Technology is often lambasted for creating lazy, passive cyber couched-potatoes. While the hours we endure bathed in flickering pixel light, slumped in a variety of contorted lurching positions over the input device of our choice is hardly the recipe for a healthy body. Yet, technology is becoming ever more part of our active lives and it is also spilling out into the ‘real’ world. As teachers, we can insist on technology, or we can make it part of our classroom repertoire for PE and beyond.
One obvious example is active gaming. Until recently, games exercised the thumbs, but little else. Since the introduction of game consoles with motion tracking, such as the Wii and Xbox with its Kinect device, players are finally off the couch and up on their feet. Such devices shouldn’t be a replacement to the usual range of PE activities, but because of the intrinsically motivating nature of these games they can reach pupils who usually loath PE and the length of time pupils will spend on such games more than makes up for the relatively limited amount of movement involved compared to an average PE lesson. Naturally, I do not have 15+ devices (not on a teacher’s salary!), so when I have done this with my own primary class I have asked parents to get involved and to bring in whatever they have available at home. Firstly, this means that the parents are around to ensure that the equipment is being used in an appropriate manner. Second, it’s wonderful to see the dads getting overly competitive once they inevitably decide to have a turn.
The web is awash with dance videos of every genre. Sites like gonoodle.com and 5-a-day.tv are great places to start and have a great range of fitness and mindfulness videos to try. A quick search on YouTube.com and vimeo.com will deliver a vast number of videos to get your class moving. Yet better still, rather than being consumers of fitness videos, challenge your class to produce their own.
Using video recordings to playback and observe one’s sporting performance is not only limited to the professionals. Video cameras are everywhere and watching one’s own striking kicks, racket hits and running form can give insight for both the teacher and pupils to help them improve.
The rise of fitness trackers and mobile apps has meant that we can each produce a vast quantity of data about our health. This can be very useful information to allow the sportsperson to improve, but it is also a wonderful resource for cross-curricular work. Heart rates, lap times, speed data and much more are useful to give a real context to data handling in maths and the health topics of the science curriculum.
Lots of physical activity happens outside. Orienteering with GPS enabled devices or Geo-caching (like a map coordinates treasure hunt) are wonderful activities to get your children engaged and moving. Apps such as the superb trebleapps.co/knit allow the teacher to leave virtual ‘breadcrumb’ messages which are triggered when the pupil reaches a particular set of coordinates. Use it to leave clues in an outside treasure hunt.
Virtual and augmented reality finally seems to be living up to its promise. While most VR apps used in schools currently do not require the user to move from the spot, technology is being developed which maps out a space and ‘fools’ the user into moving around a space which is seeming larger than it actually is and prompting the user away from the walls. So it may not be long until your class can play virtual tennis at Wimbledon, run against a digital Usain Bolt, or take part in cyber cycling at the Olympics.
I look forward to the first virtual egg and spoon race at sports day!
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 UKEd Magazine.