Beth Holland

Food for thought…

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iCoach – Physical Education in the iPad Era

It’s happened to me a few times now. A participant has walked into one of my EdTechTeacher workshops, clearly miffed at the idea of spending a given period of time learning something that they feel clearly has no significance to their curriculum. However, unlike others who may hide in the back of the room and try to grade papers or check email, these educators sit in the front, attentive, but completely unconvinced. See, these are the PE teachers.

When I worked at St. Michael’s, the PE teacher dutifully worked with me once I convinced him that I could save hours in the planning of field day by using mail merge. A few weeks ago, a PE teacher announced upon entering the room that she was here, but there was nothing for her to learn. I asked if she would give me a chance and promised to provide her with one idea that she could use in her curriculum. Turns out that Class Dojo was just what she was looking for to track skills progression and participation.

Though I work full-time for EdTechTeacher, I still coach a high school sailing team, and as I think about it, I think I’ve been integrating technology for as long as I can remember. Whether it was responding to emails, writing up documents and presentations, or the Beth’s school of boat handling blog, there has always been something. For years, we have used headsets for talking to crews during team racing practice. In 2008, we used Kattack – a GPS based program that creates virtual models of practice races such that we could analyze the data to look at tactics and speed diffential. We’ve gone through a variety of video cameras – all the way back to large VHS based units – and now use video editing as well as modeling software to address rules nuances.

Recently, as our head coach used magnetic boats on a whiteboard to illustrate a point that we had just watched on video, I used my phone to capture his explanation, annotated it, and then posted it with notes to a shared Google Docs folder for the kids. During a meet, the visiting coach used his iPad to record races, and it has become common practice for us to use digital video to help sailors further develop their physical technique in the boat.

When we cancelled practice due to weather the other day, rather than just lecture the team about rules issues (sailing has a fairly complex rules system that is self-policing, so the students have to really understand them), I used a Socrative space race quiz so that they could work in groups to solve problems. The directions for the day looked like this: bring with you a notebook, something to write with, a rule book – or digital copy, and an Internet enabled device. During the “chalk talk”, I projected the Socrative quiz and used the SMART Board to capture notes that I then emailed back to the kids.

Given these thoughts, what could Physical Education look like in the “iPad era”?

  • Video could be used to model new skills. In addition to being able to use controls such as fast forward and the ability to pause an action, video could show technique in slow motion. Imagine using this to teach shooting form in basketball or throwing for baseball. Gymnasts could better perfect their form if they saw the discrepancies. Swimmers could improve their stroke. Elementary students could see that they release a ball too soon when trying to throw to a partner. Tennis players could work on stroke. The list goes on….
  • A classroom management tool such as Class Dojo can be used on any Internet enabled device such as a smart phone or iPad. PE teachers could track behavior, participation, or skill demonstrations in real time.
  • Polling tools such as Poll Everywhere or Mentimeter could let students anonymously input their times, offer feedback, or answer follow up questions about the day’s events.
  • A blog or wiki could be a great way to pre-screen new games or rules for those students who need additional lead time or struggle with the oral directions typically used to introduce concepts. This site could also be a great tool for parents looking to repeat games and activities at home. I have seen some incredibly imaginative physical education activities used to introduce concepts that range from teamwork to balance to aim. Personally, I remember playing Star Wars in elementary school, a game that involved running, throwing nerf balls, and hoola hoops.
  • For older students, Google Docs or Evernote could allow them to track their own progress, make notes about their skills progression, and monitor fitness levels.

While coaches have used technology for years – think about the hundreds of hours that have been spent on game videos and scouting films, Physical Education teachers have not always enjoyed the same benefits. With digital cameras, smart phones, iPads, tablets, and laptops becoming more commonplace, opportunities exist for more than just a mail merge for field day.