The Technology Revolution in Physical Education

technology physical educationAnyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love technology.  I am affectionately known at my school as a “computer geek” and I am happy to say that many of my colleagues come to me to ask for help when it comes to technology.  I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s and my dad worked for IBM.  He was a troubleshooter and worked on IBM’s original mainframe computer.  I have always enjoyed Science and Math and I even took a cutting edge computer class when I was in the seventh grade.  I had no idea what a computer was or what it could, do despite the fact that my dad worked for a world-class computer company But nevertheless, I found the class extremely interesting.

Fast forward a number of years to college visits with my son.  On one trip we took him to my alma mater – SUNY Cortland.  I was showing him the campus and when we were on a tour of the library I was reminiscing about how the campus in general and the library in particular had changed.  I remarked that the current computer room in the library was actually a typewriter room when I was a student.   In this room you could put a quarter into a machine and the electric typewriter would power on for 10 minutes.  My son could not believe this memory of my college experience and he asked me why I did not have a computer to type my papers.  He thought that we would surely have had a computer available since “Gramps” worked for IBM!  When I told him that the personal computer had not been invented yet he could not believe it!  I had no idea that technology would move forward at such a fast and furious pace but I love technology and have been enjoying the evolution of all of the advancements, including how technology use has revolutionized the way that students participate and learn in Physical Education.

Recently I have been working on a presentation called Technology in Action, and it has physical education technologymade me realize how the advancement of technology has the potential to cause a revolution in your Physical Education program if you are ready and willing to jump on board.  I have actually done several presentations on the subject of technology use in Physical Education dating back to my very first conference presentation in 2007.   This presentation was about using pedometers and heart rate monitors, creating digital newsletters, and using digital cameras to create slide shows, DVD’s and upload pictures to a website to promote quality Physical Education.  My current presentation begins with the use of pedometers in Physical Education but then covers the vast array of iPad apps that can be used to teach content, increase physical activity, assist with classroom management, and assess students cognitively, behaviorally, and physically.  In such a relatively short period of time, I have gone from enjoying technology as a novelty to becoming dependent on technology every single day in my Physical Education class!  In fact, I do not know what I would do without my iPad!  I firmly believe that technology can be both positive and negative, so it is up to us as adults to model use of technology in such a way so that our students can be good “consumers”.  We should show students how technology can be a positive influence in their lives for health and wellness.

Applying Technology to PE Class

I could have never imagined that I would have wireless access in my gymnasium.  This advancement has allowed me to access the wealth of information that I can make available to my students.  For example, I can show students videos of exciting events like the Winter Olympics, or I can reach back into the past during our 50th Day of School Sock Hop and show my first graders Chubby Checker doing the “Twist” on American Bandstand!

While paper and pencil assessment is perfectly valuable and I do utilize this method of assessment for my second grade portfolios and other assessments, technology allows me to collect data quickly and effectively for a large number of students.  For example, using an application called Plickers I can gather data on hundreds of students a day in just minutes.  This data can then be managed, organized, and reported with a few clicks.  I use this data as both formative and summative assessment, which drives my planning and lesson delivery in a much more effective and efficient manner.

When I was a young teacher, teams and groupings were made using captains.  We alltechnology and physical education know how awful it is to have a student picked last and have their feelings hurt. The technology revolution has taken this task out of my hands with very positive results.  There are a variety of great applications out there but my favorite – Team Shake – creates pairs, triples, quadruples, teams, and more with a simple push of a button or shake of the hand!  Not only is this method quick and easy, but also my students never argue about groups because the technology made the decision!  Other great applications help me to randomly choose students to answer questions while making sure that I am not always picking on students raising their hands.

Showing my students that technology can actually increase physical activity time is probably the most important goal for my technology use in PE.  I use technology to move and I often show my students my Fitbit stats so that I can be a good role model. A few years ago I bought my first iPad after attending an AAHPERD National Conference.   I was so excited to learn about the potential of iPad use in PE!  As I learned how to use it effectively and more apps became available for physical activity, I decided to write a grant to purchase iPad minis for student use.  I now have three iPad minis and students love to use them!  A former student teacher said it best when he said that allowing students to use them in PE teaches them how to use technology to get moving and improve their health.  Wow….it hit me then that this is our responsibility as PE teachers, and I set about finding new apps to use for student activity.  There are so many great apps like Deck of Cards Workout, FitDeck Jr., Decide Now, Swork-it, Super Stretch Yoga, Stretch-it and more!  Technology is supposed to be used to improve the quality of life.  Through Physical Education use, we can teach students how to do just that!

I have been reminded recently that while I, and many of my students, enjoy a tremendous amount of technology, not all students and families have the same access.  This year I started using Google Forms on my PE website for 5th Grade PE Homework.  The idea is that students are given questions to answer outside of PE class as homework and the use of Google Forms allows me to track their answers.  I send home the PE Homework form with an option for students to answer the question at school if they do not have Internet access at home.  I was surprised and humbled at the number of students who indicated that they needed to complete the questions at school.  Allowing students this access at school “levels the playing field” for student technology use and can be a positive factor in student success.

Since my first day on the job as a PE Teacher in 1984 until now, the technology revolution has been nothing short of amazing!  The challenge is finding the balance between too much technology and technology use for good health and wellness.  Students and adults need to have access to appropriate technology and be taught how to use it responsibly as well as it’s potential to improve their overall health.  As Physical Educators we are uniquely positioned to teach students this positive use of technology and model it in our own lives.  I know that my dad would be astounded at the progress of technology and I hope he would be proud of my passion to teach others to embrace it.

technology for pe classAbout the Author: Margaret Robelee is a PE teacher at North Park Elementary School in Hyde Park, NY. She has a blog called The Best Part of My Week and has been teaching for more than 30 years. She is an advocate for quality Physical Education and loves technology. Margaret was honored as the 2011 NYS AHPERD Elementary PE TOY and the 2014 Eastern District of SHAPE America Elementary PE TOY

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9 thoughts on “The Technology Revolution in Physical Education

  1. Great ideas and I am excited about the use of technology in our Physical education programs. BUT ! ! ! Does anyone have trouble with school district allowing connection to the internet in their school? If we don’t use a school issued tablet we can’t connect to the internet. IF we purchase it on our own or even using a pe money they won’t allow us to connect. I have used my phone but it uses my phone data. Uugghhh so much out there and yet our district holds us back.

    • Wow – that certainly sounds frustrating! I was fortunate to be able to connect fairly easily, once we had reliable internet. One suggestion would be to advocate your needs by meeting with your Director of PE and ask that person to speak to your Director of Technology. Perhaps showcasing the kinds of activities and experiences you would like to provide to your students may help to make the case. Another thought is that there are a variety of apps that do not require use of the internet once the apps are downloaded. Good luck!

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  4. Thank you so much for all the great information you shared with us.
    PE teacher
    Pinewood American International School of Thessaloniki Greece

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