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The one curricular area in education that you might not expect to be embracing the current wave of technological “enhancements” for students in today’s classroom is physical education.
“Not so,” says Professor David Chorney, who teaches in the Department of Secondary Education in the Faculty of Education at the U of A.
In fact, he says there is a great deal of technological innovation taking place in the world of physical education. From apps that track personal fitness goals to devices that provide real-time feedback of biometric data, technology is starting to provide an increasing number of reasons to re-think more traditional approaches to teaching physical education.
And for good reason, too. He says one of the biggest challenges that physical education teachers face is engaging all the students in all PE classes and having students feel motivated, interested and willing to take responsibility for their personal health and ultimately their own learning.
“I still remember my first days as a physical education teacher and feeling this sense of frustration in not being able to reach out and connect with those students who were coming to class everyday but with little motivation to fully participate in my lessons,” says Chorney.
He says technology that is appropriately selected with a sound grounding in curriculum might encourage more students to feel comfortable and interested in participating in class, regardless of their individual skill set, fitness level or physical abilities.
According to Chorney, there are already many teachers in schools of all grade levels who are using technology to enhance their lessons.
“I know of several teachers who are currently using a variety of apps, for example, in their secondary level classes. Ubersense (ubersense.com) and Coach’s Eye (coachseye.com) are just two examples of these apps, ” he says.
How are teachers using apps?
“Imagine any of the possible learning activities that can go on in a physical education setting: throwing, kicking, jumping, catching– really any of these motor skills can be videotaped by using these apps. A classmate or teacher can then show an individual what he/she was doing incorrectly and immediate feedback could be given to allow improvements and learning to occur immediately right there on the spot,” he explains.  This utilization of technology is relevant, engaging and directly connected to student learning.
Another key area of study for Dr. Chorney is exploring the world of “exergames” or “exergaming”—a topic that most students can easily relate to and understand. Exergames basically involve students using an electronic device like an Xbox Kinect or Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution dance pad. Using the devices is seen as a way to encourage students to get more active using the fun factor of video games.
“The jury is still out on exactly how effective exergaming is in terms of engaging students, but initial investigations have proven promising—at least to a degree that we are excited about what is on the horizon,” says Chorney, “These gaming devices are never going to replace a quality teacher of physical education, but perhaps they have a place in an already sound physical education program, to broaden that program and increase interest and motivation for all types of students who take physical education.”
Chorney and graduate student Brett Barron are currently investigating ways that schools can implement exergaming. They expect to reveal their initial findings sometime in 2014.
While they may be somewhat limited in their current form, one could imagine a future physical education class where students wore nanotechnology suits that precisely tracked their movements and bio-data, then assessed themselves based on their ability to perform specific tasks like throwing for accuracy, running for speed or jumping for distance.
“We are so early in the development curve of technology made for physical education. What will be around in 10 or 15 years? Who knows, but it’s exciting to think and dream about it,” says Chorney. (Source: BEditionMagazine)
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Exergame Fitness knows that exergames will be around for years to come as they’re growing even bigger and better than ever.  Technological innovation is already taking place in the world of physical education and we can prove it.  A large number of schools have implemented Exergame Active labs and have seen improvements in academics, health, fitness and social development.  Check out the video below to see the success Lincoln Middle School has had thus far.  For information on how to implement an Exergame Active Lab at your school, click here
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