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Technology Jump Starts
The New Phys Ed

Dodge ball and out-of-shape, whistle-blowing physical education teachers are becoming mere memories as PE teachers focus on using technology to enhance the health of individual students, according to a major survey. Included: Tips for using technology in PE classes.

As in almost every other subject area, physical education teachers are taking advantage of technology, which is reshaping programs, goals, and communication with parents and administration, according to Physical Education Trends in Our Nations Schools: A Survey of Practicing K-12 Physical Education Teachers. The survey was conducted by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE). A total of 1,164 K-12 PE teachers completed the survey between May 28 and June 15, 2009.

Cheryl Richardson, senior program manager for physical education for NASPE, talked with Education World about the survey results and how PE programs have changed and are changing.

Cheryl Richardson

Education World: What, if anything, was surprising about the survey results?

Cheryl Richardson: The survey revealed some surprising results. One that stands out significantly is the poor degree to which physical education programs are funded. Most PE programs are allocated less than $2 per student and rely on outside funding through the parent-teacher organization (PTO) and grant programs, among others, to provide additional opportunities for students.

Specifically, the survey found that, for more than 60 percent of PE programs, annual funding is under $1,000. Additionally, 34 percent of programs rely on funding through the PTO/PTA and 28 percent rely on funding from grant programs.

EW: How does the use of technology motivate students in physical education classes?

Richardson: Technology, such as heart rate monitors, are great motivators because of the instant feedback that students receive. For example, students can view their heart rates and know if theyre exercising at a level to improve their overall health and fitness.

"Most physical education programs are allocated less than $2 per student.
The use of technology also individualizes physical education, allowing each student to be challenged appropriately. For example, if the purpose of the lesson is to exercise within an individuals target heart zone for 20 minutes, a student with a high level of fitness might need to run in order to achieve that, while a student with a low level of fitness could exercise at the same intensity by walking.

EW: What kinds of technologies are being used in PE classes?

Richardson: Physical education teachers are incorporating a variety of technologies into classroom instruction. According to the survey, 70 percent of PE programs use pedometers; 51 percent use such fitness assessment tools as TriFit, a system that allows teachers to analyze individual student health and fitness; 39 percent use heart rate monitors; and 32 percent use such exer-games as Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Fit.

EW: How can PE teachers use the data obtained through technology in their classes?

Richardson: Data obtained through the use of certain technologies such as heart rate monitors and fitness assessment tools in physical education can be used by PE teachers in a variety of ways.

Specifically, PE teachers are able to collect valid, reliable data and monitor student fitness progress on a daily and yearly basis. Teachers also can use the data to provide students and their parents with charts and graphs, illustrating their effort -- and their improvements -- in PE class. Additionally, the data collected helps teachers meet school and state PE requirements.

The survey also revealed interesting ways in which technology helps enhance PE: For example, 59 percent of teachers said technology enhances communication with school and district administrators about student performance and achievement. In addition, 60 percent of teachers said technology provides data for assessment and grading. Nearly two-thirds cite technology as enhancing their physical education program as a function of its ability to enhance teacher/parent communication.

EW: How should the survey results be used in teacher preparation programs?

Richardson: Graduates of PE teacher-preparation programs need the skills and knowledge to utilize technology effectively. That means they need to have:

  • knowledge of the benefits of using technology as an instructional and communication tool.
  • achieved competence in using technology appropriately and effectively within the physical education classroom.
  • the skills and knowledge to effectively use the data collected to drive decision-making within their curriculum and instruction.

The survey found that approximately two-thirds of middle and high school physical education teachers cite health-related fitness as the primary focus of their programs.
Additionally, pre-professional teachers need skills in grant writing as a means to support innovative physical education programs. They also need to understand the value of advocating for their PE programs, and the importantce of effective communication with their building principal and parents.

EW:What are some of the major trends in physical education today?

Richardson: A major trend in physical education today is that health-related fitness is the primary focus of the majority of PE programs. In fact, the survey found that approximately two-thirds of middle and high school physical education teachers cite health-related fitness as the primary focus of their programs.

Additionally, school budgets for PE remain low -- but stable. Although annual funding for more than 60 percent of PE programs is under $1,000, most programs budgets have remained the same in recent years. In fact, 45 percent of teachers surveyed said their budgets have remained about the same since 2006.

Another major trend the survey uncovered is that an increasing number of PE programs are offering a wide variety of diverse, lifetime activities, including dance (70 percent), disc sports (69 percent), Frisbee golf and tennis (56 percent), lacrosse (31 percent), yoga (28 percent), and rock wall climbing (22 percent).

The use of technology for enhancing communication, instruction, and assessment is also a widespread trend. In fact, more than half the teachers surveyed said technology enhances their physical education programs by

  • providing data for assessment and grading.
  • enhancing instruction.
  • enhancing communication with school and district administrators about student performance and achievement.
  • increasing student motivation.

This e-interview with Cheryl Richardson is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.


Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
Copyright © 2010 Education World

Published 03/30/2010