How are you using your iPad?

Every teacher in our school has been provided with one this year so it’s a question that’s being asked a lot in  and around the staff room.

I only hope the answer is something more productive than using it as a chopping board!

I am a big believer that technology has a major part to play in enhancing the education of our students in, and for, the 21st century. But knowing how to work a device and integrating into lessons as part of a carefully planned (and practiced) pedagogy are very different prospects.

I was interested to read a recent presentation by Dr Ash Casey @DrAshCasey about the use of technology in PE.  The info Ash presented in this will provide the kick start for our learning team in the PEPLC project  an exciting PD initiative for various types of PE professionals, the brainchild of PE guru Andy Vasily @andyvasily.  Nathan Horne @PENathan our Innovation and Technology team leader also happens to be a super proponent of tech in PE, check out his blog.

We are at an interesting point in education at the moment, especially in PE with the rise of mobile devices meaning that our gyms and playing fields can become genuine technology hubs.  If and when we want them too that is.

I have to say though, often it feels like teachers have been handed the devices and told to go forth and transform the lives of their students. It almost seems expected that some kind of magic will happen and suddenly iPads and tablets will be seamlessly integrated to stunning effect.

Well the hard fact is this, it won’t happen. Not magically like this anyway.  Dr Ash Casey describes this as putting the technology before the pedagogy.

The vast majority of teachers are products of an era where IT was not a central part of education, or life in general.  It’s hard for younger teachers (no less students) to imagine what that’s like, because using technology to do things is second nature.

I said in a previous blog post that ICT and mobile devices have to be used with the sole purpose of improving student learning.  I stand by this and would extend teachers’ use of ICT to the following 3 areas (in no particular order);

  • Improving teacher efficiency
  • Improving teacher learning
  • Improving student learning

Improving teacher efficiency 

You don’t have to look far to find cool and interesting things teachers are doing to improve their daily/ weekly workflow, and increasing the efficiency of their administration tasks.  The ability to find the things that work for you may not have a direct impact on student learning, but it will have an indirect impact.  Students will benefit from a teacher who is well organised, quick at completing non-teaching related tasks, and is able to extend learning beyond the 60 minutes of each lesson.

Just about every single teacher I’ve ever met is ‘busy’ in the truest sense of the word.  Most of this ‘busyness’ relates to things that need doing to support learning.  Planning, assessment, reporting, meetings to name a few big ones.

I would challenge you to keep a brief diary of what you are doing on a daily/ weekly basis that creates this ‘busyness’ and try to find ways of becoming more efficient. A simple example…if you are finding assessment time consuming and are still conducting “assessment lessons” in your PE classes (taking away from valuable teaching and learning time) then look to technology for a way of doing this quicker and buying some of this time back.  There are ideas and apps galore on ways to do this.

A simple example is to start by getting your class rolls completed through an app.  The easy attendance app I use not only tracks attendance, but also students who might be gone halfway through class for a music lesson, its randomly groups students for teams, picks a single student at random to answer a question and allows me to add notes like you may usually write on paper. All data can then be exported and used for parent info or to check records etc. Add an interactive board to this and students can ‘check themselves in’ to class while you start the warm up as they arrive. No more roll taking!

This is where the corporate world is way ahead of us teachers.  People in business are constantly looking at ways to work smarter, not harder and they are good at it.

Imagine what you could do with those moments in a week you could free up?  You might even make it to yard duty on time or be able to eat lunch!

Improving teacher learning

How many teachers are ‘stuck’ doing the same things day in day out, year in year out? I don’t know the answer to this but I’d guess: a lot.

If you went to sleep in a PE class in 1970 and woke up today what would be different? Vicky Goodyear @VGoodyear references this as the Rip Van Winkle effect (love it!)

Working on a daily basis with people who are constantly learning (I’m talking about those little people we work with) inspires me to continually evolve and try to get better.  Being relevant and current is a constant challenge teachers’ face. We’ve all heard that great teachers are great learners.

The term ‘Professional Development’ is often followed by a collective groan or ignites memories of being locked in a room, a prisoner to some old fellas PowerPoint presentation, the content of which you have long since tuned out of.

So how can technology help?

Well number one, if you are not on twitter. Get on it. Right now. My only twitter regret is that I had not got on it earlier. It’s a smorgasbord of amazing people, ideas, resources and a constant source of inspiration. You just have to find them, which the lovely people at twitter make easy.

Being part of this network allows you to learn constantly, often without even knowing it.  For me, being part of the PEPLC project is one example of how I choose to spend my PD time. No longer will I be prisoner to non-relevant, frankly boring, PD that will not positively impact the students in my classes (well not of my choosing anyway!).

Improving student learning

You could say that this is the most important part of using technology at all.  After all, what is the whole point of school?

And yet,

“The fact that the massive investment in technology has had such limited impact on enhancing student learning is worrying” Tearle and Golder, 2008.

So why is this?

I agree with Dr Ash Casey in that we may be putting the cart before the horse (the technology before to pedagogy).  School leadership teams need to ensure staff are being strongly and regularly supported in the practical application/ integration of technology. i.e. get teachers actually doing stuff and seeing the benefits.

Having said that, just as we teach our students to be independent learners and problem solvers, we too must be pro-active in learning for ourselves and taking risks in class, and also accepting that it may not always work as we had hoped.

There are so many great ways to use and integrate technology in PE.  Have a look at the work of Jarrod Robinson @mrrobbo who has been ahead of the ICT game in PE for a long time.  Notwithstanding specific ICT subjects,  I would argue (clearly biased) that PE provides the most natural setting and conditions for the application/ integration of technology of any subject in the school.

The only disclaimer being that it has to be used to add value to what we currently do, and not just as a gimmick. Elaborate 1:1 coaches eye scenarios and drawings to ‘fix’ an incorrect volleyball serving technique should not replace walking over and offering corrective feedback there and then.

We also have to think beyond the obvious analysis potential the devices provide.  We should not constrict their potential to simply being an effective tool for video/ watching etc.

Sportfolios, goal setting, reflection, research, student blogs, peer to peer assessment, learning logs are just some of the ways in which the devices can be used to enhance student learning. Once again it’s about finding what works for you and what makes learning “fizz” most for your students. Remembering that activity time is also an important consideration.

It may also be worth remembering what the former US Secretary of Education Richard Riley had to say,

“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t yet been invented in order to solve problems that we haven’t identified as problems yet”

Whatever your status with tech in PE, I offer some common advice we teachers provide to our students……. “Have a go!”


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