Physical Education

I recently watched a PE lesson that was the final grading of students doing triple jump. There were 28 students standing around whilst 1 did the jump. The PE teacher stood next to the pit with a clipboard and a tick box assessment sheet that he rapidly ticked as the student jumped. As the student left the pit he gave them their sheet as well as the initial assessment sheet when they first from six weeks before so they could see their progress.

When I interviewed the students they really had little idea of what a good triple jump looked like and even less about what they needed to do to improve or how they had improved  This is not a criticism of the teacher, it is a problem inherent in an activity where without technology you can only give verbal feedback to a practical movement that is over in a matter of seconds and the student cant see for themselves what is happening. How can we transform PE and take it to new levels for improving and tracking performance as well as our understanding how the laws of physics can be applied to analyse everything we do.

Technology has had little impact on teaching PE in the past. Interactive whiteboards can do some clever things but how many teachers use them to their full potential?  In looking at the SAMR model very little reaches the redefinition level



Video cameras improved the ability to offer valuable feedback but were bulky, had limited battery life and finding relevant bits on the tape severely limited their practical use. I remember being so excited the first time I saw the original  Dartfish in operation. This was technology that could in theory revolutionise practice, but in reality was such a pain to set up, use, download and analyse –  A quick cost-benefit analysis showed the negatives outweighed the positives.

Smaller better video cameras in phones / tablets and GoPros are revolutionising feedback allowing instant playback, editing and exports, These allow us unparalleled opportunities to improve the performance of our students  free from the shackles of wifi. When I used a waterproof camera to help teach rolling in a kayak, allowing the students to see what they were doing and correct errors, it halved the time it took them to learn.

Technology can be used to improve performance, track progress and also to create Personal Learning Networks so you are no longer working alone but are part of a collaborative global team sharing ideas and resources

A very simple idea to transform learning

Delay apps (VideoDelay )  that simply play back a video at a set time (for example 10 seconds)  after the event allow students to see themselves performing activities and get instant feedback from the teacher.  A tripod stand can be purchased cheaply hence a tiny effort from the teacher can have a huge impact on the learning – technology that really adds to learning. One thing to consider though is that these apps do not record so there is no evidence of your feedback. 

A video delay app

Video editing

The next stage is to use a video editing app such as iMovie. Its important that students do not submit unedited videos to you otherwise you will spend hours trawling through tedious clips of them goofing about. iMovie allows editing, voiceovers, sound effects , slow motion, subtitling and more. It truly is a stunning app. It also allows very polished trailers to be produced with little effort. Ideal for sports tours or events. 

The latest IOS8 update also allows you to split screen or  embed a video within another one  a useful tutorial is here 


Many schools have set up their own YouTube accounts either public or private. Youtube now has online tools for editing , deleting parts of video, enhancements etc, but also annotations – students can add speech bubbles and also subtitles

The next level up is to compare and annotate performance

Comparison apps such as Coaches Eye, Ubersense and Coach My Video allow us to show a student instantly how they compare to their peers or an elite performer with sophisticated measuring tools and frame by frame playback. An iPhone 6 plus has superb slow video capabilities and may be the best compromise between size and power. I still find Apple devices have the edge for video production and iMovie is a killer app.  Possibly more importantly these work effectively and easily on most mobile devices. Students can now get instant feedback, can evaluate themselves and their peers.

Tracking Progress

It can be massively inefficient having to open lots of youtube links or open videos on your camera roll. Apps such as Showbie are ideal for creating a true Assessment for Learning system where the student can upload a video, you can comment and mark it and then they can respond to your marking. A true dialogue between you and your students and perfect for showing progression

Apps like iDoceo 3 allow you to take a register, mark students as late/medical notes/ non participants etc but also now allows you to add videos of them or you recording audio notes – Check out the link here


This is a must. Ideal for rapid communication with parents about fixtures  (and late changes) but more importantly joining the global community of PE teachers. The problem is finding useful people to follow. If you find @natkin on twitter and look at my lists there is a PE tweachers list who are the ones I’d recommend you follow. Not shown on the picture, but on the list is the fabulous Mr Robbo the PEgeek 

pe twitter


Create your own Digital filing cabinet of resources by capturing and storing what is already out there.

You can steal mine here

Adding Literacy to PE

Apps such as Wordfoto (tagxedo on a computer )  allow students to create images made up of words or Tag Cloud (Wordle on a computer ) which allows them to create word clouds . The larger  the word the more often it came up which allows you to analyse the vocabulary

wordfoto tennis

There is a great link here for more ideas

Adding Numeracy to PE

A nice app to do this is Dartfish Easy Tag . This allows you to set up panels that can be customised so that when you tap it it records an event such as a pass in rugby, a dropped pass, moving forward etc. This sends an email with all the data to be analysed – so matches can be compared . Individual players performance assessed etc.


Going back to the Triple Jump PE lesson at the start of this blog – How could we transform that lesson using technology?

The Science behind sport (This is different to sports science!)

Can you answer these questions?

How can you throw a ball further without throwing it harder?

Why when you kick a football does it go much further if its rolling slowly  towards you than if its static?

Why do surfers need to paddle to catch a wave?

What does a tablecloth pull have to do with tennis?

How can you bend a ball like Beckham?

Why do rugby players spin the ball when they throw it?

Why does an ice skater speed up when they put their arms in?

Having recently finished a project with Arsenal for the Institute of Physics which will be presented at the Association of Science Educators International Conference in January and having developed  the science of surfing  and slacklining its time to take these ideas into the mainstream.

All sports performers are scientists, they understand the nature of physics and how forces affect motion. What few of them can do is explain why what they do works in standardised form that others can understand.

Enter the physicist, but with a different approach. Instead of starting from first principles about forces I take what you know works and enable you to understand how it relates to the real world.

Learning a new skill such as a new skateboard trick follows a scientific method

Plan what you want to do

Research it

Risk assess possible injuries (normally done very badly)

Try it out

Evaluate what you have done with feedback from others

This is often the purest science that goes on in schools with science lessons being about how to pass exams rather than any real discovery.

Once students can understand scientific processes and how they relate to sport they can start applying them to all areas and hence improve performance. If you get centre of mass then in football you can tackle stronger, turn faster and jump higher and for longer.

If you understand that the longer a force is in contact with an object the greater the change in motion of that object (impulse) – hence why we follow through when hitting or kicking objects – then we can understand how to hit and kick more effectively.

If we also understand that 45 degrees is about the optimum angle to give maximum range then we can throw and kick further without hitting or kicking harder.

Combining impulse and understanding range we can then understand why when there is a back wind we kick above 45 degrees as this increases the time the ball is in the air, hence the force acts for longer so has a bigger change on the balls motion. If there is a headwind …. ?

When we can understand why we throw/ hit / kick and tackle the way we do, then we are on course for a lifetime of having the tools needed to constantly review and improve.

Science also has a part to play in looking at every aspect of sport.  Gymnastics is pure applied physics, understanding the principles and the moves start to make more sense. How many teachers really understand why a rotating ice skater speeds up when they pull their arms closer to their body

We can prepare our students to answer the questions – using terms like “they reduce their moment of inertia” – but what does that really mean? If they don’t know they have no chance of using the concepts to help them elsewhere.

I will be organising a series of conference workshops to deliver the Technology and the Science aspects if you are interested on being on the mailing list please contact me using the email link at the top of this page 

Please feel free to add more ideas/links etc using the comments below

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