Saturday, 11 January 2014

Technology in Gymnastics

Our grade 2/3 classes are part of the school's iPad pilot project. This means each class has 6 iPads, which they are able to bring with them to PE class. This post is a reflection on how I used them to enhance our gymnastics lessons.

The gymnastics lessons we offer are very different from the ones I took part in at school, where we all lined up and practiced the same skill at the same time. We offer a more student centered approach where different skills are introduced and the students practice them, but they get a great deal of choice of which skills it is they want to work on each lesson. Students also got to choose the direction the unit takes, as they request which skills they would like to develop in future lessons. This can be challenging for the teacher when there are lots of stations set up. During one lesson, someone came into the class and commented that there were 13 different activities taking place, in fact over the course of the lesson I think there were more, but hey they were impressed with the differentiation!  We are fortunate in that we have teaching assistants with us in every class, who are able to look after activities which might require spotting or helping students who need extra help, but I still feel we could improve the learning if we could offer more feedback to the students - cue drum roll as the iPads enter stage!

First up were QR Codes that linked to videos of different gym skills, such as various jumps and rolls. I made the videos, featured some grade 4/5 students performing the different skills using iMovies in advance of the unit. The students both loved performing for the camera and watching students they know perform the skills that they had to do. Thinking ahead to when we have more iPads in school, this could be an assessment task - produce a set of videos demonstrating you performing the gymnastic skills that you had developed, but that's next year!

Using the QR codes the students were in their group able to choose a skill that they wanted to work on, watch the video demonstration as many times as they wanted, perform the skill and comment on each other's performance, using the video as their reference point.

The next stage, which some of the students went to without being prompted, was to then video their friends using Ubersense, then replay the video in slow motion to help them provide feedback. The feedback was based on prompts given in the videos and teaching points that I had suggested they look for. We also experimented with playing the recording of the students along side the QR Code video in Ubersense, but I decided not to push this too much, as I felt the benefits were not justified considering how long it took to set up. This is something I will return too when the students are more familiar with the iPads.

I also used the iPads to help assess students and collect work for their portfolios using google forms, autocrat script and I will write about this in a separate post.

The feedback from the students using these tools was overwhelming positive, with them able to articulate how the iPad had helped them in learning the skills, as they were able to see what they were doing. From a teacher point of view, the students were receiving a great deal more feedback than previously and it was great to watch the students put up an iPad, choose a skill, watch the video, then try to perform it, before then watching themselves performing, with a friend slowing the action down and suggesting what was good and what could be better. There are plenty of studies which illustrate the effectiveness of peer feedback in skill acquisition. It is also is facilitating the development of higher order thinking skills as the students were having to evaluate and provide constructive criticism to their peers.

Of course it was not all plan sailing. We had issues of bandwidth and wifi strength issues, especially if you were in the wrong side of the court and on some days it did just not work at all and we relied on teaching points on last year's paper handouts. It would have ideal to have all the videos downloaded onto the iPads, and I would have done thus if they were PE department iPads  that we got to use and maintain everyday. We were also lucky to get six working iPads each lesson, and we had to manage which students had access to iPads, as the more tech savvy students often dominated.

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