A digital classroom?

So sometimes I find myself questioning whether homework is really worth doing in PE. After all our subject is predominately practical skill based and aside from planned assignments or projects what else is really worth setting as homework?
I personally am a big believer in the fact that work set for students to complete needs to be worthwhile and meaningful. When we as either teachers or students can see the value in completing a task we're more likely to devote our attention to that task and in turn become fully engaged in the process of learning a new skill or developing new knowledge.

So with that in mind I started reviewing the topics we cover in our class (mainly Health related topics as our school combines Physical Education and Health as one subject for junior levels right up until VCE). I also reviewed my teaching methods and also how much time I dedicated to theory related lessons versus practical related lessons and I found that it was difficult to strike the perfect balance of time devoted to properly unpacking and exploring theory topics and time devoted to skill development and "just getting out there" with my students. As for teaching methods, one of the most common things I found occurring in my class was discussion based activities. Discussion based activities make real sense in PE classes considering the topics we cover (drugs and alcohol, sexual health, health of Australians and risk taking to name a few). That's when it dawned on me... why not have our discussions outside the classroom sometimes? So after doing some research online this is what I have discovered and started implementing in time for the new term.

First I signed up for my own page at Collaborize Classroom which allows me to create my own online discussion forum which is very student and teacher friendly. I was given the option to create a name for my page (so I called it "PE with Ms M") and from there I was able to start customising the page for my classes.

Screen shot of my digital classroom
If you check out the screen shot I'm sharing with you of my digital classroom you'll notice that I've altered the colour scheme by simply hovering my cursor over Manage and selecting Site from the drop down menu (1). i then just selected the colour scheme I wanted.
After that I tapped on the little pencil beside the heading Categories (2) and edited the sample categories already in existence renaming them as my classes (you can later manage these making them either visible or invisible to different classes if you wish). I then clicked on Start a Discussion (3) to create a topic "thread" where I posed a question to my students to then answer. Then all I had to do was provide each student (via email or paper slip) the address (URL) of my page and I invited them to come join the page. The neat thing about this site I guess is that they wouldn't need an email address to sign up.
I instructed students to use their real name or a shortened version when signing up and to create an appropriate username as well (the real name isn't visible to anyone but me, others only see the username they select).

You may already even have a discussion forum style tool on your school's intranet system, if so it is much easier to set up, but if you don't then having something like this means being able to create a brilliant space where students can answer a set question, then respond to their peers and even be encouraged to re-evaluate what they have written after reading everyone's posts and provide a new post using facts or information/ideas/view points from others to back up or change their opinion or understanding of the topic.

Overall an online discussion can allow you to capture the thought process of your students as they plan responses, evaluate and re-evaluate etc. Through setting this page up I hope to hit two birds with one stone... one being the minimising of homework, and two ensuring that discussions aren't restricted to the limited time available in class time. The other beauty of having a site like this running means that if a student is away sick for a period of time, they can still be involved with the class.

Other sites that do similar stuff include:
  • Edmodo (looks and feels like the nerdy sister of facebook making it appealing to teens and powerful fun for teachers... imagine notifying students to remind them to bring their PE uniform).
  • Schoology (similar to Edmodo)
  • Go Soapbox (a real time interactive tool where students can share with their teacher how they are going with any set task given).
  • Socrative

 What I have planned here, could be the beginning of introducing the "Flipped Classroom" model to my classes, who knows!

Next week I hope to tackle amongst other fun things.... QR Codes!!

Stay tuned and share the blog! Leave me a comment if you have a suggestion on what I should look at next!

Peace out!

Top 5 PE Apps worth your time

There are so many blog posts floating around the blogosphere recommending this app or that app that often it's hard to determine which apps are worthwhile getting, and which apps are just being promoted by the app creators. The other killer is that there are so many apps that are similar to one another that it makes it even harder to get something worthwhile at all.
As teachers, we're far too busy to sit down and try out app after app until we find one that does the job... we also don't have the time to learn how to use the app... only to then teach students how to use the app too. So to help ease the world of apps a little allow me to share with you the top 5 PE apps I have used in class and therefore know work well!

1. iMuscle ($4.99)

This is a killer app! Forget your Anatomy textbook... this app smashes it out of the ballpark! It can be used as a standard "okay let's look at the muscles in the leg" tap on and read the label/name of the muscle... or it can be used as a powerful resource that demonstrates complete with moving clips how to exercise each muscle. So whether you want to use it to explain muscle movements (flexion/extension) or you want to show your star athlete's why they are doing the exercise that you just prescribed to them... you just know visually this app just makes sense. Professionals in the medical fields are loving this alternative way to demonstrate things to their clients too by the way.

The App in Action

2. TimeMotion (Free)

This little app is simplistic in design and functionality. The app is used simply to record how long a player spends doing the following: Running, jogging, sprinting, walking, standing etc. Have students monitor someone in their class as they participate in a game. All they need to do is tap whatever is occurring as it occurs. When the game ends they hit "Stop" and ta-da! an instant break down of how long their player spent doing each movement type. They can record the data and discussion can then take place on the value of knowing how hard players work in a team environment.

The app in Action

3. Nike Training Club (Free)

Want to punish your students? Want to make them work out but allow them to select their own say 15 minute work out? Then this app is fantastic! But be warned for those who aren't involved in regular moderate to vigorous exercise the workout can prove to be brutal. The great thing about this app is the majority of exercises to be completed in any workout require minimal to no equipment. You can preview the list of exercises in the list prior to engaging in it to allow injuries or weak spots to be protected or targeted. You can select how long the workout will go for and the best thing is each exercise comes with an instructional video demonstrating the exercise. Students love the freedom of selecting what they want to work on, they can even play music with the app to keep them motivated as it counts down the time left.
Apps like this one are great discussion tools too in regards to whether they really are beneficial for people wanting to build on fitness, the risk of uninformed people using the wrong apps in the pursuit of weight loss and dealing with body/self-esteem issues is a worthwhile conversation to have.

The App in Action

4. AIDSinfo (Free)

This app is brilliant when it comes to looking at health related issues on a global scale. Information is updated and relates of course to the AIDS epidemic including life expectancy, risk of infection rate even education regarding AIDS. Just tap on the country of interest to find the facts and figures. Have students compare countries/continents. Great way to create discussion and debates can result with great use of factual information.

The App in Action

5. Tap Roulette (Free)

This is the best app I have in my bag of tricks and it's best when it comes to picking who gets to go first, who starts with the ball, who gets to be captain, who gets to start on the bench and so on. This app beats flipping a coin because it allows for you to incorporate more than 2 teams in the picking. I often have my class split into three teams with one team resting on the bench/umpiring/scoring whilst the other two teams play (great strategy when you have too many players for games like basketball, netball, handball and indoor soccer). All teams select a captain who then meets me with my iPad on the court. I ask all three captains to place one finger on the black section of the screen and I hit "Pick Finger" The app then randomly picks one of the fingers to highlight. The captain belonging to that finger can then inform their team they're on the bench first.

The App in Action

So there you have it! These are by far my favourite apps at the moment as they're easy to use and act as the perfect tools without becoming cumbersome... and the best thing... you don't need to "learn how to use the app".

Keep checking back, subscribe and tell your PE friends I'm planning to keep the ball rolling on this bad boy of a blog!

It's as easy as a click and a snap!

So you're planning your lessons for the future and you know you want to use technology in your class room because it's the new thing that everyone is doing... the problem is your school doesn't have iPads or laptop/notebooks for every students. Never fear! All you need are cameras!

In this day and age most students (Study) have a smart phone of some capacity with most carrying the ability to take photos. This provides the way in where school budgets perhaps can't. Photo taking abilities in the classroom can enhance and alter the way an activity is conducted, however there needs to be a common understanding of why the camera/phones are being used, and also what is considered an appropriate use of these tools.
The variety of smart phones available is astounding...

Taking the time with your students to discuss and develop a set of agreed upon terms regarding the potential use of camera/phones within certain lessons is well worth the time. When all students feel that they have had a say in what will be the governing rules over a tool that they will be allowed to bring into the classroom they certainly feel the experience is more authentic overall. Never assume that they will know instantly what is appropriate and what is not when it comes to the taking of photos and the use of phones within the classroom.

Good questions to ask when developing guidelines for phone/cameras include:
- Should permission be sought prior to taking a photo of someone? Why/Why not?
- What should be done with photos once they are taken?
- How can we use these to our advantage in class?

So now you've all agreed on rules regarding the use of cameras within the classroom... where to from here?

How about the following ideas:
 - Photo clue orienteering
 - Trio Film Coaches

What is.... Photo Clue Orienteering/Scavenger Hunting...

The school ground becomes the hunting grounds as you provide your students with cryptic clues for them to solve. This can be done a variety of ways with the aim of the challenge for students to make their way from one place to another via the clues provided.

I always start with this activity when looking at an orienteering unit. It's a great lead in activity and by the end you can have students discussing the difference between orienteering, rogaining and scavenger hunting. The only down side to this activity is the prep work you as the teacher needs to do prior to the unit, however set it up properly the first time and you can have a handy activity to repeat year after year.

Prep work: Prior to teaching the unit you will need to photograph your cryptic photo clues. I went around the school and took about 20-30 random photos of odd little things that exist in the school. I took photos of the tops of poles, edges of buildings or signs, parts of fencing, taps and drains. The aim of the photos taken is that they are hard to determine what they are at first glance. I then printed and laminated 5 copies of each photo with a number assigned to the back of each. I also created a tabled sheet that had as many rows as there are photos and three columns for students to track their progress. The last thing I created was an aerial map view of the school via Google Maps. I put a simple grid over the map image and created coordinates for the map. I then printed and laminated around 8 of these.
Example of map

Example of results form given to students

Activity in action: After introducing what the aim of scavenger hunting is I asked the students to get into teams of no more than 4.
Each team needs to ensure they have:
- someone with the ability to take photos
- someone to record coordinates of located photo clues
- someone to carry and read the map
- someone to hold onto the cryptic clues that they are given by the teacher.

I then hand each team 2 of the many different photo clues and send them out with the following challenge "Step 1: Get a photo that shows the cryptic clue and it's surroundings and include your team in the photo.
Step2: Try to determine which square on your map grid the location of your clue is at and record it on your sheet."
Cryptic Clue example
Example of photo to be taken including team,cryptic clue and it's surroundings

What happens next is students take off running to where they think they remember seeing something in the school that resembles the cryptic clue. The photograph becomes evidence to show they made it to each destination. If a cryptic clue card proves to be too hard they can trade it in for a different card at any time. The beauty of having them return to base after finding each 2 clues means you can control how long they have until times up. An alternative option is to print the clues onto a sheet and number the photos on the sheet and provide each team with all the clues and an end time when they need to return to base (the classroom).

The next step after they've had a blast running around doing this activity is to have them create their own set of cryptic clues to challenge another team with. I've even had students use photo editing apps on their phones to change the colours of their clues or alter them slightly for added difficulty.

What is.... Trio Film Coaches...

Trio Film Coaches is a great way to use photo/video analysis during skill development when doing any sport unit.

Simply have students break into threes and provide them with a series of skills to practice. They are to take it in turns to practice a skill whilst one of the three films the skill. Threes work best as one can film whilst the other two act on the skill, this is particularly handy for most team related sports. The trick to getting this working well is to set a routine that stays the same regardless of the sport unit being looked at. Prep work is minimal but the benefits of the activity are immense.

Prep work: Be prepared to model this first so that students are aware of the aim and potential outcomes of doing such an activity. If you have time, film yourself twice performing a skill prior to the lesson. Have one film of you performing a skill incorrectly and one film of you performing a skill correctly and show it to the class then open up discussion "which was the correct way to perform that skill? Why do you say this? What benefit can we get from watching ourselves perform a skill?"
Inform students that they will be working together in threes to film themselves performing different skills throughout the year to reflect on their skill development. Be sure to develop a routine when it comes to film sessions so that you only need to announce to students to get into their trios and they'll then know to repeat what they have done previously.
For analysis you can create either a peer assessment form for the two coaches of the third person to fill out regarding the person they filmed OR alternatively a self evaluation form where students use the video and any advice from their peers to analyse their performance of the skill and highlight where things went right and what needs to be improved.

Activity in action: Introduce the skills you wish to be the focus of the session (Softball pitch). Demonstrate the skill correctly and highlight the main teaching points of the skill as per usual. Have students practice the skill as you normally would. Before moving onto the next skill that you would teach during the unit stop and announce that the drill they just practised is this unit's "skill to film" and ask them to get into their trios.
Students then have the opportunity to film each other performing the skill they just practised and then time after the filming is set aside to analyse and evaluate.

The next step of course is to get your hands on some great video analysing apps that allow you to draw on the video to get angles of release, lines and angles of limb positions, weight and balance movement etc I personally use Excelade and Swing Plane HD on the iPad. Coaches Eye is another ripper too.

There are of course hundreds of different ways to use cameras or smart phones within the classroom to enhance the learning experience. In future blog posts I'll be sure to explain Google Goggles, QR Codes and other handy apps so be sure to stay tuned.
If you like what you've read, share it around with others. If you have a question be sure to ask in the comments section. If you've got a suggestion for a lesson idea let us know that too! Until next time peace out!


Welcome to I.T inside, P.E outside!!

This blog has been set up to tackle all the tech related ideas that are possible when it comes to engaging students with the learning process and then connecting those ideas with the Physical Education classroom in mind. I've set this blog up in the hope that it will assist my fellow PE super stars out there, as well as providing a handy resource for myself to refer back to from time to time.

So a little about me. I'm a P.E teacher in a secondary college in Melbourne, Australia. I've been teaching since 2007 and I have a love for gadgets, games and sport in general. My sport of choice is golf and have been moderately successful in that sport since I was 9 years old. I'm a passionate Sydney Swans supporter and I love Olympic years.

In the next couple of blog posts I aim to cover:
- The magic of cameras
- Managing iPads in the classroom
- QR Codes and other fun things
- The most useful apps ever
- How to get the best out video analysis
- Digitising the paper world

and who knows... maybe I'll even look at Digital Portfolios. If you haven't gotten the hint yet... this blog is going to be fantastic! So stay tuned!... Bookmark me... Subscribe to me...