Digital technology is at the heart of education reform in the 21st century, with many educators and administrators looking to optimize the learning process. However, there is one aspect of education that has remained predominantly tech free: physical education.
And why should technology be associated with physical education? After all, a popular complaint of many modern day parents is that their kids spend too much time on their computers and not enough time playing outside. Statistics back this up: One out of every three children in the United States is obese. With statistics like these, it is understandable that parents want to keep technology out of physical education. However, we cannot overlook the potential of digital solutions to change the way we interact with our environments, especially in a physical way.
Pokémon Go is a perfect example of this. It is getting kids outside and running around public parks, and all through the simple principle of learner engagement. It is taking something kids (and adults) love and using it as an incentive for physical activity, while making this activity intrinsically rewarding.
We all know that exercise is good for you. Some of us find the energy boost we get after a workout rewarding. But for those students who don’t, digital solutions can add an extra level of engagement to physical education. One way to do this is to follow the example put forth by Pokémon Go and expand physical education beyond the limits of the gymnasium and into the real world playground.
Coaches and gym teachers can use apps to track their students’ physical activities and stats outside of school and assign daily assignments or weekly to-do lists. Wearable tech like pedometers and Fitbit bracelets add a visual element to physical activities, providing students with a digital representation of their activity level. Educators can use these devices, coupled with their respective apps, to track stats and encourage friendly competition between students, even when they are not in class or school. They can also assign different types of physical activities such as bike riding or hiking, allowing students to swap out one activity they don’t like for another they do.
Furthermore, with access to online resources, physical educators can greatly expand what constitutes a physical education. There are plenty of online instructionals for Yoga and Zumba that be implemented in class to give students a break from the norm. But beyond just raising levels of student engagement and changing up the curriculum, digital solutions can help can help extend the educators influence outside of the gymnasium and into the classroom.
Student athletics is a serious business. However, being an athlete and a student can be a tricky role to navigate. With UI design platforms like LiveTiles Mosaic, physical education teachers can easily keep track of athletes’ grades. These grades can be shared between faculty and students through SharePoint, providing a scaffolding of support to keep student athletes’ grades from slipping.
A digital classroom design in LiveTiles Mosaic
In addition, the aforementioned apps, video resources and to-do list can all be embedded in Mosaic to create a cohesive digital classroom, allowing students to access these resources on-the-go. Other course disciplines can also be integrated into the digital classroom, providing physical education instructors the interdisciplinary opportunities to integrate aspects of biology into their curriculum.
At its heart, the implementation of digital solutions in physical education embraces the basic fundamentals present in most aspects of modern education reform. It is about using tech to empower students and restructure the learning process to raise student engagement. Student engagement isn’t something we often think about in regards to gym class, but we should. The mental and physical benefits of exercise are numerous and are a factor that shouldn’t be ignored in the quest to reform the learning process.
In the hubbub of education reform, it is easy to concentrate on things like digital citizenship and behavior tracking, things predominately concerned with the mind. But the mind and body must be exercised, or else, as Sir Ken Robinson comically pointed out in his TED Talk, we all become heads who depend on their bodies solely for transportation purposes.