Recently, Education World sat down with Mark Manross, the Executive Director and Cofounder of PECentral.org. PE Central is considered to be the premier website for physical educators. The redesigned site should both please existing users and draw more people to the destination to look for lesson plans, bulletin board ideas, assessment ideas, classroom management tips, professional development opportunities and more. We learned about what the site offers today and how the site originated by speaking with Mark.
EW: That is great news that PECentral.org* has been redesigned! What will visitors have to look forward to when they come to the site now?
MM: Thanks! We are very excited about the new look of our site! Visitors can look forward to a colorful, vibrant, and more focused and organized site. Our most popular items are featured right up front in a more visual manner, making it easier for teachers to get to what they want and need—our lesson ideas, assessment ideas, and bulletin boards. Ultimately we think our audience will have a better user experience because of the new design. We are also excited that the site is now mobile friendly so our audience can easily access our content on their mobile devices. This new site is a marked improvement over our previous design. We want to extend our sincere thanks to our friends at S&S Worldwide for their vision and leadership with this redesign.
EW: What is the biggest improvement to the site in your opinion?
MM: The biggest improvement was made in uncluttering the site so visitors can more easily find their favorite lessons, bulletin boards and assessment ideas. All of these are now featured right up front using attractive graphics so less clicks to get to the “good stuff”! Also, our search function has been improved and is located at the top of every page so visitors can easily search and find the resources and lesson ideas they are looking for within seconds. Additionally, the lesson ideas have a much cleaner look so teachers can more easily read them and share them with others with additional social media tools. Teachers can also download each lesson in a print-friendly PDF file.
EW:What feedback have you received about the redesigned PE Central?
MM: The reaction to the redesign has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are three comments from visitors that represent the positive feedback we have received.
“Wow! This is awesome! Very clean looking, very professional, very easy to navigate around. Overall it's fantastic!”
“The new site is amazing! It is well organized and forward thinking! Love the new look and style--feels modern and not so cluttered!”
“INVITING and ORGANIZED were the first two things that come to mind when seeing the new website! The colorful first page is easy to understand how to navigate; and, shows all the GREAT resources PE Central has to offer! EXCITING!”
EW: Do you work on PE Central with a team? Who assisted you with this website redesign? Tell me more.
MM: Yes, I do. I work with a wonderful team of volunteer Managing Editors and Advisory board members who are all K-12 physical educators and university professors! We have 20 Managing Editors and about 100 advisory board members who review and oversee the content that is published on our site. On a daily basis, I work closely with my friends at S&S Worldwide, who assist with the everyday operations of the site and they help with all of the social media that is now so important to any organization. Lastly, I consider all of the health and physical education teachers who submit their ideas to our site as a vital part of the PE Central Team. Without them we would not have all of the great content and lessons to share with the world. These days a website has to stay fresh and vital with new ideas and content and our visitors do a wonderful job of sharing and contributing new ideas to the site. I am blessed to work with some wonderful people.
EW: Please share some of the history of PE Central for people who might not know about the site.
MM: PE Central began back in 1995 as part of a doctoral seminar taught by Dr. George Graham at Virginia Tech. There were ten doctoral students sitting around a conference table and Dr. Graham asked us to come up with an idea that we are going to work on for the rest of the year. He strongly suggested that we do something that involves the “Internet”. We brainstormed and one of the 15 ideas we came up with was to build a website that housed free lessons and assessments for K-12 physical education teachers. After we voted, that particular idea was not chosen so we did another Internet project. I visited Dr. Graham’s office later in the semester and told him I would like to take on building the resource website—PE Central-- on my own. I taught myself HTML and we (after a few months I asked Todd Pennington and Eloise Elliott to help and they agreed!) started to put up lessons and assessments that we created. The site debuted on the Internet on August 26, 1996 and it contained 50 physical education lesson and assessment ideas. We built a submission form so teachers could submit their ideas and we put those up by hand! We now have over 3000 ideas on the site and I still have a job! It has been a great adventure and we are so proud of what PE Central has become. It has been a labor of love for everyone involved since it began back in 1995.
EW: I know you get contributions from Physical Education professionals across the country. Can you share some of the guidelines for submitting content?
MM: Sure, our submission process is pretty simple and we welcome contributions from teachers all over the world. The guidelines are that the idea submitted has to be original (not published in another resource) and it has to be developmentally and instructionally appropriate as defined by SHAPE America standards. Every idea is reviewed by our advisory team and, in addition to being developmentally appropriate, it cannot be a duplicate of an already published submission on PE Central. We have a 70% rejection rate. The submission and review process is entirely done online and we shoot to get acceptance or rejection notifications to submitters within 4-6 weeks.
We are always on the lookout for innovative ideas that we think other teachers might find beneficial. They don’t have to be huge or monumental ideas or full lesson plans. We especially like the smaller ideas like fun ways to line up kids at the end of a class, sneaky and effective ways to get kids to wear sneakers to class or just a great lesson idea to help children learn to better step with their opposite foot when throwing a ball.
EW: How many users do you have?
MM: During the busy months (August-November, January-April) the site usually averages about 150,000 unique visitors per month. Our newsletter has approximately 24,000 subscribers and we have 10,700 Twitter followers and 2,800 Facebook members. More importantly we receive so many positive comments about our site when we are at conferences or via email/social media and that keeps us going! We love what we are doing and we hope to continue for a long time.
EW: What are your next goals for PE Central that you'd like to share with our readers?
MM: Our primary goal, now that the site redesign is done, is to start designing and offering quality online and onsite professional development courses and workshops for physical education teachers. We are very excited about the new online e-courses we are developing for teachers who are interested in earning recertification points towards their license renewal. In addition, we are designing innovative and appealing face-to-face onsite workshops so look for details about those soon!
EW: Explain more about your organization's partnership with Lets Move! Active Schools.
MM: Along with our friends at S&S Worldwide we are excited to help spread the word about the good work that Lets Move! Active Schools are doing. Basically we are urging more teachers to sign up to pledge to be schools that are becoming more physically active whether that is during physical education, at recess, or before or after school. We believe in what Lets Move! Active Schools are doing and we are helping them spread the word!
Remember to visit PECentral.org for weekly updates!
*PE Central is part of The Educator's Network along with Education World.
Article by Corrie Kerr, Education World Editor
Copyright © 2015 Education World