Two Essential iPhone Apps for Phys Ed Teachers

If you don’t already have an iPhone and you are a teacher, then these are nearly reason enough to go out and get one. Although they are relatively simple, they are two of the essential apps I use all the time during my classes.

The first is the Attendance App – This is essential in that as  Phys Ed teacher I spend most of my time teaching outside or within the Gymnasium. This means that the last thing I want to do is carry around a teachers chronicle to record student attendance. This app makes it super easy to record my students attendance quickly and easily no matter where I am. The added bonus is the extensive reports that you can produce on overall or individual student attendance.

The second is the Gradepad App – This lets me easy assess student performance within sessions quickly and easily. What you do is add you students and then assign assessments to those students. The app lets you customise the assessment to suit your own needs. As I use it within my sports classes, I use it to assess things such as teamwork and other interpersonal skills. With the student and assessment selected you can simpy adjust the sliding rubric to determine your overall result (see below). A simply fantastic mobile way to assess your students while observing them participating within sporting events or classroom activity.

The Complete Story of Mobile Phones in My Classroom

As a member of Generation Y, my mobile phone is indeed one of my most used and valuable personal tools. Today’s Mobile phones provide much more than phone calls, with even the most basic models containing a bundle of fancy extras. In 2003 I received my first ever Mobile Phone as a present for finishing year 12, flash forward to 2010 and today’s students could benefit immensely by utilising their phones within their study.

So before I got carried away and starting exploring all of the potential ways in which they could be used in a Phys Ed classroom, I decided to survey my students. The reason being is that I didn’t want to introduce a new technology to have it fall on its face because students simply did not have a mobile phone. As you are probably aware, the results showed that almost 95% of students in years 9 or above have a personal mobile phone. There was about 50% access to mobile phones in the younger years, making it at least worth considering.

The question now is what ways can you assist those students who do not have access to a device? Well the first way was to develop a class set of used mobile phones. I simply put the call out to teachers and friends to donate an old mobile phone that they knew was never going to be used again. Not suprisingly most of the donated phones we received had a few features including cameras which could even be used without a SIM card.

The second way to ensure all have access is to design activities or tasks that have students working in groups that only require one mobile phone. This means that students who do not have access will naturally pair up with those who do. The best thing about this approach is that once you are aware of the students who have and dont have access you can even start make the groups yourself.

After sorting out some of the issues relating to access, the next step was to inform parents that students would be able to use their mobile phones under the direct supervision of teachers within my classes. This letter was to stop students exploiting the new possibilities by communicating the facts about where and when they could be utilised. It also provided an opportunity to explain that parents do not need to go and purchase a mobile phone specifically for the class, as a class set was available for use.

So with most of the organisation and planning complete it was now time to use them in my Phys Ed classes and heres how….

Photo and Video Camera Analysis

As most of us work in schools that have limited funds it is almost impossible to gain access to enough video cameras so students are working at a 1:1 ratio. This is the very problem I was facing at my school and then the idea occurred that all of my students had a mobile phone sitting secretly within their pockets. So after asking the principal if it would be ok if I could use them within class, I had my students bring them out of their pockets during a practical year 11 Phys Ed class.

The practical session was centred on teaching a variety of Biomechanical Concepts and as such each student was required to choose a sporting activity and piece of equipment and demonstrate the principles. The students then used their understanding of the Biomechanical principles to improve their peer’s techniques. It proved to be a highly engaging and interesting lesson with all of the students actively involved in exploring concepts and correcting techniques. There was no opportunity for students to take a back seat because they had to wait for equipment as everyone became a director, cameraman and actor within the videos.

MP3 Players

As most modern mobile phones have the ability to play MP3’s and record sounds it was a logical next step to utilise this capability. Students in my Year 10 Phys Ed class recorded a series of podcasts covering different theoretical concepts. These podcasts were then loaded onto their mobile phones so that they could listen to the information and revise for a Test as they were completing a casual walk or ride around the lake. This approach was successful in that the students were actually learning about the National Physical Activity Guidelines as they were being physicall active. It proved to be a much ricer environment to learn the material as compared to a static classroom.

Stop Watches

As almost all phones have a stop watch with all sorts of other time related fucntions it was a must that we used these within our Year 9 Phys Ed class. The students were given the role of personal trainer and required to time and run a fitness cirquit using the inbuilt stopwatch. The benefit here is that each student had a more active involvement within the class. It also meant that the school isn’t forced to buy new stopwatches or repair ones that get broken by students as each had their own and were guaranteed to not break it.

QR Codes

Basically a QR Code is a 21st century verion of the barcode. The nifty thing about them is that they can contain much more information than the traditional barcode. Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader software can scan the image of the image of the QR Code causing the phones browser to launch and redirect to the programmed website. An excellent way to link the physical world with the digital world, to create real time learning in an outdoor environment. QR Codes storing addresses and URLs may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards or just about any object that users need information from.  For all the information you need about setting up QR codes on your mobile phone consult a presentation I made for teachers http://prezi.com/nxocvfz79hhp/qr-codes/

After having my students install QR Code reader software on their phones or activitating the already existing software (on most Telstra Next G Handset)  on their phones it was time to use them within the class.

  • QR Code Treasure Hunts – The first thing we completed was an orienteering activity which utilised QR Codes in the place of the markers. Students had to move around the town locating the QR Codes then scan with a phone to log that they had reached that marker . The decoded message also revealed the next set of directions. For a more detailed explanation of the activity check out the blog post at http://tinyurl.com/bceg2b
  • Learning the Skeleton with QR Codes – As Phys Ed teachers one of the most traditional things we teach are the human body systems and their role within sports. So with this in mind I decided to create a 21st century version of the Skeleton model at our school. To put it simply each bone had a QR Code affixed to it which not only revealed the name of the bone, but linked to youtube videos explaining further about that particular bone they had just scanned.  For a more detailed explanation of the activity check outt he blog post at http://tinyurl.com/cbeazl

  • Digital Task Cards – The next step was to create a QR Code version of task cards for particular sporting skills. As students moved around to each task card, they simply scanned the code to reveal a video of how to complete the skill correctly. This put the students in the drivers seat as they were responsible for replicating a highly skilled performer.

Sure QR Codes sound complicated, but I can assure that they couldnt be easier to create and use. Simply go to http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ and enter the information/URL that you want to link to and hit generate. You will have a QR code that you can print off and scan with your mobile phone to reveal the content.  QR Codes have also been mentioned as an ‘Emerging Technolgy’ that will contribue to the changes in the way we seek information in the future.

As you have probably noticed thoughout the article that there has been no mention of the iPhone and the wonderful things it can do within a Physical Education class. This is because at the present iPhone saturation among students is very small. The features mentioned within the article are all within the capabilites of todays standard mobiles.

The final word i’ll leave you with is from Professor Stephen Heppell who says that if we had to known in 1970 that we would eventually have a device that would fit in the palm of your hand, be able to connect with anyone in the world, be able to take videos and pictures…..you would have said we were crazy. Well we have all that now and schools are doing what? Theyre Confiscating them as students enter the school. Hmmmm …