Six years ago, when I first started my dream job as a full time physical education teacher at a brand new public high school, our administrators believed in having a strong technological focus, which did not mean a whole lot to me.
I thought, “How could a tablet possibly help a kid get more fit?”
In my eyes, these devices were much more of distraction than a tool to improve physical fitness.
Once I began the new job, I started interacting with the online #PEgeeks community on Twitter. I tried various ideas to utilize tech in my phys ed classes with a mixture of success and failure. However, this was all part of the learning for me and my students.
Now, I believe I may actually have a handle on educational technology in my subject area!
Utilizing the Devices that Students Already Have
Many students — high school, middle school, even younger in some cases — are carrying around a smartphone and, in a sense, these devices are extensions of themselves. Any teacher would be silly not to attempt to tap into the power of these devices.
I make this clear to my students on the first day of class when they complete a QR code scavenger hunt around the gym. They move to various stations and scan QR codes — created with goo.gl URL shortener — that link them to Google Slides, with information about the course and a physical exercise to complete.
While students are engaging in this activity, I am able to move freely to interact with them, work on learning names, and answer questions. It’s a win-win.
There are tons of apps out there and I have blogged about my favorites. Some of the key physical education apps include those that involve picture/video analysis. These let students have the opportunity to view video of themselves, helping them observe and critique their movement skills.
This exercise is augmented when students access tools, such as slow motion in the Coach's Eye app, to deepen their analysis even further. This leads to overall improvement in their movement skills, which is an important goal in any physical education program.
Other great apps include:
- Remind for communication
- Team Shake for quickly creating groups
- Sworkit for customizable fitness blasts
- FIT Radio for awesome age-appropriate music
When it comes to apps, the bottom line is to try some out and see what works best for you and your pupils.
Understanding the Power of Wearable Tech
Wearable tech has revolutionized the way we obtain feedback from our daily activities. Many physical education departments have recognized this and are incorporating pedometers and heart rate monitors into their programs.
My department recently purchased a set of Fitbit Charge HR watches that allow our students to analyze their activity levels and physiologic response to exercise in various contexts. This process also lends itself really well to cross-curricular connections with numerical concepts in mathematics.
When it comes to wearable tech, the sky is the limit. It is going to be fascinating to see where these innovations take the exercise experience in the near and distant future.
When it comes to bringing tech into the PE classroom — and any classroom, for that matter — always have an open mind and always focus on the learning.
There will undoubtedly be brutal failures, but these should never deter the teacher from giving it another go. The students of today understand that our world is undergoing a massive change, including in the way we deliver education. We are all learning together.