Digital Technology and Physical Education
By Selena Woodward and Shane Pill PhD: Flinders University School of Education
Physical Education, Games, P.E. We all have memories of those lessons don’t we? I remember the P.E. equipment shed from my high school days in the UK, in the mid 90s. Bright orange nets with bright orange basketballs, a tub filled with hockey sticks, a series of wooden pegs supporting 32 tennis racquets and 32 badminton racquets, buckets containing shuttlecocks and tennis balls. Later on, I remember the excitement of the school purchasing brand new, step aerobics equipment and the frequent reminder that we should count ourselves very lucky because our school was fortunate enough to have some gym equipment.
Just like any other curriculum area, it would seem that the 21st century, and the technology that it brings, has significantly added to the tools available to the P.E. Teacher of 2012. I recently had the pleasure of talking to Shane Pill PhD, Lecturer in Physical Education Studies at Flinders University, who provided me with an insight into the P.E. classroom of today. It would seem that the P.E. equipment shed has seen as many (if not more changes) than the average classroom.
What new tools do we have now?
“Teachers in primary and secondary school physical education are increasingly incorporating digital technology into physical education settings to enhance student learning.” (Pill, 2012)
In addition to the more traditional tools I described above, technology has been incorporated into the classroom to allow students and staff the opportunity to collate data to help inform their practice, to help develop their skills and measure their fitness. Tools such as heart rate monitors, accelerometers and pedometers are providing indicative measures of activity intensity and volume. In-game and sport performance are now recorded, measured and analyzed using digital technologies so that players can be provided with comprehensive quantitative feedback about game engagement and skill. These recorded events, allow students the opportunity to see themselves at work and give teachers the opportunity to make more accurate assessment of student performance and deep, rather than surface learning, of game/sport participation by students.
Mini ‘sport cams’ can be used as ‘head cams’ to provide players with tracking feedback – what they are looking at and responding to in the performance environment to increase game engagement understanding. Digital cameras and flip cameras can often be purchased ‘on special’ for $200.00 or less, and sport cameras for much less.
How are these tools being used?
At Flinders University, in 2011 Shane and his pre-service teachers experimented with a games lesson team teaching situation via Skype. Flinders University PES students were taught by and engaged with Tom Bell from Manchester Metropolitan University (UK) and his ‘playsmart’ ideas while he taught his class ‘on the other side of the world’. Shane demonstrated the possibility of bringing expert mentoring and teaching from anywhere in the world into the classroom ‘in real time’.
When it comes to practice in the field, Shane described one P.E. lesson in which digital video recorders were being used by students during their game. At the beginning of the lesson students would be taught a specific technique for their game. They would then be divided into groups. Whilst one performed the technique, another would record what was happening. Students would then be asked to watch the video back, comparing what they saw themselves do against a written worksheet describing the technique demonstrated at the start of the lesson. Through peer assessment the student receives instant feedback and has the opportunity to try again make the necessary adjustments to their technique. Each member of the group would go through this process at least once before the class is called back together to demonstrate what they have learnt about their own technique. Learning is accelerated through collaboration, the technology provides a mirror directly onto their own practice and allows them to reflect and make improvements.
This can be taken even further with performance analysis tools like Dartfish and Silicon Coach. Using a tablet or Smart phone devices (which has video recording facilities) the software allows students to watch and tag their performance against set criteria, and then descriptively summarise strengths, corrections to decision making and skill execution relevant to that performance, and then suggest areas for further improvement. A record is then kept of that student’s performance and learning pathway. Shane is experimenting with iPod touch devices for this process in his classes this year.
In primary schools, many of the school halls/gyms built with federal government stimulus package funding, now have data projectors. With instant access to YouTube demonstrations and tutorials for sport specific skill performance teachers can supplement their own ability to demonstrate movement execution with that of professional experts. What’s more, demonstrations no longer need to occur just once, at the start of practice – the demonstrations can be available throughout the lesson via YouTube clips or other sources of video and can be accessed by students when ever they need to via smart devices. The recent advent of tablet technology and the improvements in wifi capabilities has meant that teachers can also take this capability onto the oval with them.
Tablet technology, and other mobile devices such as the iPod touch, are now giving students access to enhanced learning tools that were, perhaps, once restricted to occasional ‘wet weather’ lesson in the computer room (if it was available) or end of unit lesson on the library computers.
As a result of a student’s access to their captured performance, with the ability to replay it alongside a more expert performance of the skill, they receive immediate feedback about the quality of the performance. This accelerated learning technique, facilitated through the use of technologies, enhances knowledge of performance and leads to improved performance. There is no longer the need to wait wait for teacher feedback – there is capacity for self directed learning and individual ownership of learning.
Video technology is not the only thing impacting and changing the way in which P.E. lessons are taught in 2012. Now that GPS data trackers are more readily available to data log performances, orienteering has also seen great change. Add in the use QR codes where students can access video instructions, websites and more as they try to solve clues.
In addition media and fitness and condition apps that create online training diaries are also being explored in physical education. There are many free android and iTunes apps for sport or exercise that have applications in physical education.
Social Media has also begun to play an important part in P.E. Local P.E Teacher Matt Jamieson of the Australian Science and Mathematics School, recently won the Howard Mutton Award for excellence in secondary Physical Education. He is using Facebook to connect student learning in senior school physical education, as is Victorian PE teacher Jarrod Robinson who has developed a range of apps for use in physical education. These apps include:
- A 12 minute run test app – “The simplest and most accurate way to find out your fitness level in as little as 12 minutes by simply running” (iTunes store)
- Easy Assessment – “A simple way to capture and assess performance in any context or situation” (iTunes store)
- Step Test – “The 3 Minute Step Test or Queens College Step test is one of many variations of step test procedures, used to determine aerobic fitness. The test is an easy to administer sub-maximal test of cardiovascular endurance.” (iTunes store)
Where can we get more information?
The advent of social media and web 2.0 technologies is, of course, also changing the professional learning landscape for physical education teachers. Many physical education teachers are now blogging, creating websites to store resources and teaching ideas, and tweeting to discuss physical education methodology and to share teaching experiences.
Some of the interesting blogs Dr Pill shared include:
- Handheld Learning in Physical Education
- Sport Literacy
- Mr Robbo: The PE Geek
- The Physical Education Teacher
- The Physical Educator .com
- Jonesy the Teacher
For anyone interested in further exploration of the possibilities of digital technology integration into physical education, Dr Pill suggests that you might like to read Jarrod Robinson’s e-book “It’s now possible: Emerging Technologies and Physical Education”
Here at CEGSA, we’re really interested in finding out more about how P.E. teachers are using ICT and Edtech in their classrooms. Please feel free to share your blogs, lessons ideas and thoughts in the comments box below.