THE BLOG

Mobile Takes a New Meaning in Physical Education

09/06/2014 15:21 BST | Updated 03/08/2014 10:59 BST

Brian Bennett, former teacher and Customer Solutions Engineer at TechSmith, discusses how technology innovation is helping to re-engage students into keeping healthy at school

Technological innovation has been fused with sports both on and off the field for quite some time now. Professional venues are riddled with video equipment to make sure viewers at home and officials on the sidelines have every possible angle of every play throughout the game. These high-tech tools used to be out of reach for the typical consumer, but with the explosive growth of mobile technology, sport analysis has grown exponentially while also becoming more accessible.

Consider the London Olympics: leading up to and throughout the games, there were multiple stories on how coaches and athletes alike used Apple's iPad for practice analysis, field notes, and for keeping in touch while at the Olympic Park. According to Atos, for the first time ever, commentators had touch-screen technology for every single Olympic Games sport - delivering real-time results at high speed.

The legacy of the Games inspired the UK nation and reinvigorated students' love for sports. What better way to encourage students than to also imitate the technology used by their favourite Olympic stars? Physical Education (P.E.) teachers are capitalising on this and are looking to mobile technology to enhance their time with pupils, and the mobile app explosion has certainly helped in their endeavour.

P.E. has rarely been the most popular subject on the curriculum with students - instead opting for the instant fun and appeal of technology over fitness. According to researchers, children are more inclined to stay indoors and watch television, play computer games and, in some cases, even do their homework, than go outside to play.

The lack of engagement and encouragement to play sport has raised concerns with health organisations reporting on the obesity epidemic that is threatening the well-being of the nation's children. The Huffington Post revealed almost a third of 10 and 11-year-olds and over a fifth of four to five-year-olds are currently either overweight or obese.

There is a need to successfully engage young people in sports and P.E. and as a result, schools and teachers are keen to investigate new approaches toward involvement and participation within classes. P.E. provides a number of invaluable life lessons for children that help shape them as whole individuals, and it is certainly proven now that lessons are easier to learn when fun and interactive. Hence why emerging technology in the sports environment could provide that bridge between encouraging health and fitness in schools and engaging the "YouTube" generation.

Students are increasingly at fait with mobile technologies, and as a result, to truly engage the 21st century classroom, teachers need to adapt their techniques to meet the needs of the "YouTube" generation wherever they can. 94% of 16 - 24-year-olds in the UK are constantly connected to the Internet while on the go through a mobile phone or smart device, so being able to provide feedback or training channels on platforms that students can access easily will no doubt be effective.

Jon Tait (@teamtait), a former P.E. instructor at Woodham Academy, has written about Flipped Learning in the P.E. classroom extensively. This is where students learn the theory for a topic ahead of the lesson to then focus on the practical aspects during class hours. He states: "Historically the only real piece of equipment a PE teacher had to provide feedback on the field was a whistle and their voice." Now, with mobile tools available, it makes perfect sense to also have video feedback as part of the learning cycle for students.

Jon began by using Coach's Eye on a school iPad to film practice and games, and then turn the film into instant-replay style video for his athletes. As the project continued, he encouraged his athletes to film one another during practice sessions to provide feedback. In essence, mobile technology had allowed Jon to multiply himself and make each practice more productive. Jon is now looking at other ways to use instant-feedback methods in areas outside of sport.

Similar changes are happening in the U.S. Jason Hahnstadt (@flippedcoach) is a P.E. instructor outside of Chicago. Jason's instructional time was being cut down, and he needed a way to maximise the amount of time students were moving in class. He realised that the time he spent teaching the rules of a game or exercise technique could be significantly minimised through using video technology. Now, his students watch a brief video prior to class. When they arrive, instead of standing up front and lecturing, Jason's students take a brief quiz on the rules or technique and then begin moving. This example of using video in the P.E. class is a great way for others to get started, as instructive videos on rules are not complicated to make.

It is clear that the mobile revolution is offering new and interesting ways for instructors to maximise the time students spend exercising in classes, keeping students moving and helping them to learn by doing, rather than by lecture. With smart sports technology increasing in both availability and costs, it is up to us to provide the tools that will help keep students engaged in keeping fit and healthy on platforms that they can relate to.

Example video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWMf71YKItk