tr?id=304425946719474&ev=PageView&noscript=1 Technology in Physical Education: How to Deliver on Its Potential

Using Technology in Physical Education: Getting Started

In recent years, the use of educational technology in physical education (PE) has been widely promoted across all levels of academic institutions with research budgets also being driven into the intersection between PE and tech, tellingly with the establishment and publication of the National Education Technology Standards for teachers. With the increase in attention around the use of tech in PE, there emerges a phenomenal opportunity for educators and students to reap the benefits of innovation in an environment that is yet to be maximized. It should be noted that the desire to use technology is not necessarily a new one; the use of pedometers and heart rate monitors has occurred for many years, but the introduction of technology described as ‘smart’ is where the headroom for innovation in PE truly lies. But with any emerging technology, there is initial uncertainty as to whether the tech provides a gateway to the future of its teaching, or whether it is a passing fad that is not delivering on its promise (think 3-D glasses). On top of the risk for educators in investing and adopting a technology with a short lifetime relevance, there is also the uncertainty that the benefits of using the technology deliver a significant return-on-investment. There is also emerging concern that tech in PE has the potential to have a detrimental effect on educational outcomes, with the tech reducing social contact, and becoming a poor replacement for effective teaching. Having these issues in mind - what sort of applications of tech in PE has the best chance of being fully and productively utilized, and what guardrails should educators put in place to ensure that tech is used as a useful facilitation tool and not a replacement?

Personalized Progress Tracking

Personalized learning, tailored for each student, has been shown to radically improve student achievement and engagement. Where we have seen personalized learning utilized in other academic disciplines for interactive and dynamic teaching plans, there remains an opportunity in PE to reap similar benefits. With wearable tech and tracking technology, there is a chance to gather granular physical data from each student that simply wasn’t possible before. This could range from monitoring heart rate, lap times, personalized technical analysis (throwing/pitching motion in baseball, athletics-based jumping techniques), heatmap and tactical movement for team sports - the examples are almost unlimited. The most important thing to bear in mind however is that to ensure that these data are being used for the most student benefit, it is their application to personalize and measure week-on-week, or period-on-period improvement on a student-by-student basis. Data is only useful if it is used and monitored - if that is kept in mind, then the benefits of period-on-period tracking will be clear to see in student achievement.

Facilitation, Not Domination

A common critique of the use of tech in PE is despite their capacity for additional data, and access to resources, there is a tendency for them to dominate lessons, relying too heavily on tech resources away from valuable student-teacher instruction. There is also some concern that the benefits seen in participation and motivation of students following the application of tech in PE maybe something of a honeymoon period; increasing short-term benefits through the novelty of technology, but may slowly decline as the novelty dissipates. There are implications here that if students are motivated by the use of technology alone, this would do little benefit to their intrinsic motivation for PE. Much in the same way as using a dessert to bribe a child to eat their greens, if intrinsic motivation isn’t being impacted for the desired behavior, the outcomes are not sustainable. So how can tech be used to maximize benefits whilst mitigating these issues? Quite simply, through tech-as-facilitator, not as a dominator. For example, over-relying on tech resources for lesson planning might be less beneficial than introducing video-resources for key technical elements. Alternatively, reviewing students’ technique following a sports activity and leading a personalized improvement session is likely to be more helpful than a self-serve technical suite of lessons. None of this is rocket science; the core idea to remember is that tech in PE should serve to facilitate lessons and drive added return on investment; not be a replacement for valuable instruction.

Extending the Learning Via Apps

Another core benefit of technology, specifically smart-device applications is the opportunity for students to continue their learning and development after the class has ended. Although lessons may provide students with homework, an app may facilitate the completion of this homework and be far more efficient (and reliable) at collecting the accompanying data. For example, a fitness tracker app would allow direct continuation of the students’ performance and progress from the class directly into post-class work, whilst centralizing all of the key performance data. This crucially provides an opportunity for students not just to track their progress, but to extend their learning beyond what the class-based lesson was capable of. For example, a student who has their interest piqued by a PE activity can continue to explore their interest independently through an array of available apps, whilst maintaining their connection to the original class. This provides an invaluable opportunity to enable those highly enthusiastic about a physical activity to drive their interest further, rather than leaving it at the classroom.

So there you have it. It is absolutely crucial understand how to maximise the benefit of tech in physical education - without forward planning with the key concept of facilitation in mind, it is easy to become a slave to the tech itself. However, with a facilitation and data focused application of innovation in PE, it is easy to make sure that these advances are not only here to stay and a worthwhile investment, but actually drive measurable impact on student outcomes.