Enhancing physical education with technology

Technology is everywhere. Our students are digital natives. They are growing up in a world where they have been interacting with technology their entire lives. We are educating 21st Century Learners. In this post, I’m going to share some of the “apps” that have helped me become a 21st Century Physical Educator.

Two years ago I started a twitter account (@MrBridge204). I thought I was going to use it as another means of communication with students, parents, and community members. I wanted a platform to highlight student success, accomplishments, and to share healthy living tips in real-time.

However, I quickly realized that not only is twitter tremendous for sharing program highlights, there is an entire community of Phys. Ed. and health educators sharing teaching success and failures, collaborating on projects/unit planning, and taking part in professional dialogue.

Incredible! The ability to take part in professional development at any time, on any day is invaluable. Following and communicating with like-minded Phys. Ed. specialists, through twitter, using hashtags such as #pegeeks and #pechat, has given me the inspiration and confidence to step out of my comfort zone and to utilize technology to enhance my Phys. Ed. classes. 

Twitter is available here.

10 Apps that help enhance P.E. classes:

  1. Ubersense is an incredible app that allows for video analysis of a skill. Tweeting about how I was using Ubersense in my Phys. Ed. classes caught the attention of the Ubersense app developers. A couple of days later I was having a Skype discussion with the developers about their app. I was able to share with them how I had used their app and give them suggestions about how to make it better. A blog post I wrote for Ubersense, explaining how I used the app, can be read hereUbersense is available here.
  2. Music Workout is an app created by Phys. Ed. teacher Jarrod Robinson (@mrrobbo on twitter). This app allows you to set up interval training/workout sessions. It’s perfect for when you are having students exercise at rotating stations. The music on your iPod will play for a desired amount of time, and then will be silent for a desired amount of time allowing your students to move to the next station. The music will then start up again signalling to the students to continue their station workouts. 
  3. Team Shake is the technological equivalent of putting everyone’s name into a hat, shaking it up, and then selecting names from the hat to create teams. If you wish, you can designate all of your students by gender allowing you to have an equal number of boys and girls on each team. You can also designate each student’s general skill level if you’d like to have teams that are balanced. What a genius app. Team Shake is available here.
  4. My Fitness Pal allows you to log all of the food you are eating and determine its calories and nutrient information. But that isn’t all. You can also log all of the activities you are involved in throughout the day and see an approximation of how many calories you have burnt. At the end of the day you are able to determine if you had a healthy or unhealthy day. Many of my students have found that with they are not eating enough calories and/or are nutrient deficient based on their basal caloric needs coupled with the activities they are doing. My Fitness Pal is available here.
  5. Fast Food Calories has the caloric and nutrient information on every menu item available at essentially every fast food restaurant. I have my students create a mock meal that includes a burger, fries, drink, and dessert. The realization that a McDonald’s meal that consists of a Big Mac, large fries, large Sprite, and M&M’s McFlurry has 2060 calories is always shocking to the students. Our next assignment is a challenge to create a mock meal that has the highest amount of calories. A great place to start this challenge is with Burger King’s A1 Steakhouse XT Burger (970 calories, 61 g fat, 1930 mg of sodium). Unreal! The next step is an “Eat This, Not That” type of assignment where the students use the Fast Food Calories app to create a complete mock meal with the least amount of calories. Fast Food Calories is available here.
  6. Workout Trainer has 100′s of workouts that require little to no equipment. There is audio and video explanation of every exercise and a timer countdown letting you know how long to perform the desired exercise before moving onto the next one. Workout Trainer is available here:
    • Cardiograph – Heart Rate Metre approximates your heart rate when you place your finger over one of the cameras on your smart phone. It measures the amount of light coming through your finger as your blood is pumping. (Warning – you need to be in a well-lit space for this to work). Cardiograph – Heart Rate Metre is available here.
    • Teaching Games for Understanding is an app created by Phys. Ed. teacher Nicholas Stratigopz (@GraciousWolf_PE on twitter). It has 100′s of games broken down by type (eg Pursuit/Evade, Invasion/Territorial, Net/Wall, Striking/Fielding etc…) and by grade. As well, educators are encouraged to submit their own games which will then be added to the app in upcoming updates. I have bought $50 TGFU books that contain half the information that’s in this app. Teaching Games for Understanding is available here.
  7. Bring Back Play is a web app created by ParticipACTION. It has a wide selection of games that are focused on letting kids be kids and having fun. Favourites like Marco Polo, Soccer Baseball and Sardines are featured. Games can be categorized by the age of children, the space available, and what equipment you have. This app also allows you to upload a favourite game and make it available to all users! It’s a terrific resource for parents, daycares, and child care centres. Bring Back Play is available here.
  8. Show Me is an app that turns your iPad into an interactive whiteboard, or a SMART board. While you are teaching a lesson using Show Me you can record everything you draw and say. This allows you to create lessons that can be accessed by your students at any time. I created flipped lessons to compliment my touch football unit. Here is an example of one of my touch football flipped lessons.

But, I haven’t yet spoken about my favourite feature of Show Me. That is the ability to upload your lessons to the Show Me Community that allows any Show Me users to see and use your lesson in their classrooms, and of course, visa versa. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel! Imagine using twitter to connect with one or two other Phys. Ed. teachers and to each create a Show Me lesson about the health related and fitness related skill components. You could half, third, or quarter the work. Genius!

And of course, the Grand Daddy…YouTube! There is an absolute wealth of information on YouTube. One of my favourite uses for YouTube is finding exemplars of sports skills. I then place links to these exemplars on our Phys. Ed. Weebly so I can refer to them in my physical education class and students, parents and community members can access them at anytime.

YouTube is also terrific for showing short videos and photo slide shows of special events that are happening in your classes. Using the YouTube privacy settings one can create a closed channel that will only allow those that you supply a videos specific URL to that will be able to watch the selected video.

These are some of the ways that I’ve integrated technology into my Phys. Ed. classes. If I’ve inspired you to try any of these apps or if you’ve found another app that has engaged your students I’d love to hear from you. Send me a tweet @MrBridge204!.