By Laura Fitzgerald
Bilingual ESL/Dance/Health/PE Teacher
Spirit Coordinator-Dance, Cheer, Mascot program
Certified PT, Kettlebell, Zumba instructor
Leader of the Shanghai PE Professionals technology group
@Concordia International School Shanghai
We all know that childhood inactivity is a tremendous global problem. How would you respond if I told you that the power to revolutionize Physical Education lies in the power of the iPod? Given the popularity of various tablets and smart phones, an iPod might sound old-fashioned, but it’s exactly what I’ve needed to boost student motivation, enhance instruction and track student success in the gymnasium.
Historically speaking, the Physical Education field has not excelled at collecting student achievement data to drive the curriculum, instruction and assessment methods of a program.
However, with the implementation of the iPod program this school year, as semester one comes to an end, it is clear to see that there is tremendous power in the ability to collect, organize and manage student achievement data in more meaningful ways.
Without the iPods, many students can comfortably play the role of a competent bystander. Sure they can observe a game; touch the ball every now and then, but they never actually have to apply the skills that were taught. The competent bystanders never receive corrections that are specific to their bio-mechanic deficiencies, nor improve performance in a game-like situation.
With the iPods, students are competent performers. Students have built online portfolios of their psychomotor skills, and perform movement analyses for each unit. During game play, I can now objectively track their progression with time on skill, success of skill, and provide a percentage of skill improvement.
The iPods have allowed for peer coaching opportunities. Using the video application, students have videotaped their peers performing a skill, drill, or game play and provide immediate feedback via video commentary, with cues that they’ve learned. This further reinforces the skill concepts and improves retention.
The improved ability to observe and peer coach has enabled students to work quickly in a cooperative fashion to solve challenges.
Without the iPods, many students go through the motions of class, the motions of exercises without really knowing how or why they were doing movement.
With the iPods, students can better reflect on why conditioning certain muscles will lead to improved performance. With more advanced methods of data collection, students have made their conditioning more purposeful, by fitness category and/or intensity. For instance, some have seen that improved core strength led to improved cardiovascular performance. In their entry activity/daily fitness blast, students choose their own exercise in the pre-determined fitness application. The students have been learning how to use a new fitness application each month. The applications we have used include Gorilla Workout, RipDeck, Sworkit and Fit Star. Allowing students a choice in their fitness blast has improved the intrinsic motivation for achievement, differentiated instruction, and improved support for visual learners. This also allows students to reflect on their physical activity preferences and how they relate to a lifelong participation.
Without the iPods, the class focus is on competition and athleticism.
With the iPods, the class focus has shifted to cooperation, teamwork and new communication opportunities. Upon entering the gymnasium, students click on my teacher website home screen button, and review the discussion posts from the previous class. In a flipped classroom design, they may have already watched and responded to TED talk videos, amazing pictures or articles about famous athletes that I’ve posted to generate discussions.
After completing their fitness blasts, students are able to post results and provide feedback to one another. During the team game play, students are able to post their video and commentary to their student website. The students have also had the opportunity to videotape one another in post game “interviews”. During these interviews, players compliment other teammates and coaches review key highlights and improvements. Offering these discussion opportunities in different capacities has engaged students in more profound ways.
Without the iPods, it is common to evaluate a student’s progression and achievement in a subjective manner.
With the iPods, students are evaluated in objective ways. For instance, with the Footsteps pedometer application, students are assessed on their ability to move 3,000 steps or more in one PE class. Students are able to generate graphs, charts and visuals with their digital data to show progression. Parents can easily monitor their students’ portfolio on their website to view progression, even throughout multiple years. Furthermore, with digital, instantaneous assessment, paper waste is reduced. Data is public for all to see, rather than hiding in a filing cabinet.
Without the iPods, students don’t get a “re-do”. If they are terrible at a skill, they will probably stay terrible.
With the iPods, the students are motivated to fix their mistakes. They are motivated to set strategic goals in order to improve health and fitness. They are motivated to improve skill attainment, to improve game performance. Students are willing to practice at home, using their drill notebooks from class, in order to improve. Likewise, students are more willing to improve, because they see their deficiencies for themselves, rather than relying on the teacher’s feedback. The dynamic of mentorship rather than direct instruction has been fulfilling and much more authentic to a genuine learning process.
As I reflect on the task of implementing iPods in the gymnasium, I am proud of the work that has already been done. The most challenging part has been being ahead of technology; thinking too far outside of a box that doesn’t even exist yet.
However, I am looking forward to the second semester, for another chance to further refine the iPod implementation. In the future I’d like to develop my own PE applications, but also help students develop applications that are specific to their performance needs.
Either way, this is an exciting time to be teaching Physical Education with iPods in the gymnasium, as the opportunities for improving curriculum, instruction and assessment are endless.