5 Ways Technology is Being Used in Phys Ed

phys ed
(Image credit: Image by Firmbee from Pixabay)

Phys ed teachers and students are giving new meaning to the term “screen time.” 

Technology is increasingly being utilized as part of physical education classes, just as with any other subject, says David Daum, a professor of kinesiology at San Jose State University. 

Daum shares five ways in which phys ed teachers are utilizing technology to help kids be more active and ultimately healthier and happier. 

1. Heart Rate Monitors 

Heart rate monitors that are now readily available provide an opportunity for phys ed teachers to teach students about exercise science. “They're really teaching students about their bodies and how hard they’re actually working,” says Daum, who is also the education specialist for HiveClass, a mobile platform that encourages kids to engage in physical activity with videos and other instructional materials. 

Daum adds the devices can help students track aerobic vs. anaerobic exercise, and the differences between the two.   

2. Videos That Help Students Improve Form 

Professional athletes have long analyzed videos to optimize performance, and increasingly, more and more students are utilizing video in a similar, if somewhat scaled back, manner. 

“I've seen a lot more use of video, especially among high schoolers [who are] using cell phones to record each other to analyze their movement,” Daum says. “If we were partners, I would record you doing the badminton serve or something like that, then we would use a rubric and we'd evaluate our movement and provide feedback to each other.” 

3. Videos That Teach New Skills and Exercises 

Short instructional videos provide lots of opportunities for educators to get students up and moving, including demonstrations of sports and activities as well as providing advice for improving specific athletic skills and techniques. However, many of the free resources available on YouTube and elsewhere suffer from poor quality.  

Part of what drew Daum to work with HiveClass was that he wanted to help create more age-appropriate, standards-aligned phys ed videos that educators could utilize for classrooms. 

4. Promoting Accessibility  

Video can also be a great way to inspire phys ed students from diverse cultures with diverse abilities and levels of fitness. 

At HiveClass, Daum has helped advise the company to offer videos that feature students of different cultures, nationalities, body types, shapes, sizes, and abilities. Representation and modeling matters. 

“When you get children performing the skill, it's relatable,” he says. “It's like, 'Oh, they can do it. I can do it.' I talk about that in my classes when I'm teaching people how to be teachers. You can demonstrate, yes, of course, but it  seems more achievable, especially for younger students, when they can see a peer do it.” 

5. Increasing Student Choice  

High-quality instructional materials that are available online can better help teachers incorporate student choice into their classes. “We know that students value being able to make decisions about their own learning,” Daum says. 

However, this isn’t always feasible for many phys ed instructors. “When a teacher is teaching 45 students or 60 students, it makes it logistically difficult for them to do certain things, especially around the idea of choice,” he says. 

Resources such as HiveClass make incorporating choices doable. For example, students can be broken into groups and told to watch an instructional video focusing on one skill or exercise while the teacher roams between groups to provide additional instruction. 

Ultimately, Daum says that increasing the quality of a school’s phys ed offerings can boost students’ ability to focus as well as their mental health. 

“Physical education is for a lot of students the only physical activity they get in the school day,” Daum says. “It is the only subject area that has the potential to impact an entire school culture.” 

Erik Ofgang

Erik Ofgang is a Tech & Learning contributor. A journalist, author and educator, his work has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Smithsonian, The Atlantic, and Associated Press. He currently teaches at Western Connecticut State University’s MFA program. While a staff writer at Connecticut Magazine he won a Society of Professional Journalism Award for his education reporting. He is interested in how humans learn and how technology can make that more effective.