Episode 48 – GPS & Physical Education

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast, we explore how GPS can be integrated into the PE environment. Everything from treasure hunts, through to deep immersive experiences is covered. We also look at how sports science classes and those teaching physiological concepts can benefit from GPS units.

Resources explored in today’s episode include

Press Play below to listen or visit the podcast page. Alternatively, download a full episode transcript here


00:28 Jarrod Robinson: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Episode number 48 of the PE Geek podcast. And as always, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. Now, I’m super excited to get into today’s content. I just wanna make sure that you are aware that all of the notes, resources, information, and links mentioned in any of our episodes are available over at the thepegeek.com/the episode number. So, in this particular instance, it’s the thepegeek.com/48. And then, we’ll redirect you to the page where all of the notes and resources can be found. Now, as mentioned, I’m really excited of diving into an episode that I’ve wanted to sort of produce for a long time now and finally getting a chance to produce it and that is all about GPS and physical education and the sorts of things that you can do when you have devices that sort of make it possible to conduct some sort of global positioning-based activities. Now, I’m really sort of attached to this because many of the first activities I ever did in a physical education class that used technology were all about GPS, and I’m looking forward to sharing how it began for me. Alright, let’s dive into today’s content.

01:49 JR: Now, as I briefly alluded to in the opening, some of my first ever experiences using technology were GPS based, and this was sort of prior to the whole idea of sort of mobile devices being prominent or as prominent as they are now. And, essentially, all we had was a GPS handset and it was really quite basic, but it enables you to mark what’s called ‘a weigh point’. And a weigh point is sort of like a virtual marker that’s marked on a GPS handset so that it can be found again. And in this particular instance, I discovered that it was something that our school had, and I decided that I would turn it into some sort of adventure, which was all about revising for an upcoming exam. And in the normal sense, obviously, when you’re doing that in a senior PE sitting, you would have the students sitting in a classroom environment, revising for this senior exam, but I wanted to sort of make it a bit more kinesthetic and see whether that had an impact on their result. So, what I did was I went out and I marked 20 different weigh points around our school and just walked to different locations and marked it.

03:13 JR: And at those locations, I hid a QR code and, basically, I told a group of students that they would get a period of time to go and find as many weigh points as they could, answer the questions, and then they come back and they give it to another group and off they would go. So, these students would use the GPS handset to find where the QR codes were and scan them and they get a question and they’d answer them as a group and discuss their answers and some of them would write them down, and then they headed on to the next location. And it sort of helped split up this long study session into something a little bit more meaningful. So, that was the first ever introduction. However, in today’s episode, I wanna sort of share some of the things that a current practice now that you can get advantage of, and continuing with this whole notion of games and adventure, you would absolutely be well worth checking out the app, Clickaloo. Now, I know we’ve mentioned this before in the podcasts. Essentially Clickaloo is a photo scavenger hunt-type app where you would do basically what I did many years ago. However, you use your mobile devices for it and the triggers that enable a person to move on to the next clue are photo-based.

04:33 JR: So, let’s say, I’m walking around the school setting up a Clickaloo adventure and I’m taking pictures of particular things that become the triggers. And in this instance, the students would have to find that, take the exact picture, and then be presented with the next clue. So, you could use Clickaloo and the GPS that helps guide them along the way to create some sort of revision activity or some sort of immersive experience that really sort of helps them explore in a different sort of way.

05:10 JR: Now, extending that, there is an open-source platform called ARIS games, which I have blogged about. You can head over to the PE Geek and search for the word ARIS, A-R-I-S, and you’ll find how you go about setting up an ARIS challenge. But, ARIS as I’ve said, is open source, which means it’s free and available for you to do whatever you like with. It’s a user-friendly platform for creating and playing interactive tours and stories using GPS on your mobile device.

05:40 JR: So, you essentially go into the ARIS platform, the website, create your account and then you get a map of the world and you can go around and you can create markers, different points on a map, a real map, where information should be triggered. And then, basically, once you’ve set it up so you create your little immersive experience, a student comes along with their mobile device and they’re in the ARIS app, and when they stumble across the particular points that you’ve mentioned, information happens. Now, you may have seen something like this in a tourist setting, so you may have been to a famous landmark and you’ve had information that’s in conjunction with the thing you’re looking at. So, you’re at the pyramids and some information pops up just at that moment that’s relevant to that location. So, ARIS lets you make those, and they’re really easy to do.

06:34 JR: And, not to mention, if you’re living in a very popular area, people have probably built experiences for you surrounding ARIS and the sort of things that you can do. Now, I know that there’s been a number of people who’ve built these as, again, revision-type experiences that may involve people walking around a lake or actively exercising and during that time experiencing questions and videos that are relevant to content that they’re learning about. So, I think it’s a pretty cool vehicle for helping people explore their world, but sort of making it a little bit more fun and GPS becomes quite powerful for that as well.

07:19 JR: Now, the final thing I wanna mention about in these sort of immersive experiences is Geocaching. And we have spoken about Geocaching before in the podcast. Essentially, it is the whole concept of basically going and finding treasure hunt items that people have hidden. And if you head along to geocaching.com on the Internet, you’re gonna find a community that you probably didn’t really knew existed. And you can get access and play as easy as possible just by having a mobile device. And, essentially, what happens is you create your Geocaching account, which is completely for free and you can then explore and find geocaches that are hidden all over the world and there’s millions of them. There’s so many, you would be surprised.

08:13 JR: The moment you open the app, they are gonna be around your location, and you then have to try and use the clues that are in the app and the GPS to navigate to that place and find the geocache that has been hidden. Once you find it, or like my example there’s been plenty that I’ve not found, but if you do happen to find it, you sign the log book and you sort of rate how hard it was and share your experiences. And then, the person who hid it gets notified and you continue on and try and find some more. And it becomes this really, really powerful opportunity to explore the place around you and learn about it and have a challenge, and explore and hike in the wilderness or in the big city and maybe, experience things that you’ve not experienced before.

09:05 JR: Now, I lived in a town called Boort for many years and the town has a population of just under 1,000 people and I was absolutely surprised that there were geocaching in the area. I just didn’t think there would be. And sure enough, there were and people had gone to the effort to create these amazing caches that told a story about the place and the history. And you could definitely do something very similar with your students. And in fact, we have done it for sort of team-building activities, not in a PE class, but in just generalist environments. And the students have absolutely relished hunting the clues down and trying to find wherever it is that they’ve been hidden. As a matter of fact, we also did this exact same thing in a staff meeting one time. So, instead of doing our traditional meeting which is a Health and PE faculty meeting, we all set off together on a walk, and we did it with geocaching in mind. And sure, we were still talking about whatever it was that we needed to be doing but we’re active and engaged, and it felt like we had a much more meaningful discussion, and we actually wanted to be there, which was really cool to see.

10:28 JR: Now, following on from the immersive type of GPS experiences, there are some that take this whole notion to a very different level, and they’re probably more like GPS immersive games. And sort of the king of this, and the thing that really sort of set this whole chain of events and this whole new genre of games in motion is Zombies, Run! Now, we have spoken about it before, but Zombies Run is phenomenal and you have to go and check it out. Essentially, what you have is an application that you can install on your mobile device. And when you’ve done that, basically you become the central player called Player Five in this immersive world where zombies have taken over the planet. And you basically plug your headphones in and you listen to this story, and you listen to how sort of exciting it sounds and eventually you have to start running because that’s the job of you in the game. And the app tracks how fast you’re moving and it tracks everything that you’re doing to ensure that you actually complete the activity like it says you’re meant to. So, as soon as you start walking, it obviously can tell that, and the story reacts accordingly based on your speed and the sort of activity that you’re doing.

12:00 JR: Now, in this actual example that we are talking about in the Zombies Run, you actually need to save the world. And you have to do that by exercising essentially. And what happens is you sort of forget that you’re exercising and you are saving humanity. And when the zombie hoard approaches, you need to outrun it. And you’re left completely in this really sort of a crazy experience that really does change the way you view activity. Now, Zombies Run is available on iPhone, and android, and Windows phones. And I certainly recommend going and checking it out. And if you don’t like the concept of running, then maybe you check out their other app called The Walk, which is again a GPS story and fitness tracking activity, which places you in Inverness Station in the UK, and you’re given a package that could save the world. And to stay alive, you just have to walk. And you have to keep walking and it keeps counting what you’re doing and eventually with exercise in mind, you complete the journey and hopefully save humanity in the process.

13:12 JR: So, couple of really immersive experiences and activities that I feel go a long way to sort of showcasing the power of GPS in an exercise setting. Now, there are a couple of things that sort of take this even further again. And an amazing application that I think you really wanna check out is Parallel Kingdom. And if you’re sort of aware of the power of the medieval world for story-telling, then you definitely wanna check out Parallel Kingdom. And basically, it’s sort of that you’re in a medieval time period and what you need to do is exercise or walk, and as you discover places, they are placed into your game environment. And you end up becoming involved in this bigger kingdom, and you end up seeing different creatures. And all the while, it’s tracking your activity to help that happen.

14:19 JR: So, if you can imagine you’ve got a student who maybe isn’t as excited about activity, this is a way to maybe leverage them into that. So, not just are they exercising, they’re now exercising and discovering this kingdom that goes with it and having to battle different creatures they come across in their game because of the sheer fact that they ventured out and completed the activity. Now, you don’t have to actually be outside and active to play the game, but it is recommended because it’s one of the first ever real world adventure games where you sort of have to work with friends and really experience and venture out into the world to make it happen. So, I highly recommend doing it. There are over 2,000,000 players playing it. So, it says a lot about the actual game itself. And if you like that sort of concept of real world adventure, then they’ve got another game called Parallel Mafia, which is the same sort of concept, but you have to walk around in a futuristic world. We know chaos, and corruption, and everything, and you have to try and take back different land and own the city that you eventually are exploring.

15:43 JR: So, I highly recommend checking those out and definitely something that sort of bridges the gap between physical activity in games and does it in a real immersive way. Now, outside of the whole gaming experience, there are a couple of GPS-ed opportunities that exist if you’re teaching in the senior physical education areas or any sort of exercise science-based areas that enable you to use devices to capture data about how fast people are moving and, therefore, in turn be able to use it to teach exercise concepts. Now, the first I’m gonna talk about is the app, RunKeeper.

16:25 JR: Now, RunKeeper is one of… Honestly, the first ever apps I downloaded. And I still remember getting my first ever iPhone and literally I think the first thing I searched for was RunKeeper. And it’s still available completely for free, and there’s things in there that you can pay for. But, essentially, what you do is you press start on your run and the app will track how far you’ve ran. It will track the speed that you’re running at your current pace. It will track the elevation changes and lots of different other things that help you sort of record your physical activity journey. So, whether you’re running or walking or going on a hike or skiing, it’s sort of completely up to you.

17:16 JR: Now, you end up having this complete diary of this sort of experiences that you’ve done and can head back through and see how you’ve progressed. And inside the app, it will also help coach you towards reaching whatever goals that you’re looking at. So, for me, this has been really useful whenever we’ve had students completing some sort of training program where they need to record their activity, and they need to do so. This is made automatic and it sort of helped them see their progress with real data.

17:50 JR: Now, outside of the RunKeeper scenario, I mean the GPS aspect, sorry. You can connect it to a Polar H7 heart rate monitor, and which are available quite cheaply, thepegeek.com/polar, and then you’ve got GPS data matched up with heart rate data. So, if you’re showcasing that students’ heart rate rises as the elevation changes, and you now talk about the physiological concepts around that. You can do all of those sorts of things, and I mean, I have. We’ve had students in our senior classes using RunKeeper and Polar heart rate monitors when conducting fitness tests and sort of getting this really interesting data that we can explore and dive into.

18:36 JR: Now, one of the first apps that I personally ever built was GPS-based as well. And seeing how successful RunKeeper was, I decided to built an app called, “The 12-Minute Fitness Test”. And it’s available completely for free on iPhone. And what it lets you do is conduct the Cooper’s test, using just your iPhone. Essentially, you place the phone in your pocket, you press start on the application, and you run for 12 minutes. At the end of 12 minutes, it will stop, and it will tell you how far you’ve run and then conversely tell you how fit you happen to be. So, I highly recommend checking out the 12-minute fitness test app. Like I said, it’s available completely for free, and I think it’s definitely something that you can find quite valuable.

19:35 JR: And the last thing I wanted to mention is not something that is necessarily affordable for most schools, but it is something that I know people have emailed me about in the past. Whenever they’re doing something around the lines of high level senior physical education, and they ask me about different ways that you can track student activity during game play. And you might recommend the people use like a GPS watch, like a Garmin, or something like that and they wear it and they play the game, and then you can see where they’ve gone and how much distance they’ve covered. But more recently, I’m now recommending that people go and explore the Polar Team Pro System. Now, you would have heard me talk about the Polar Team app in the years gone by and how you can use it to track multiple heart rates in sort of one fell swoop.

20:32 JR: So, there’s been lots of teachers implementing Polar Team in their classroom to track every student’s heart rates happening all at one time. However, Polar Team Pro takes this further because what they now have is a Polar Team Heart Rate System that also combines GPS and accelerometers to make it possible to track every sort of facilitative information that you would want if you were a coach, and you were trying to work out where players were on the field, how far they were travelling, the sort of speeds they were at, and everything in between.

21:10 JR: And the whole premise is that the more data you can collect, the more meaningful you can be about player choice and selection, and all those sorts of aspects. So, if you’re a coach of a team, this is the sort of information that you might like, but if you’re in senior physical education classes, like I happen to teach where you wanna talk about energy systems and contribution of different energy systems to activity, then you’re gonna need data. And the most easiest way to collect that now is with a system like the Polar Team Pro setup where, literally, you put on a heart rate monitor around the chest so it’s appropriate for senior students, obviously, and pick up an iPad and then your players head off into the distance and they’re left to be trackable, which is quite exciting, amazing sort of data that you can use for answering questions or diving deep into exercise concepts.

22:10 JR: And that brings us to the end of our episode focusing in on the powers of GPS in the physical education space, and I certainly hope that you’ve found something in there useful whether it was creating or in immersive GPS experience with ARIS and Clickaloo, which I think is achievable with anyone or whether you’re going in the line of sort of maybe playing an immersive GPS-based game for your own health and fitness, and then sort of sharing that to students in their own time.

22:41 JR: So, that they… It’s not something a classroom based activity, but more of a personal activity that they do in their outside hours or whether you’re interested in using GPS to get some really deep scientific data for some of the senior physiological concepts. There’s lots of opportunity, but the important things is that obviously you don’t try and do everything and just pick one or two things, and see how much valuable insight they can bring into your class, whether it’s through engagement or through data.

23:13 JR: As always, full notes and resources and episode transcripts are available for you at the thepegeek.com/48, and then tune next time, keep learning, and I look forward to coming back to you with some pretty exciting episodes including our very, very unique episode 50 in about a month’s time. Okay, speak soon. See you later.



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