Going mobile with technology in physical education

Brian E Bennett

Brian E. Bennett is a former secondary biology and chemistry teacher in the United States. He now works at TechSmith as the Academic Customer Solutions Engineer. In addition to following education policy and trends, Brian is interested in reshaping how teachers and education leaders can rethink technology to empower more learners.

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Modern edtech advancements are getting lots of use in STEM subjects, as well as the likes of English and the performing arts, but how is PE getting the most out of this technology? Brian Bennett, a teacher turned academic customer solutions engineer at TechSmith, discusses how video tutorials are being used alongside the whistle.

Keeping students engaged during lesson time is one of the greatest and oldest challenges for any educator. To boost student motivation and engagement, teaching methods are having to evolve and move away from traditional approaches within the classroom. One notable development has been the introduction of technology. Most subjects are incorporating digital resources in order to harness young people’s interest in technology. For example, physical education classes are incorporating mobile technology as a means of improving class involvement and enthusiasm.

Technological innovation has long been fused with sports both on and off the field, and due to the explosive growth of mobile technology, sports analysis applications have now become more affordable and accessible to the everyday user. As a result, PE teachers are capitalising on this availability and looking to mobile technology solutions to enhance class time with pupils.

The legacies of events such as the London 2012 Olympics and the recent Glasgow Commonwealth Games have had a positive effect on sporting attitudes throughout UK, and are great opportunities to reinvigorate students' love for sports. There were many stories during the Olympics, for instance, on how both coaches and athletes used iPads for technique analysis, field notes, and to also keep in touch while at the Olympic Park. According to Atos, for the first time ever, commentators used touch-screen technology during each and every event at the Olympic Games which meant real –time results were being delivered at high speed.

With similar high-quality tech analysis now within reach for all; what better way to encourage students than to give them the chance to imitate their favourite sporting stars, including the type of technology they used?

PE has rarely been the most popular subject on the curriculum, with students instead preferring the instant fun and appeal of technology over fitness. According to research, during their free time children will probably end up glued to television and computer screens, and even doing their homework, rather than to going outside to play or exercise.

It is a subject that provides a number of invaluable life lessons for children, helping to shape them as individuals; however, it also has a dreaded reputation amongst those who are less athletic. Lessons are arguably far easier to learn when they’re fun and interactive, so bringing technology into the sports environment could provide a bridge between promoting health and fitness in schools and simultaneously connecting with the "YouTube generation”.

Students are constantly up to date with the latest mobile technologies; 94% of 16 - 24-year-olds in the UK are constantly connected to the Internet while on the go (through a mobile phone or smart device), and many classrooms are offering the ability for students to effectively connect with subject material while using their devices to improve their own academic engagement.

Jon Tait, a former PE instructor at Woodham Academy, has written about Flipped Learning in the PE classroom extensively. Flipped learning invites students to learn the subject theory ahead of the lesson to then focus on the practical aspects during class hours. He states: "Historically, the only real piece of equipment a PE teacher had to provide feedback on the field was a whistle and their voice." Now, with mobile tools available, it makes perfect sense to also have video feedback as part of the learning cycle for students.

Jon began by using Coach's Eye on a school iPad to film practice and games, and then turn the film into instant-replay style video for his athletes. As the project evolved, he encouraged the athletes to film one another during practice sessions to provide feedback. In essence, mobile technology had allowed Jon to multiply himself and make each practice more productive. Jon is now looking at other ways to use instant-feedback methods in areas outside of sport.

Similar methods are being adopted in the US. Jason Hahnstadt is a PE instructor outside of Chicago who needed a way to maximise on what was achieved during lesson time, since instructional hours were being cut back.. He realised that the time he spent teaching the rules of a game or exercise technique could be significantly reduced by using video technology. Now, his students can watch a brief video prior to class so that when they arrive they can get straight to work. Instead of standing up front and lecturing, Jason's students take a brief quiz on the rules and then begin moving. This example of using video in the PE class is a great way for others to get started, as instructive videos on rules are not complicated to make.

It is clear that the mobile revolution is offering new and interesting ways for instructors to maximise the time students spend exercising in classes, keeping students moving and helping them to learn by doing, rather than by lecture. With smart sports technology increasing in both availability and costs, it is up to us to provide the tools that will help keep students engaged in keeping fit and healthy on platforms that they can relate to.

How does your school use edtech in PE? Let us know below!

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