Using Technology in Physical Education

by SPARK


Teaching physical education can be challenging for any number of reasons, from a lack of equipment to keeping students engaged.  To meet these challenges, some educators are turning to technology to create more dynamic classes that work for students with a wide range of fitness levels. Here are some examples of technology and how you can use them in your classes.

fitness tracker

Pedometers

Pedometers are probably one of the first examples that come to mind when discussing technology and physical activity. Measuring steps is one of the easiest ways to measure physical activity, and pedometers can be used by a wide range of age groups. Another benefit of using pedometers is they can be used in a variety of tasks, such as doing household chores or scavenger hunts. One issue to remember with pedometers and heart rate monitors is that target rates are different for children with different abilities and activity levels, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Heart Rate Monitors

Heart rate monitors are used to measure a student’s pulse while engaged in activities. Using these devices allows educators and students to aim for an individualized target heart rate that is challenging to maintain but not too difficult to achieve. By customizing student goals, students feel more involved and more empowered to continue with fitness.  Once more, there are different target rates depending on age and ability, so remember to take those into consideration.

Health Tracking

Taking the data used by heart monitors and pedometers is vital to creating a long-term plan for advancing health. Some pedometers and heart monitors have connectivity built in, which makes the process easier. Using tracking programs or monitoring systems provides educators with tools useful in creating custom goals for the students. Using these kinds of programs allows for instant feedback that allows students the opportunity to adjust their goals and how they wish to achieve them.

Apps

With the explosion in mobile technology, physical educators have a wealth of tools. For example, MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal allow for movement tracking as well as nutritional help.  Some apps also assist with improving athletic activities such as basketball. Then, the students can compare what they with what the app instructs.  Another idea is to use Google Earth to show students distances and challenge them to walk those distances—for example, the height of Mount Everest or the distance between their home and another location.

Video Resources

Sites such as YouTube and Vimeo offer a wide range of tools for educators. If an educator wants to teach something such as dance or yoga, there is a wide variety of how-to videos that can apply to any age group. Additionally, some educators create video projects where student groups create an instructional video to teach something to the rest of the class.

Games

There is a steady market of “exergames”, such as Wii Sports and Dance Dance Revolution. To use these for a whole class, have a few students using the controllers (taking turns is crucial!) and have the rest of the class follow along with them. For these games, and any video resources, projecting the video on a wall or screen allows everybody to see what is happening.

Conclusion

Adapting to new technology can be challenging for instructors. Sometimes, physical education instructors can feel as if technology does not apply to their subject. However, by embracing technology, physical education instructors create a more varied and dynamic classroom. They are also able to appeal to the interests of many different students and ability types. Using technology to teach physical health allows educators to create more activities and show how important their goals are.

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  • Melissa macias

    I love all the resources we now have available for fitness and use some not only to track fitness levels such as steps and calories lost depending on activity, but also to demonstrate proper mechanics when performing a task, skill, or exercise to my students.

    However being an itinerant adapted physical education specialist it is hard sometimes to incorporate some technology. I’ve had the opportunity to incorporate behavior/incentive apps but in terms of using Videos for a demonstrations or to follow is sometimes hard when your itinerant due to access of equipment or a room to use being available. Do you have any suggestions?

  • Mike Neyhart

    I’m just starting to integrate technology in P.E. and your blog was very helpful. Almost all of my students have a smart phone which allows them to track their steps and heart rates, that is my starting point. I liked your idea about Google Earth, and challenging students to walk, jog or run a distance of a particular natural phenomena. I’m going to explore the other apps that you mentioned, as we are talking about ways to lower B.M.I. and the nutrition feature on MyFitnessPal will provide some insight into that aspect. My long term goals are to have the students find something that inspires life long fitness. Do you recommend any other apps for beginners to get started with?

  • Nick Austin

    Hey Mike, I’m a Graduate Student at Georgia Tech and I’m currently working on a research project around use of technology to motivate lifelong success in physical education, starting in schools. On the side, I also work on a mobile app (5-stars on Apple App Store, in use by more than 100,000 people) called Gyroscope (www.gyrosco.pe) which encourages users to live healthier lives through health tracking. It integrates with Fitbit, Strava, Runkeeper, and a lot of other popular apps to summarize a person’s daily health activity. It also combines sleep data (if you wish to include that) and heartrate data and creates elegant charts and motivational pictures for users (e.g. if you go for a run, it converts your calories burned into donuts and says “you burned 2 donuts!”).

    I would love to connect with you to discuss your PE class and see if we could work together to measure student outcomes. My goal is to write a paper for the class, and perhaps publish in a journal. When 1/3 of Americans are obese, I think physical education is more important than ever!

    Shoot me a note at nicklee@gatech.edu if you’d like to chat.