. The reality is, it comes down to the PhysEd culture within your school. Before implementing any technology, you must have a strong culture that the tech can support. When creating this culture, it is important to make a distinction between Physical Activity and Physical Education. Each has an important place in the school but often they are compressed together and restricted within the PE subject. When this occurs the strength of a whole school approach is lost.

In this post I will focus on outlining a few apps that can help support a whole school physical activity program. Physical activity programs have an important place during break times. Physical activity not only prepares the brain for learning, it also helps students learn problem solving skills and interpersonal skills. So by using tech to promote and support a whole school physical activity program we are providing students with valuable learning moments outside of the classroom and in turn increasing their chance for success inside of the classroom. Movement helps kids achieve more by keeping them engaged and motivated throughout the day.

Your Brain

Physical Activity programs should simply aim to provide students with an opportunity to move, and there is no doubt technology can enhance this. If students are able to move with an elevated heart rate, this is even better as exercising with an elevated heart rate will help improve their overall health. The benefit to learning is the release of endorphins and other stress management hormones that allow students to be ready to learn. The essential physical activity apps that can support a whole school physical activity program are:

#1 – The Daily Mile

The Daily Mile is a social platform that allows users to create and complete physical activity challenges. Although this app is an amazing way to keep track of your physical activity levels, the feature that makes this app stand out from the rest is it provides users with the ability to encourage and inspire one another as they work to achieve their goals. An example of how this app may be used within a physical activity program is to enhance school lunchtime walking clubs.

Running 1

#2 – Zombies Run

Zombies Run is an ultra-immersive running game and audio adventure. Every run becomes a mission where the student becomes the hero. With immersive audio drama putting the student in the middle of their very own zombie adventure, this app is a bridge between physical activity and video gaming. Recent developments of this app have improved the gaming experience. While students run to the perfect mix of heart-pumping audio drama and pulse-pounding songs from their own playlist, they collect supplies to grow their base back home. This app could be used as a quick recess activity that gets students moving.

#3 – GoNoodle

Although this is not an iOS app, GoNoodle must get a mention. GoNoodle helps teachers get kids moving with short interactive activities that range from dancing to athletics challenges. GoNoodle is designed with K-5 classrooms in mind however there are a range of activities that may be used by year 7-8 students. GoNoodle is often used for in class ‘brain breaks’ but it can be used to support student leaders who run before or after school physical activity programs.

Go Noodle

#4 – ReachOut Breathe

ReachOut Breathe helps students reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety by slowing down their breathing and their heart rate with an iOS device. Research shows that slowing your heart rate can increase feelings of calmness in your body. Using simple visuals, ReachOut Breathe helps students to control their breath and measures their heart rate in real-time using the camera in their phone. With the increasing amount of stress in young people’s lives, this is an essential app to include in any physical activity program.

Working in PE and as specialist teachers we realise the importance of time because it is often limited however if we choose to focus not on time but the precise use of time and timing we can make the biggest difference. In this post I have explored a few apps that can increase the precision of activities run during school break times. In my next post I will explore a few apps that can increase our precision within our physical education classes. As always thank you for your time and good luck to anyone leading the way with change I wish you the best.



Life beyond the classroom.

“The worst mistake anyone can make is being afraid to make one!”


Almost ten years ago in his popular TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson raised the powerful question do schools kill creativity? This question resonated among many in our profession and since the question was raised, we have seen many new pedagogies emerge such as the socratic seminar, genius hour and makerspaces. The new approaches to teaching provide students with time to develop their creativity while solving problems and learning that it is ok to make mistakes. In addition to this when students learn that things do not always work out the way we plan they begin to develop grit and resiliency which are skills students need for life beyond the classroom.


Ten years may seem like a long time however, if we reflect on what has occurred during this time the reality is with the aid of the internet, rapid progress has been made to address the issues raised in Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk. We still have a long way to go but the collaboration among connected educators across the globe has lead to the sharing of knowledge and new understandings about the art and science of our profession, especially within areas of learning we often find challenging.    

Aussie Phys Ed

To highlight this we can look at the modern approaches to Physical Education that have been shared with the world by the #aussiePhysEd team lead by Andy Hair, Arron Gardiner, Sean deMorton and Daniel Zito. Their network started out as 4 teachers having conversations about best practices in PE. This network has grown to more than 50 Physical Education teachers who dare to dream big and more importantly, make these dreams become realities.

Blog pic 3

The #aussiePhysEd team have developed an innovation up there with genius hour and makerspace which is GPS-Fitness Art. GPS-Fitness Art is a simple concept where students are provided a map of an open space within the school. Students draw a simple image on the map trying to use as much of the space as possible. The second stage of GPS-Fitness Art is to step outside of the classroom and make the image on the map come to life using a GPS Fitness tracking app (Strava, MapMyRun or Runkeeper) to digitally reproduce the paper image. This new approach to Physical Education not only gets kids active but it also allows students to show their creative side while solving problems after making mistakes; which we have already pointed out is a good thing. If GPS-Fitness Art has captured your attention check out Brett Sinnett’s GPS Fitness Art Facebook page or connect with the #aussiePhysEd team via their website.  

Fitness Art

Image created by Christina Polatajko’s Year 5 Superstars

At the end of the day, parents send their children to our schools with the hope that we will give them a future. Most parents want their children to have more than they have so when we strive to provide students with time to develop their creativity, we are not only responding to the challenges raised by Sir Ken Robinson 10 years ago, we are in fact preparing students for life beyond the classroom.

What may the future hold?

“The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem”

Captain Jack Sparrow

It is wonderful to see an idea grow however, it is even more amazing to see the connections that an idea can create. There are moments in your career that refine and shape your craft. What makes this reflection stand out for me is the ignition of this reflection came from a student who had expressed to me during their first lesson of the year that they had felt disconnected from PE for a very long time and they did not think they could succeed.



After a week or two of encouragement and support, the ground for a healthy teacher student relationship had begun to develop and there were a few signs that this student was going to experience some success in PE very soon. Although I could see things heading in the right direction, I could not have expected nor been prepared for the rapid impact this student was going to have on my teaching.

During the initial couple of weeks, a lot of our discussions and pep talks were around finding a way to leave previous bad experiences with physical activity in the past and appreciating the relevance of the subject. There was no doubt this student was a clever kid so I suggested a few Ted talks for them to review and hopefully see the importance of PE. The intention of providing the Ted talks was to show the student I had time for their concern. In hindsight, doing this was probably not the best way to demonstrate care and compassion but this time I got lucky. By chance, a video must have appeared in the suggested links and this caught the student’s attention – the video was about a GPS artist named Stephen Lund. Stephen used his GPS tracker to plan and map out courses which he would ride to create pictures. This artistic approach to physical activity obviously captured the interest of the student. They came back to school with the clip, very proudly asking me: could we do this in PE?


Before I had even watched the video, I was thinking this is a massive moment. I was chuffed as in the space of 4 weeks, this student had gone from being disengaged in PE to requesting specific learning activities. After watching the video I was amazed by the creative way technology was being used to do something outside of the box. I had no idea what to say, I could see this was a way to modernise and transform my approach to promoting physical activity within our PDHPE course but all I could say was I am so impressed you have shared this with me and I have no idea what to do with this fantastic information but let’s figure something out. I asked the student to come up with a few ideas and marked it as a PE passion project allowing them to select their own team to help develop the concept.

Aussie Phys Ed.png

After feeling pretty chuffed for most of the day, I was walking to the staff room and one of my colleagues told me about this GPS artist and as she was describing the video to me I kept a straight face and thought about how powerful the video was. That afternoon after watching the video for the 3rd occasion it was time to share the video with the Aussie PhysEd network and that was when things went to a whole new level.

In the space of 5 days from the time the video was shared, a Facebook page to promote physical fitness and creativity had been developed, individuals and families have attempted their own GPS art creations, I am now considering running a cross-country/art activity that has no course and there has been discussion about creating a national and international virtual cross country event. I think that demonstrates the power of collaboration and what can be achieved when creative minds are linked together to push the existing boundaries. A lot of this is still in the ideas phase but in a few months time I am sure we will see these ideas turn into actions and transformative PE practices.

Facebook Pic 1
Brett Sinnett’s GPS-Fitness Art Page
Blog pic 3
Matt Ryan’s GPS-Fitness Art.

We are in a time where the sphere of education is being flooded with technology and for some this can be seen as a problem however it is important to realise that most EdTech enthusiasts acknowledge that technology alone will never be the factor that improves the quality of learning, we know that throwing an iPad into a classroom without the presence of a prepared teacher will decrease learning. The ‘X’ factor is the combination of great teachers working together with technology to capture student interest and solidify the understanding of all involved in the learning process. So for these reasons be sure to check out the GPS-Fitness Art facebook page and get involved in something new. It is also worth taking some time to watch the Stephen Lund Ted Talk – who knows what ideas you may come up with. As always thank you for your time and good luck to anyone leading the way with change I wish you the best.

Time to refocus!

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but building the new!


It is that time of year again. Time to appreciate the achievements of last year and time to set some goals for the year to come. The athlete in me thrives on this and I find setting my goals stops me from getting overwhelmed during the teaching year. I am happy to say that I achieved all of my 2015 goals however I excelled in one area more than the others and this happened almost by chance I thank Andy Hair and the Aussie Phys Ed chat team for that.

My goals for 2015 were:

Goal 1: contribute to, grow and develop my professional learning network: CRUSHED IT

Goal 2: increase movement opportunities at a whole-school level: ACHIEVED

Goal 3: Provide structured PD to colleagues outside of my school: ACHIEVED

2016 Goals

This year will be a year of inquiry as I am starting a MRes program at Macquarie University therefore I am keeping my goals focused within my classroom this year, you can see my goals in the image above. I am hoping to share some new key learnings this year. On a final note good luck to everyone for the year ahead I hope it brings you what you seek to achieve. Take care.

Take a breath 2

“Finding clarity is eliminating options and aligning values”


I have been sitting on this post for sometime as things in my EDU sphere took off towards the end of 2015 due to the fantastic connections I made at that time. Although this was drafted during December 2015 it was not posted until February 2016.

This time last year, before heading out with friends and family to celebrate the beginning of a new year I sat down to finish off a reflective post about my year of teaching. At that time I thought I was mad! However during this year my ‘take a breath’ reflection has been a post I have returned to often and for a variety of reasons; so why not do it again?

I can confidently say I have consistently demonstrated that promoting and developing the physical literacy of my students is my driving focus as a Health and Physical Education teacher. Last year was a year of creating a learning environment to effectively promote physical literacy and this year has been a year of evaluating the success of the innovative approach I have used in my classroom. I must admit the results did not go the way I anticipated. Although the results were positive, the changes did not produce the dramatic difference I was hoping to see in regard to student learning. The most noticeable difference was an improvement in students’ motivation to participate in PDHPE, but that is a longer blog post for later in the year once I have finished the review of my observations and class data.


Throughout the year I continued to make adjustments to my teaching based on the consistent evaluations. Outside of the classroom 2015 has been about creating connections some connections have challenged my view on the role physical activity plays in the learning process and others have supported this view. The connections that have challenged my view have caused me to think deeper and critique my beliefs and for this reason they have lead to the most powerful learning for me. The most important take away has been the realisation that there is a difference between the impact physical activity has on brain health and the impact it has on academic performance. Although they are related to each other it is important to draw a distinction between the two.

I have been told ‘the idea that physical activity can improve academic performance is crap’ but I can’t agree with that. Brain health has to be important to education! If we think about an engine and how a mechanic is able to increase the performance of the engine by adapting the fuel that is used. I guess the ultimate goal of every teacher is to increase the chance of success (performance) of our students so surely we can apply the mechanic’s line of thinking when exploring learning. Exercise is a fuel for the brain and it enhances the function of the brain so it has to benefit learning in some way.

Picture 1

I have been intrigued by the image above as I think the image highlights that we need to nurture all 3 domains of learning to increase our effectiveness as teachers. I feel my biggest mistake so far has been that I often place a focus on one domain. Everything I have experienced during 2015 leads me to my first focus question for 2016 – What is the engine of learning?

My previous thinking has been driven by the idea that the brain is the engine in learning however a lot of recent reading and professional conversations make me think that maybe it is not. It has been a fantastic year and 2016 will be an interesting exploration.


What is the #libraries4physicalactivity movement?

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it”


#libraries4physicalactivity is a movement to increase the recreation opportunities for students within our schools. The aim is to get recreational sporting equipment into school libraries around the world so students can access the equipment just like they would if they were to borrow a book.

There are many intended benefits however, two significant benefits stand out for me. The first is students will have greater access to equipment allowing them to participate in recreational sporting activities during their recess and lunch breaks. This should increase the amount of daily physical activity for these students. It also shows that the school values and promotes physical activity opportunities for their students.

The second benefit is after the minimal initial setup time there is no added demand on teaching staff as it can be run using an important existing school facility . . . the school library.

How does it work?

Step 1 – Grab a small sports bag and put a piece of sporting equipment in it.

Step 2 – Use a tag to place a barcode on the sports bag so the equipment can be borrowed from the library.

Step 3 – Let your students know the equipment is available for use during recess and lunch.


4 – Take a photo of your #libraries4physicalactivity attempt, put it on twitter and mention 4 of your PLN to get them involved. (You may want to set a timeframe to make things interesting)


If you can spare a bit of extra time and want to go to the next level to help spread the message please complete the Google form so we can track the impact of the movement. The link for the form is

If you still need convincing lets look at some information provided by the World Health Organisation. WHO defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure – including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, travelling, and engaging in recreational pursuits”.

The WHO recommends:

  • Children and adolescents aged 5-17 years should do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
  • Children and adolescents aged 5-17 years should include activities that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 times per week.
  • Physical activity of amounts greater than 60 minutes daily will provide additional health benefits.

If we create #libraries4physicalactivity around the world and students take advantage of the opportunities provided, we take another step to help them get closer to meeting the recommendations above. #libraries4physicalactivity is not about student activity levels, this is about supporting our students and providing them with opportunities to be active.

Jumping outside my comfort zone!

‘People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe’

Simon Sinek

Earlier this year I set myself 3 goals for 2015. When setting my goals I knew goal 3 would be the one to challenge me. To achieve this goal I would need to step outside my comfort zone. It is easy to sit behind a computer screen and share a passionate message about including movement in the learning process but to step in front of an audience and provide structured professional learning is a real test of your understanding.

I have worked hard to put myself in a position to test my understanding and take advantage of any opportunity to provide structured professional learning this year. So far I have been able to speak about the power of including movement in the learning process at the inaugural #tmpdhpe15 held at Hills Grammar Sydney and a professional learning day at St Andrews College Marayong. Later this year I will have the opportunity to speak at the PDHPE Teachers’ Association Conference in October.

During my presentations I speak about the impact John Ratey’s book SPARK has had on my current approaches to teaching. Although my interpretation of the information contained in John Ratey’s book is always changing it is still in my opinion the most powerful piece of PE advocacy material ever written. The book helps us better understand the link between physical activity and academic achievement.

As physical education teachers we know exercise is good for you. Everyone has heard that before, but probably not the way Ratey explains it. According to John Ratey and the many studies he cites, exercise is primarily for the brain, it is just an added bonus that it also improves our body.

Dr. Ratey begins his tale of exercise’s virtues with Naperville, Illinois School Distritct 203 and its “New PE.” A revolutionary phys ed teacher named Paul Zientarski decided to teach the kids something they could use for life: how to be physically fit. Instead of grading on performance and skill, he decided to grade the kids on their effort. If they work hard enough to keep their hearts in aerobic training range (70-80% of maximum heart rate), they get good grades.

What’s most remarkable about the new PE is its correlation with test scores. Naperville consistently ranks among Illinois’ top 10 school districts even though it is not among the top spenders per pupil. Further to this, struggling students who participate in gym before school raise their grades significantly.

So it turns out exercise is good for learning. Why would this be? Because our biology evolved from the life of the hunter-gatherer, so now “the relationship between food, physical activity, and learning is hardwired into the brain’s circuitry.” Exercise also improves responses to stress, which is actually a necessary thing, in the right amount. It’s like lifting weights for the brain. “Neurons get broken down and built up just like muscles — stressing them makes them more resilient.”

If you’re looking for advocacy materials to promote the importance of movement and physical education in your school, be sure to share this with your colleagues. If you can get your Principal to read it, even better.

Like most passionate PE teachers, when I read SPARK and saw neuroscience being used to validate a link between physical activity and academic achievement I felt empowered as a PE teacher. To me there was only one conclusion – this is all the evidence anyone should need to be convinced that PE and physical activity are essential to learning! However recently I have been drawn into a fantastic academic debate about John Ratey’s research.

At the center of the debate is the observation that within SPARK the term learning seems to only represent and acknowledge the cognitive domain of learning. Learning is a more complicated process involving 3 domains: Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor. In SPARK John Ratey uses neuroscience to present a convincing case that we can use physical activity to improve learning within the cognitive domain but it is important not to get our heads caught in the glamor of the neuroscience of learning and overlook the approach of Paul Zientarski who uses physical activity to improve learning by tapping into all three learning domains.

Paul is one of the founders of Learning Readiness PE. The program prepares students for learning and has had an amazing impact on the students who have taken part in this unique approach in the Naperville school district. The improvement has been attributed to the schools implementing programs that get students active, moving, and understanding the power that exercise has on the brain and on learning. Students who have been involved in the Learning Readiness PE program have achieved higher success in their test scores for reading and math. It is also worthy to note obesity levels within the schools dropped as a result of Learning Readiness PE.

As the debate about John Ratey’s research and its implication to education continues I am confident we can all agree physical activity and movement improves learning. Whether we explain the power of including physical activity in the learning process from a neurological level or from an interpersonal level it is clear physical activity makes a difference, when we can clearly and confidently explain ‘the reasons why’ we will be able to move education in a new direction.

The happy secret to quality learning

“In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy”

Albert Clarke – photographer

During the last 3 months I have had the opportunity to visit a few high profile work environments including Google and Fox Sports. The thing that stood out as I walked into each workspace was the energy in the room. The environment was fun, happy and productive. Each of these spaces are great examples of dynamic learning environments.

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Google 1

Google Sydney

Linked in

linkedin Sydney (notice the standing desks)


Fox Sports Sydney

As we are approaching the end of term and my energy levels are getting low I have been talking with my wife about how these dynamic spaces may assist employees by raising motivation levels during tough times. Some companies also offer: daily catered lunches, casual dress codes, onsite gyms, games rooms and free child care.

Obviously these work environments come with their added pressures and they are very different to the schools we work in. However, the idea of creating work and learning environments that promote productivity through the inclusion of company perks is one that I find interesting.

Now that I have finished my ramblings, I would like to pose 2 questions to gain an insight to the creativity and innovation that is happening around the globe:

1. If a student’s job is to learn, what are you doing to create a happy and productive learning environment?
2. What is your school doing to promote a happy and productive workplace?

Thank you for your time and good luck to anyone leading the way with change.

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