By Jennifer Roland

Jumping jacks, team sports, and laps around the school yard are still primarily how kids are getting physical exercise at school, but the use of technology is seeping into P.E. class too. Beyond just bringing Dance Dance Revolution to P.E., some schools are integrating gym-style circuits, heart-rate monitors, and pedometers to encourage students to develop a sense of being physically fit.

Plugging kids into their own physiology, veteran P.E. teacher Betty Ann Fish from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia is using heart rate monitors and software for circuit-training workouts. Fish also uses the results from the monitor to explain to her students how the circulatory system works.

The new devices are relatively new in Fish’s teaching repertoire. “I’ve been teaching here for 25 years,” Fish says. “And if anyone said I’d be using technology when I was an undergrad, I would have laughed.” Now she uses an iPad to track student’s work during class, takes photos and records videos of students performing exercises and uses apps to teach students new fitness concepts and exercises. She also uses online videos for demonstration. During the previous winter Olympics, she says, she showed videos of the events to help students understand the exercise, then try them out. It was especially helpful with some of the lesser known sports, such as curling.

For assessment, Fish uses TeacherPal and a spreadsheet to track student performance. But there are other tech tools like DailyFitLog, which is used by more than 10,000 students in more than 1,250 schools to track physical fitness. Here’s how it works: Teachers enter activities students have completed, such as the number of minutes they’ve exercised or the number of steps they’ve walked. Students can also manually enter data from their heart rate monitors. Every month, students work with their teachers to go over their data, assess themselves and set goals for the future. All student data is pushed to the teachers so they can keep track in between meetings, according to the company’s managing partner Timothy Palek.

Palek says the goal of the system is “to get kids more active and to teach kids how to take care of themselves.” That matches Fish’s goals, too. She sees her role as teaching her students to love physical activity. “I have done my job well if they’re in their 30s and 40s and they’re still active.”

  • Steve Baines

    UK PE staff are also using our ‘app’ on their iPod or iPhone to take attendance when they are out on the playing fields…they are taking to using technology because it shows them real benefits

  • I’d argue that technology isn’t just seeping into Physical education – it’s actually a torrent. Check out the #pegeeks tag on Twitter, or blogs by Jarrod Robinson, Joey Feith amongst others. There are lots of practitioners planning, implementing and sharing their tech journeys in PE every day.
    And to honour the kids and and the best learning outcomes, tech in PE HAS to be more than just using tools. Its the extension of PE and Health studies into real life that makes it meaningful for students. And the opportunity to use tech to create something new as a reflection of their learning and understanding.
    Don’t just tick the “I use technology” box. Make it real.

    • Lynn Odom

      I agree that technology is actually a torrent. In our district in South Carolina, we have to complete a technology use exam every year and provide at least one lesson plan integrating technology to our district office. We also have to complete three credit hours of technology integration each school year. One technology tool that we have found helpful in our PE classes is the iPad. We have class sets of iPads and can check out iPads from the Learning Commons. We have the students use the iPads to video their gymnastics routines, and use the video for peer assessment. We also have the students video their routines and we run it via a powerpoint on our commons area TV monitor.

  • Shawn Link

    I agree with the post that Technology is now part of Physical Education. It was good to see a long term teacher excited to use modern technology to help kids learn.

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