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Tech in the PE Classroom

By Brandon Fisher
Tech in the PE Classroom

Remember when iPods just provided background music to a workout? Well, this is no longer the case for middle school students at Concordia International School Shanghai, who, through a tech-enriched physical education program, are using their iPods to improve their workouts and track every step they take on the road to a healthier and more active lifstyle.
During the 2013–2014 school year, the Physical Education Department at Concordia introduced a one-to-one iPod program that aligned with the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) goals and standards. Since then students have been strapping iPods to their waists at the beginning of each PE class and using various fitness apps to track their physical activity. The iPods are synced to a Mio Alpha heart rate watch that lets students see firsthand the correlation between the intensity of their movements and their own cardiovascular endurance.
Use of the iPods is not just for high-impact activities that require considerable movement; students also use their iPods when performing less dynamic activities, such as rock climbing. Students are still tracking their movements and heart rate as they climb, but they are also pairing up to film each other completing various stages and obstacles on the wall. Playback of the videos allows students to analyze their own performance and assess their progress, which they keep track of along with personal fitness goals and reflections on their very own websites called “sportfolios.”
Bryan Keith, who teaches middle school PE at Concordia and who helped pioneer the iPod program at the school, says that students are excited about “wiring up” and having instant feedback on their accomplishments. Even students who were previously non-participatory are becoming more active and interested in their physical education. “They are pushing themselves to work to their fullest potential and comparing themselves to their own previous data and not necessarily to other students,” says Keith.
The addition of iPods in PE classes adds a great deal of value in terms of improving curriculum and assessment practices, according to Laura Fitzgerald, a Concordia middle school PE and health teacher who helped develop the iPod program. At the end of each PE session, students email the data recorded on their iPods to the teacher, who compiles it in a Google Form used to assess each student’s activity for the day. “The iPod program has evolved this year, in order to collect specific data on specific student progress and achievement,” says Fitzgerald.
The PE department has even started collaborating with the high school AP Physics teacher and middle school tech coach, who mine the data for figures that can be used to inform their teaching, enhance the curriculum, and improve the overall PE experience.
Technology is inevitable in 21st-century classrooms, and that includes gyms and sports fields. Through programs such as the One-to-One iPod Program for PE, students are more engaged than ever. “They are realizing how they can use the iPhone or iPod they are carrying in their pockets to help them stay physically fit for life,” according to Keith.

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