Fit for purpose: the top five apps for PE teachers

From an app for flying sprints to one for slow motion videos, physical education teachers share their favourite apps to use in lessons

  • Technology doesn’t have to be the arch enemy of physical activity 

    6f67b268-ebba-4609-b859-129003880f4c-620x372Want to get your charges sprinting like Usain Bolt, mastering their backhand or learning the basics of rugby? There’s an app for that – or more accurately, various apps.

    Physical education (PE) teachers are getting seriously savvy when it comes to using these digital tools in class. We asked our community to tell us about their favourite apps for getting students up and running (quite literally) in PE lessons. Many of these are free to download, although some cost a small fee.

    If you know of another handy app share your other suggestions in the comments thread below or via @GuardianTeach.

20e88fa0-6b02-4424-83d6-8d342bfbad5c-bestSizeAvailableFitnessmeter

iOS, £1.49

This measures flying sprints (sprints where you gradually build up your speed), sprint and shuttle exercises (short runs between markers) and vertical jumps. It can also be used to count repetitive exercises such as sit-ups.

The camera on the app measures the top speed or acceleration of a sprinter doing flying sprints. With sprint and shuttle exercises, the app acts as a starting gun and timing gate, and you can record a short video to measure the height of vertical jumps.

Jon Neale, PE teacher and EdTech practitioner at The Mountbatten school in Hampshire, says it’s useful to show students videos of themselves jumping, for example, so they can see where they are going wrong. It’s a great way to get students’ attention and encourage them to talk about their performance.

One change Neale would like is for the app to look at variety of different components of fitness. “There could be something that measures reaction time, so how long it takes a student to leave the blocks after the whistle,” he says.

When using it, Neale recommends switching on “guided access” on your device so the iPad is locked and students can’t surf the web or take selfies when they should be working.

c01ea33a-69ca-4c6b-a54e-adba8aee3241-bestSizeAvailableEdmodo

iOS/Android, free

This website and app is an online space for teachers and students to interact. “It’s like the education version of Facebook,” says former teacher Mat Pullen, who now works for Aspire2Be, training teachers on the use of technology in class. “You post things on the wall for students to discuss. You can also get students to submit coursework via Edmodo.”

Pullen says PE teachers can use it to post footage of students playing sport with the question “what can be improved?” This lets the class instantly react and assess each others’ work.

The only challenge with this app, Pullen says, is the “social” aspect. Students need strict guidelines of what is and isn’t appropriate to comment and post. However, he says the app itself operates seamlessly.

He advises posting a video on Edmodo ahead of a PE lesson to get students interested. “A lot of my year 7 students had never played rugby before, so they might have had a pre-determined idea of what it would be like. I told them we were doing it next week and then posted a video of a rugby lesson and got them to comment on the skills needed for the game.”

f8f85e70-3e7f-4345-ab8e-fbd802e996c8-bestSizeAvailableUbersense

iOS/Android, free

This lets students video themselves playing a sport. Then they look back at the videos in slow motion, comparing their form with that of professionals or showing their teacher for feedback.

This “provides students with an opportunity to spot mistakes or highlight excellent practice”, says Stuart Manifould, curriculum leader of PE and sport at Manchester Enterprise Academy. Ubersense lets you place two videos side by side. Manifould likes this because, he says, the videos can be played simultaneously, letting students directly compare their techniques with each other.

Neale, who also recommends the app, says the only negative is that it comes with pre-set videos focused around golf, and it would be nice to have some on other sports.

de3fc421-0b2b-4602-a5a5-ce4309846e43-140x128Comic Life

iOS, £3.99

This turns images into a comic strip and is useful for creating how-to guides, posters, handouts and eye-catching resources.

Sean Perrotton, head of PE at St Thomas More High school in Westcliff-on-Sea, says the app has been an instant hit with staff and students alike. It’s also a great way to engage students who cannot participate physically in PE because of injury or illness.

“My main tip with this app is to let students be creative. As long as they are clear on what they need to capture, let them implement their own designs,” Perrotton says. The only challenge he found is that students can sometimes get carried away with designing the comic strip and lose focus on lesson objectives.

d370919f-179b-49ab-bb88-d76324e3f3f0-140x132Skitch

Mac, free

This app is simple: you take a picture that you can then annotate, adding arrows and text. It’s a fun way to communicate an idea and share feedback based on the image.

In PE you can use the app to take a photo of a child getting ready to hit a ball and then get students to analyse the picture. They can add arrow and text comments, such as whether posture is wrong or right.

He adds that it’s a good way for students to see what they are doing right or wrong. “The app has been upgraded in the past 18 months which means more tools are now available and it’s really improved it. You could give 99% of 10-year-olds the app to use and they’d get it in four to five minutes,” Neale says.

Neale adds that the only tip he would offer is to keep it simple. “If you take a picture that then needs to be annotated make sure it’s not a busy shot, for example a full football pitch, as this means there’s less space to analyse”.

 

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