When we think of children and teenagers using technology, one of the primary concerns is that the overuse of digital devices is making them less active: we picture a bunch of lazy youngsters who are constantly huddled over their phones and have forgotten the joys of playing outside.
But what if EdTech could subvert that stereotype? Let’s look at a few interesting ways physical education teachers can integrate technology into their activities.
1. Tracking progress
Fitness apps and devices are all the rage among those who want to keep track of their diet and exercise routines, so why not apply the same principle to physical education? From smartwatches to free phone apps, teachers can encourage students to track their progress and foster a healthy amount of competition between classmates and, most importantly, with themselves—as long as they remember not to let it go to extremes. Neglecting exercise and a healthy diet is a risk, but so is restricting food intake too much and overexerting yourself, and the role of a teacher is to remind students that even with an app that tracks your fitness wherever you go, it should not become an obsession.
2. Setting reasonable goals
In the world of physical activity, not everyone is equal. Age, gender and fitness level are all factors that determine a person’s ability to complete athletic tasks: having to meet unreasonable goals can be extremely humiliating and discouraging, not to mention damage a student’s grades. With devices that track your heart rate during exercise, a teacher can adapt fitness goals to the needs and capabilities of each student and grade them accordingly, which makes physical education class less intimidating, eliminates the risk of P.E. being the one stain on an otherwise excellent report card, and, if handled wisely, even makes the class one less potential source of bullying.
Exercise, nutrition and professional sports are hot topics on YouTube, and even pro players watch their own games as a way to do better next time. Between encouraging students to watch video demonstrations done by professionals and having them play back recordings of their own performances to spot weaknesses and study new ways to improve, video is a powerful self-improvement tool. As long as the videos have been vetted by the teacher as age-appropriate and free of potentially damaging content, students can learn from them and find some good, healthy role models to emulate.
4. Exercising outside school
For some students, physical education is the only time they exercise at all; for others, it is not. The difference in performance between students who play sports outside of school hours and those who do not is immediately evident, especially in those countries whose schools do not generally offer good sports programs, leaving organisations other than school as the only option for young people to play competitively. Fitness apps and devices can thus become a way to make school sports and sports played by yourself or with external organisations come together: if students can prove they have exercised for a given number of hours other than the school-mandated classes with screenshots and other technology-based data, schools can, if legally possible in their country, make exercise done on the students’ own time count towards their physical education grade, which not only gives a more realistic assessment of each student’s actual aptitude for sports, but also teaches them that exercise and a healthy lifestyle can and should stay with them their whole lives, not just in one single class.
5. Active video games
Video games are usually seen as taking away from the time young people spend exercising, but there is a genre that encourages physical activity: from music-based games where the goal is to dance, to sports simulators where the controller becomes a tennis racquet or similar, we already possess the technology to track movement in real time and translate it to a screen in fun, engaging ways that make physical activity less of a chore. Investing in such gaming consoles can be a viable option to get students to move, especially when the school lacks an indoor gym and has physical education classes take place outside, where they can be disrupted by bad weather.