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Old School Laps to Modern Apps: Part 2

Posted 2 months ago - by Dr. Lisa Witherspoon

Part One of Old School Laps to Modern Apps assists physical education teachers in learning what to consider when choosing a specific App for their classrooms. The most complicated aspect of choosing an App is to answer the question “which one?” There are thousands of Apps available, but not all Apps are a good fit for all teachers.  In Part Two, teachers will be provided with a variety of Apps with brief descriptions to possibly reflect upon using as a part of their curriculums.

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Many teachers need to understand that Apps are not necessarily meant for use simply for the students’ benefit. There are a variety of Apps that teachers can use to make their jobs easier, more effective, and efficient. To start, Apps can be used for attendance, grading, behavior management, music, communication with parents, presentations, content video capturing, etc. Below is a list of a variety of appropriate Apps that can be used in physical education classes. Please remember that this is not a conclusive list, and there are many Apps not listed that may be a better fit for your classroom. 

APP

Category of Assistance

Brief Description

Tone (iPhone)

 

Ringdroid

Music

Splice music to use in instant activities, stop and go signals, background music

QR Codes

Content

Easy to generate and fun to implement – scavenger hunts, bulletin boards, fitness principles, reviewing a unit

Class Dojo

Attendance

Communication

Behavior

Assists teachers in taking attendance, tracking positive and negative behaviors, provides feedback, and immediately provides communication to parents

iMuscle 2

Fitness Content

Weight Training

Identify muscles in the body, learn muscle development, and experience new exercises

Team Shake

Partners/Groups

Avoids favoritism, creates partners or groups immediately, and imports class lists

FitBreak

Fitness Content

Interactive fitness sessions ranging from short warm-up activities, to full 45-minute sessions based on popular TV shows and board games from around the world

Coach’s Eye

Video Capturing

Video playback, slow motion, draw to teach, compare videos side by side, share videos, audio commentary

Go Noodle

 

Brain Breaks

Indoor/Classroom

Quick activities that can be performed in limited space, assists with difficult content such as yoga, martial arts, dance, etc.

Scoreboard

 

Bracketmaker

Score keeping

 

Tournaments

Simulates a real scoreboard

 

Assists when making teams when designing tournaments

QR Stopwatch

Timer/Stopwatch

Timing app that utilizes QR Codes to start & stop a timer. Automatically generates your name and a new individual stopwatch will be started

Educreations

 

Explain Everything

Presentations/

Deliver content

Create powerful, innovative presentations, upload pictures or videos, draw to teach, manipulate the screen

 

While the above list is just a few of the many Apps available for use in a physical education classroom, there are others that will accomplish the same task at hand. This is merely a list to get you started and feel more comfortable finding Apps that best fit your program. Searching for Apps in the App Store is not difficult. Simply type in the key word you are looking for (“physical activity”, “fitness”, “physical education”, etc.) and read the description to see if the App may be useful for your curriculum. As suggested in Part One of this blog, make sure to read reviews and have a plan for using the App before purchasing.

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Old School Laps to Modern Apps: Part 1

Posted 4 months ago - by Dr. Lisa Witherspoon

The last blog I wrote focused on how to revitalize a physical education teacher’s curriculum using a variety of technologies. 

In today’s society, the use of an iPad®, smartphones, Apps, exergaming, and pedometers is prevalent in physical education. The complicated part is to be knowledgeable about which technology to use in your curriculum, and deciding which one is efficient and effective both for you and your students.

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A popular, less expensive way to include technology in your curriculum is through the use of applications, or Apps, on a tablet or smartphone. There are hundreds of Apps, and deciding which ones to use is not an easy task. Below is a short list to guide you in your search, ensuring you choose credible Apps that fit your curriculum.

  1. Learning First: There are many Apps that the students will enjoy. Our job is to make sure there is first and foremost learning value in an App. Any App you choose should assist in accomplishing the learning objectives for the lesson.
  2. DAP in PE: An App may not meet the developmentally appropriate guidelines suggested by the National Association of Sport and Physical Education and other professional physical education organizations. For example, if a few students are active using the App, other activities must be used to maximize participation or the App should not be implemented.
  3. Buyer Beware:  Do not purchase an App until you have read the reviews. Even though $0.99 may seem inexpensive, dollars add up. Remember, you can delete an App to create more storage, but you cannot get your money back.
  4. Self-Explore:  Practice using any App you purchase and plan to implement in your classroom to ensure you understand what the students will experience and any glitches that may occur.

The bottom line is physical education teachers first need to know or understand what they need in their curriculum. Do you want an App to assist with assessments? What about an App to assist with content you are not comfortable teaching? Or, maybe one that adds a little exploration for your students during a fitness lesson? Once you decide your goals, the next step is to simply go to the App Store (Apple products) or Google play (Android products) on your device and type in keywords related to the content such as “physical education,” “physical activity,” “timers,” “attendance,” etc. Read the reviews and try a sample, if possible. Once downloaded, explore the App and ensure you understand its features and functionality.

Finding and implementing Apps and technology can be overwhelming. Take small steps and start with just 1 App until you feel more comfortable with the transition.  Part II of this blog will providing specific examples of quality physical education Apps and their value in your classroom.

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Revitalizing Pedagogy and Content for Today’s Generation

Posted 5 months ago - by Dr. Lisa Witherspoon

Teaching year after year creates a sense of confidence and maturity among children. In addition, finding activities that are successful is something all teachers want in their curriculum.

Experience is the key factor for many quality physical education programs to flourish.  However, it is also easy to become so comfortable with what we are teaching that a reluctance to change is naturally created.  Six-year-old children will always be six. However, the way they play and learn will constantly change with time as our society continues to change.

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It is our job as teachers to continue to learn how to adapt in order to most effectively continue to teach children. In today’s society, using technology to reach children is necessary.

SHAPE America (Society of Healthy and Physical Educators) states that quality physical education programs should be incorporating technology in their classrooms.  Thinking about using technology as a teaching tool can be overwhelming. From apps and iPads to exergaming and interactive fitness, there is a technology available for just about any need a teacher may have. 

Below are just a few categories of technology with possible curriculum ideas that teachers could consider incorporating in their classroom:

Category

Example Tools

Curriculum Ideas

Gizmos
&
Gadgets

  1. Have students wear pedometers and create activities that require higher step counts for success
  2. Have students calculate their target heart rate and try to remain in their zone during a fitness unit
  3. Have kids wear any gadget all day long and track their daily progress while setting personal goals

Apps on iPads, Tablets, Smartphones

  • Exercise Content
  • Workout Music
  • Music Splicers
  • Attendance
  • Behavior Tracking
  • Communication w/ Parents
  • Video Analysis
  1. Create a scavenger hunt with QR codes
  2. Teach a yoga class in stations, one station uses a yoga app on an iPad
  3. Use Class Dojo to track attendance, behavior, and instantly communicate with parents.

Exergaming

  1. Project games on a large screen or wall to play motion sensor games
  2. Use DDR during a fitness or dance unit
  3. Use sport games on the Kinect or Wii to teach tactical skills

Presentation Methods

  • PowerPoint
  • Educreation
  • Prezi
  • Explain Everything
  1. Use PowerPoint to create educational games for health classes
  2. Use Prezi as a different way to present to administrators or at a PTA event
  3. Use Explain Everything to upload pictures on the spot into a mini white board when teaching students a new skill

Brain Breaks

  1. Use as rainy/snowy day activities
  2. Use as an instant activity
  3. Incorporate in the regular classroom to increase daily physical activity

Incorporating technology in physical education should be approached in a similar manner as any traditional lesson plan. Teachers should decide what content they are teaching and the objectives of the lesson.

The next step is choosing what “tool” can and should be used to accomplish the objectives. The tool could be cones, jump ropes, or an app on an iPad.  Regardless, the lessons should be thought out and well orchestrated whether the teacher is using technology or not. Many technologies are inexpensive or free of charge; teachers should read reviews and have a plan of how the technology will be used in their curriculum before implementing anything.

At the end of the day, technology should be used only if the teacher feels like it will make their lesson more efficient and effective.  The one thing that is certain is that teachers must learn to adapt to our changing society and try to reach children in new ways.

Technology has a large influence in our children’s everyday life and should be a part of the physical education curriculum.

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Exergaming: Pedagogy, Play, or Pointless? (Part 2)

Posted 8 months ago - by Dr. Lisa Witherspoon

Part 1 of Exergaming: Pedagogy, Play, or Pointless?, discussed the concept of exergaming and what physical education teachers need to consider when choosing a technology-driven activity. Space limitations, financial responsibilities, and technological difficulties were mentioned as important aspects related to deciding to integrate exergames in a curriculum. This blog, Part 2, will discuss important pedagogy considerations for teachers once an exergame has been chosen as a tool for teaching students in physical education and connecting them to the out-of-school environment.

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Teachers often have their curriculum planned for the entire year. This obviously changes due to unforeseen obstacles such as presentations, field trips, testing, and weather issues; but quality programs typically have a plan established at the beginning of the year. The next part of planning is figuring out which equipment is going to be used to accomplish the objectives of the unit/lesson. Exergames should be included in a curriculum only if they are going to make the lesson more efficient and/or more effective for the teacher and student.  Multiple factors are involved in implementing exergames. Consider the following aspects of using exergames in the classroom:

1. Station Work:

Many exergames provide a small number of students an opportunity to participate at a time. This is acceptable if the teacher plans other stations focusing on the same skill development to maximize participation with all children. Having a way to project the game on a wall or large screen is one way to incorporate more student involvement. However, if this is not available, multiple stations should be set up to increase repetition and activity levels for all students.

2. Rotations:

As mentioned above, sometimes station work is the most effective way to include exergames in a lesson.  Some exergames can take 3-4 minutes to complete the game while others can take much longer. It is common for children to get in the middle of these games and be reluctant to simply “rotate” when the whistle is blown. Understandable. Children like to finish what they have started and they also prefer not to pick up in the middle of another student’s game play.  Teachers certainly need to keep this in mind when dealing with time constraints if exergames are involved. 

3. Specific Feedback:

Quality programs focus on providing feedback to students that is directly related to the stated objectives of the lesson.  Exergames are fun and have a component of a “game” that tends to lead to more general feedback related to the score of the game or the level of the game accomplished. Although it is exciting to see the students involved and improving in the game, teachers must remember that the reason these games are being used is to improve skill levels. It is the teacher’s job to provide the more specific feedback related to the objectives of the lesson.

4. Technology Troubles:

Let’s face it, technology is going to breakdown.  There are many troubleshooting concepts to consider before letting dust collect on a “broken” game.  Common issues are as simple as the game being on the wrong channel, unplugged, or batteries needing to be changed.  The plug and play concept of many exergames may seem complicated but at the end of the day the problem may not be anything serious. Often, the students are able to figure out the issues themselves. It is important that teachers are familiar with the games they are implementing and are capable of working through the more simple problems. Teachers should also make sure they have the service number related to the game and feel comfortable working through other troubleshooting issues with the manufacturer.

5. Practicality:

Quality teachers do a good job of connecting the lesson in school to a home environment.  This is extremely important for children to understand how they can successfully use exergames at home.  Discuss the use of technology-driven games as a great indoor activity and develop a positive correlation to video games and physical activity. This is important especially if children are not allowed to be outside for a variety of reasons. Educate parents on purchasing active games over sedentary games as a gift for various occasions (Christmas, birthdays, rewards, etc.). This is another way to support the desire to play games but in a healthier manner.


Exergames can be a positive addition to a physical education curriculum but there are many aspects teachers must consider. When the teacher is comfortable with the five points discussed above, using exergaming as a fun, effective tool in the curriculum can be a successful equipment choice for both the teacher and the students.
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Exergaming: Pedagogy, Play, or Pointless? (Part 1)

Posted 10 months ago - by Dr. Lisa Witherspoon

Exergaming or Exertainment has been defined as technology-driven activities that require participants to use their bodies in order to play the game.

What was once a popular fad ten years ago when DanceDance Revolution hit the market is now a common activity in schools all over the world. Video game bikes, motion sensor games, touch walls, dance games, etc. are just a few of the many exergames that can now be found in schools, community centers, arcades, and homes.

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Children in this generation are drawn to the technology and video game aspect. The opportunity to receive immediate feedback and gratification while exercising is rewarding. Many say children do not realize they are exercising because the activities are fun and different from traditional activities.

 

How does a teacher choose exergaming activities for his or her physical education classroom?

This is actually a complicated question and one that is often overlooked.  Some teachers choose what the kids “like or want”.  This is certainly not how quality physical education programs need to select exergames for their program. In a nutshell, we should think of exergaming as a modern jump rope. An exergaming activity is simply another piece of equipment that is going to be used to accomplish objectives by assisting the development of technical and tactical skills. Teachers need to think about the scope and sequence of their program and then determine which exergaming activities, if any, would be appropriate.

Another common misunderstanding is what the role of the teacher becomes when exergaming is implemented.  Pedagogy strategies may change to fit the activity but the concept of pedagogy should not.  Often, teachers become more of a cheerleader providing feedback on the score of the game instead of specific feedback related to the objectives of the lesson. For example, it is easy to see the excitement on a child’s face after winning a level in a game. Teachers naturally want to congratulate them with comments such as, “Good job!”, “That was great!”, or “Did you beat your score?” While this is not completely wrong, the idea of the activity should be for the teacher to continue to teach the objectives of the lesson providing positive, specific feedback related to the cues or main purpose of the lesson.  There may be an on/off button to the game, but teachers should take this opportunity to provide extensions, refinements and challenges when applicable.

Things to consider before purchasing exergaming activities for physical education:

Dedicated Space

Many exergames need a dedicated space in order to play. Some need to be mounted to a wall while others need outlets to plug and play. Teachers should first consider if there is appropriate space for the need of the activity.

Financial Strain

Exergames can be very expensive. Some exergames are affordable and cost as little as $50.00 while others can cost as much as $20,000.  Teachers need to investigate the cost of activity and make sure to include all accessories that will be needed.

 

Technological Difficulties

 

Technology of any kind (cell phones, televisions, computers, etc.) will typically face technological difficulties. Cracked screens, lost cords, and broken sensors are common and should be prepared for before purchasing an exergame.  In addition, teachers should make sure to ask about warranty and service options depending on the durability of the activity.

 

Incorporating exergaming into a physical education program can be fun and effective. Teachers need to make sure they continue to focus on teaching objectives, providing specific feedback, and assessing the students.  If pedagogy while teaching exergaming is replaced by children simply playing games, then exergaming in physical education has become pointless!

Check out these great Exergaming Options for your PE class!

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