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Friday, January 25, 2013

Integrating technology in PE



 I recently had the opportunity to join our PE team at a PD hosted by Jarrod Robinson - also known as the PE Geek - on integrating technology into PE. Jarrod introduced us to a number of great tools and resources to help PE teachers make better use of technology in their lessons. As he pointed out, professional coaches have long been using cutting edge technology to train athletes and mobile devices now make it possible for anyone to access these kinds of tools at a fraction of the cost and with much greater ease. Our PE teachers enjoyed the practical, hands-on focus of the PD and have already started implementing what they have learned into their classes.


With the rise of mobile devices and app based learning, there is now an enormous selection of affordable tools for PE teachers to choose from such as apps for video analysis, replay, tagging, communication, assessment, health tracking and so forth. The ability to have all of these tools in one device that fits in your hand has transformed the ability to use technology on the fly.

According to Jarrod, there has been a thousand fold increase between 2011-2012 on Google searches for apps related to PE. This shows that the demand for technology integration is not limited to the traditional classroom and is expanding to various other subject areas. PE teachers have often been overlooked in the push to use more technology in the classroom and it is great to see that more resources and PD opportunities are opening up to them.



Here is a list of some of the apps that teachers learned during the PD:














Coach's Eye ($4.99)
This is an essential app for any PE teacher or coach who wants to capture what students are doing and guide them to improve. The app enables you to record a video and then do a voiceover together with screen annotations. Video analyses can easily be saved and shared, making them ideal for providing students and parents with feedback on how the child can improve. This app, although designed primarily for coaching, would also prove useful in any classroom.





This is another great app for offering students feedback on specific skills. You can set the app to record what students are doing and set a timed delay so that they can replay what they did to be more aware of what they need to do to improve. The app can be set to record one screen or bring up four different screens, each having separate time delays. 





Sprint Timer ($1.99)
This is a great photo finish app which utilizes the same technologies as professionals to show the winners and their times. The app can be activated by the start gun or whistle and provide either a photo or video finish. 





SloPro (free) 

Slow Pro is an app that is great for PE but could also be used in multiple subjects where you want to slow down the movement of an event to analyze it. The app works great in conjunction with Coach's Eye where you could slow down the video and then offer video analysis. 


Easy Tag is a multi purpose app which can be used across a variety of subject areas. You can set criteria that you are looking for and tap the box each time you see evidence of it happening. In PE, this could be looking for evidence of specific skills in a sport. Given than teachers can set the criteria and boxes as they like, this app as a lot of flexibility. 





Coach Note ($1.99)

Coach Note is a must have app for coaches who want to go over plays with players. There are templates for multiple sports and you can also add your own custom ones. With a variety of tools and the ability to record and share your coaching, the app is quite powerful. One suggestion for using this app is to have a portable projector so that you can coach small groups of students during a game or on the go. 






Health Apps: 

Cardiograph ($1.99)

Cardiograph really shows how app creators can use mobile devices in innovative ways that you would not think would be possible. By placing your finger over the device's camera, you can record your heartrate. This can be a useful tool in a PE class and eliminates the need for a separate heart measurement device.






iMuscle ($1.99)


iMuscle is a beautiful app which focuses on muscles to help people exercise more safely. It includes interactive 3D models which help target those muscles for improving overall fitness.





This app provides an interactive view of the heart and how it looks with different heart rates. The heart rate can be adjusted. The app would work in conjunction with cardiograph where you could match the student's heart rate with what it would look like using the Virtual Heart app. 




Digital Portfolios and Assessment:


There are rumours that this service may soon disappear but currently it is an easy way to create a simple website to share photos, videos and comments. 







This app was developed by Jarrod Robinson himself and makes it easy for teachers to assess students using rubrics. They can import class lists as a CSV file through Dropbox or add students and classes manually. This can be a great way to gather evidence of student learning which can be shared with parents during conferences. The key drawback at this point is that the data lives on the device itself and can not be shared via the cloud.








Three Ring  (free)


Three Ring is an app that I have written about previously and has enormous potential for assessment and ePortfolios. It now has the ability to add student and parent accounts and allows educators to share everything in the clous. The major drawback I discovered during the PD is that you can not upload videos from your camera roll but only directly through the camera. This is problematic for teachers who want to record several videos for editing or to add videos created in apps such as Coach's Eye. 






If your school uses Google Apps, Google Drive is a great way to share content with your students and parents. You simply use the Google Drive App to upload photos, videos and screenshots to your Google Account and you can create folders which can easily be shared. 







Evernote (free)


Evernote is one of the most popular apps available and works on virtually every device. You can create notebooks for your various classes or students and upload photos, notes and other content. The largest drawback with Evernote is the inability to upload videos. 








QR Codes and Augmented Reality

QR codes have become a popular way to make displays more interactive. Our teachers have been using it with their display boards as a way to link to videos that have been uploaded to Vimeo. There are lots of free apps to scan these codes, making it easy for visitors to your school to access the media that is linked to the codes. My favorite app for creating and scanning QR codes is Qrafter Pro ($2.99). The Physical Educator Website has some great printable QR Code Posters





Aurasma (free)

In a previous article, I pointed out how easy it is to make displays interactive using the Aurasma Augmented Reality App. Unlike QR Codes, you can embed the media by interacting with the image itself and the content is uploaded to Aurasma's servers. This makes creating Auras much faster than QR codes and eliminates the need to print out separate, somewhat unattractive, QR codes. The app is free to download and is available on multiple devices as well. The drawback is that users will need to specifically download this app and subscribe to your channel. It is somewhat more difficult for them to know how to use Aurasma compared to QR codes which can simply be scanned with any supported app.









Some Suggestions: 

  • Our PE team has been testing out devices over the past few months and were given an iPad, iPod Touch and iPad Mini. They determined that the iPad Mini is the best device for a PE teacher since it is large enough to do some editing and small enough to hold in one hand. 
  • Be sure to get a good case for any devices used in PE. We decided on the the Griffin Survivor Case which provides great shock and water protection. 
  • Consider wireless solutions for projecting to screens in a gym or other space. Our school is currently testing out the Apple TV as a way to wirelessly project any Apple device. This works great but can be tricky for your IT department to set up since it is designed for a home network and not an enterprise one. It requires turning on multicasting and may involve licensing fees through companies like Cisco. Other options include apps like Reflector which allow you to connect your computer to the projector and project your iPad through the computer. This works pretty much the same as the Apple TV but requires the addition of a computer. 
  • Consider the purchase of a pico projector, tripod or iPad stand and and a portable screen. This would make it possible for PE teachers to project anywhere, which could be very useful when playing outside or when there is a bit of time before a game to allow for some last minute coaching. In fact, we are thinking about putting together a PE teacher kit which could fit into a gym bag that PE teachers could carry with them which would include an iPad Mini, mini projector and screen, tripod and possibly a device called a Swivl