Integrating ICT in Physical Education

Physical education

Lets start with basic fundamentals – physical education in schools doesn’t just exist to provide some light relief from the tedium of boring learning, or to burn off some energy so that children can concentrate better in their academics or because one in a million children might, by chance, turn out to be the next sports superstar who goes on to become mega-wealthy as a result. Neither is it a pursuit that provides opportunities for Principals to accumulate trophies etc. in a cabinet as part of the credentials of a “good school.”

The reason i say all of that is because in too many places when you walk in to schools and spend some time there, you could be mistaken for believing one or all of these things. For example, if physical education were an integral part of the holistic learning of the pupil wouldn’t we see;

a) PE being taught (or at least co-taught) by children’s class teacher in elementary/ primary schools (as the adult in the school with the best knowledge of the needs, requirements, strengths and weaknesses of each child?
b) PE teachers as part of all professional development and training that relates to pedagogy, child psychology etc.?

And, as a bonus …………………….
c) Wouldn’t we see ICT integrated in to PE as part of a cross-curricular learning approach that seeks to connect the learnings from different subjects to develop understanding of an integrated ‘joined up’ world?

I’ve advocated for the integration and use of ICT equipment and skills in PE for a long time. To be fair, I have met a handful of physical education teachers who really understood and were genuinely enthusiastic to experiment with such integration. However, these were too few and far between and often had to work in isolation – begging or borrowing equipment when others in schools often believed they already had more than adequate budgets for ‘stuff.’

Here’s a recent article that may, I hope, inspire more PE teachers to strike out and try things, experiment and hopefully with the full endorsement and encouragement of colleagues and school leadership;

The Hechinger Report – How technology in Physical Education Classes Can Help

 

Biased Teachers

unconscious bias

Teachers are human. All humans are prone to unconscious biases, therefore teachers too are subject to unconscious biases. However, it’s not advisable to ever go in front of an audience of teachers and say this – I know, I’ve tried it! My argument has always been that people are only victims and weakened by their unconscious biases if they remain completely blind to them. The more that even the possibility of biases is brought in to consciousness, the greater the chances that teachers will overcome them, counteract them and render them powerless.

This was the subject of a post I wrote on this blog post three years ago;

Blog Post – Teacher Reflection Guards Against Unconscious Biases and Prejudices

With this in mind, i was very interested to see two interesting articles within the last week from different sources. The first comes from the British Psychological Society and raises the touchy issue of teacher bias against children who are overweight:

British Psychological Society – Teachers Show Biases Against Overweight Kids, Including Giving Them Lower Grades

The second article comes from the Washington Post, sharing results and data from research carried out in the UK and the US. This research concluded that without a doubt better looking children performed better and achieved to higher levels in school than less good looking children.

Washington Post – Good Looking Kids Do Better in School

Whilst the article suggests that more research is needed to figure out all the reasons for this advantage, I can’t help suspecting that again unconscious biases of teachers (and other pupils in the classroom) are playing a big part.

All of this could make unnerving reading for teachers. So many educators have chosen their profession with ideological desires to do good, to give children opportunities and qualities such as fairness and equity figure high in their priorities. So, to discover the evidence that unconscious biases are causing better or worse experiences and prospects for children sits uncomfortably. However, as i said before, I don’t believe this gets addressed by putting our heads in the sand. Awareness, vigilance, self reflection and mindfulness all have the potential to unearth the potential for such unconscious biases and prevent them.

Mindful educators can be better educators.

 

The World We’re Educating For…..

…… or rather, the world we should be educating for, but aren’t because we’re dithering and having endless discussions about whether new ideas in education can statistically be proven to raise particular arbitrary educational markers/ scores (in other words, those who want to block change and progress choose the outcome to be measured and then condemn the change because it doesn’t move the marker they chose adequately!

And, in the meantime, while educators sit around debating these things the world is changing at a pace that is getting faster and faster. Don’t believe me, or think I’m being sensationalist? I would ask you to check out the following two videos – recent documentaries.

Particularly, the first comes from The Economist – hardly an organisation that can be condemned for overblown lack of realism. it looks at the future of work.

And the second, looks at some of the latest developments happening in robotics, Artificial intelligence, machine learning and the move in to a new digital age. There have been false dawns in many of these areas before. Writers and commentators first started to really talk about the implications of technology and the changed life as we develop ‘intelligent systems’ in the 1950’s and 60’s. When little really materialised other than a few novelty products, people lost interest. Then, again, in the 90’s there was renewed interest, but again what materialised wasn’t life changing enough to seep in to most people’s consciousness.

However, this time, there’s more than enough evidence that things are very different. However, because of the history, vast proportions of people – especially in the developed countries – sit like the proverbial frogs in the pan of boiling water, oblivious to what’s happening around them.

More after the video ……………………..

As educators we have to acknowledge that this stuff is massive. In the short term we need to be preparing young people in vast numbers with the skills, resilience and self driven motivation to succeed in the gig economy, even though the gig economy may prove to have just been a stepping stone on the way to something way bigger.

Already, in developed countries there are politicians and other commentators prepared to begin to have hard conversations about what might need to happen to support people in a world where less people are needed to make everything happen. There are going to be vast numbers of people who will become ‘surplus to requirements’. Now the developed countries know that their history over the last 20-30 years as the de-industrialised (as industry moved more to developing countries) they didn’t do a good job of retraining people, helping them to reposition themselves to a changed society. This could be more severe in those countries if there is nothing new to reposition many of those people to.

As a result, some countries are already carrying out experiments in what they have chosen to call “universal income” or some other similar name. What it amounts to is harnessing the enormous revenues that will be generated by technology and using them to pay a standard minimum income to every citizen of the country (we can also see in these circumstances why some countries are getting particular now about who is in and who is out, i.e. immigration).

That might provide the solution in terms of making sure that people rendered workless (I think we need to stop using the word jobless) can at least feed themselves and manage the basic fundamentals of life. However, it doesn’t even begin to address issues of how all those people will adjust to infinite leisure (although i believe there’s a connection here to willingness to legalise cannabis in many countries), personal aspiration and ambition. In the context of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we would need to adjust to a vast proportion of populations for whom the upper parts of the hierarchy would be a no-go zone.

For educators, planners and others willing to look seriously at the future in developing countries there are potentially far bigger challenges and issues. Taking the example of India, there are certain types of jobs and work that have played the biggest part in lifting enormous numbers of people out of poverty. In turn, many of those areas of work have acted as gateways for some of the people to use their newfound skills and abilities to transition higher up the food chain to more higher-value-added work with higher earnings.

India still has enormous numbers living in poverty. There are still millions employed inefficciently in an agrarian sector that must modernise to be efficient and effective. At the same time the country still has a high birth rate and the high birth rate of the last 20 years sees vast numbers of youngsters (graduates and non graduates) becoming available for the workforce. However, what happens if vast numbers of them are simply not needed? I believe the current unemployment data in India is already showing the effects of jobs dwindling in areas like medical transcription, call centres, back office processing etc. As i said before, these types of jobs have been a significant engine for lifting large numbers in to the Indian middle class.

Plainly, if there is going to be a massive unemployment issue in the world, countries like India will not have the resources to be able to contemplate universal income. Worse, as the situation works through, the relatively small numbers who do have the high end skills and abilities in technical fields are likely to be enticed by selective immigration in to developed countries.

I’m not sure anyone yet has the answers to these issues. What concerns me most is that i’m not sure the issues are being discussed fully, transparently and openly. There are challenges ahead and people need to work together to resolve them. Educators need to be at the front as full and active participants in these debates, so as to speak for their pupils but also to further refine their own understanding of the changing needs young people have from the education system in order to figure out how to meet those needs.

Global Education Conference – Another Excellent Keynote

Just finished about an hour ago, I wanted to put a link up here for another excellent keynote from the Global Education Conference.
(The presentation starts from around the 53 minute mark)

Bronwyn Joyce, the type of educator that all administrators would want to be able to clone throughout their schools. Despite the fact that she was streaming live at about 3.00am her local time in Australia her presentation is full of energy, packed with useful material and real life resources.

For teachers this is a really practical session, packed with ideas, links and references that can be used to access resources to globalize the classroom. She does a great job of setting out why such learning is valuable and the critical thinking skills children will develop. She then goes on to elaborate on the ‘Look to learn’ approach, use of Flipgrid and the ‘What if’ prompts.

Lots there to pick apart and explore further.

Oh Dear, Here Comes Amazon

Amazon

Amazon made a big announcement last week that has potentially significant implications for the K-12 schools environment. As I’ll explain in a minute I think this is very bad news – an outcome that I’ve been warning about for over seven and a half years.

So, here’s the news from Amazon:

Amazon Enters Teacher-Created Resource Trade With Ignite

Back around eight or nine years ago I was writing in support of and in favour of websites such as Curriki (there’s a link in the list of useful sites on the right hand side of the blog page that’s been there all that time). This was also a site on which teachers exchanged lesson plans, exercises and other resources, but for FREE.

Here is the article I wrote on this blog seven and a half years ago. This was the time when Teachers Pay Teachers came on the scene and started to make a real impact with stories of individual teachers earning phenomenal sums from selling their education resources:

My Blog Post – May 2012 – Selling and Buying Lesson Plans

In that article I raised some of my concerns. The article about Amazon raises the serious point about the breaches of copyright that have clearly raised their head in the intervening years through sites like Teachers Pay Teachers. When textbook writers or the producers of online curricula gather materials they go through a carefully worked out process of taking permission for the use of original texts, artwork etc. None of these niceties are likely to have been followed by teachers selling lesson plans. Amazon are implying that their selection processes will eliminate this issue.

In my earlier article i highlighted that this was only one of the issues. As well as the ideological questionability that goes against the ethos of educators as natural sharers of knowledge, skills and abilities there is also the fact that teachers in schools do no (or today certainly should not) work in isolation. Even in a stand-alone private school anywhere in the world a teacher is likely to be part of a department and will work in collaboration with their fellow subject experts to prepare lessons.

Today there is a far greater emphasis on cross-curricular learning. in these circumstances lessons and plans come together as a result of multi-disciplinary brainstorming, planning and ideation. If an individual teacher then takes those plans and sells them online, the trust and collaboration breaks down.

Further, particularly in the private sector,  schools will consider that the lessons developed and delivered in their school or schools are part of an evolving, original, unique and proprietary schema of learning. All the teachers and leaders in the school work together to create these to meet the needs of their pupils within the context of their school’s vision, mission and values. In these circumstances it is highly questionable that any individual teacher should consider they have a personal right to take that material (or some part of it) and sell it elsewhere for personal gain.

When I was directly engaged in teaching my lesson plans were not rigid, carved in stone edifices.  Rather, they were a set of guides and structure that I had prepared to work backwards from the learning needs of my pupils, in my classroom at that time. From one delivery of a particular topic to the next I might produce very different plans because i was working with a different cohort of students. In applying my personal knowledge of the class dynamics I would select or design activities and exercises that would work best with them. One class might be very lively and need calming with some introspective activities, whilst another pursuing the same learning goals might be more reticent and need some activities to draw them out of themselves.

Finally, lesson plans and classroom resources are not meant to be simple blocks of knowledge and facts to be delivered to the students. This satisfies only the first, or at most the second level of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. Further, today’s best teachers are always designing their lessons with a view to weaving in opportunities for pupils to acquire or build upon Twenty First Century skills as objectives with at least as much relevance and importance as the ‘syllabus to be covered.’ How can that be done in a cookie cutter ‘for sale’ lesson plan?

I continue to believe that the selling of lesson plans is bad for education and bad for teachers as a whole and ultimately bad for pupils and their learning. If we want to find ways for the best teachers to enhance their earning potential I believe there are far better ways that serve both them and the wider educational field. That’s for another day.

Global Education Conference Keynote

Tom Vander Ark opened the conference with the first keynote address – in the early hours of this morning at 2.00am!

The video is available on Youtube. The content is a little rough and unedited. You need to start from around 45 minutes in and the actual content lasts for just under an hour. The presentation was packed with some really good material. His theme was twenty ways that responsive schools are adapting to the needs of learners in the Twenty First Century. (At 1 hour 4 mins there’s a very good page that summarises 10 key aspects of the science on learning that educators need to take in to account.

The conference continues to run for another two and a half days.

 

Educators – Keep Up With the Future

For educators it’s so obvious that it’s not often enough acknowledged that our professional work is all about preparing young people for the future. We know, deep down, that when we preside over forms of education that don’t take full and effective notice of the future, however uncertain, are a failure to fulfill our duty and responsibilities to our students.

Especially in the field of technology and particularly technological changes’ impacts on society there is a reality that once something new comes to the public consciousness there is a tendency to over-anticipate the impact in the short term and under-estimate the long term impact. one of the results of this is that people’s first reaction to something like Artificial Intelligence is to get very excited, but then when they don’t see immediate impact in their own lives personally they downgrade their expectations to the point of disregarding the long term impacts for them. When those long term impacts arrive, too often people aren’t adequately prepared and there may even be anger as the effects take over.

So, as educators today in a world that sees the timeframes of change getting shorter and shorter we have a great need to keep up our understanding of future changes and to be actively engaged in the debates and discussions about their implications for the lives of our pupils. And, incidentally, this is not just important for the science teachers, though the excitement and anticipation of what’s possible in the future can certainly play a big part in motivating students to pursue the sciences and to be interested and excited to learn.

However, my experience is that too often teachers struggle for sources of good, up to date and informed information. I believe educators could do a lot worse than to follow the work of Mr Peter Diamandis.

Peter DiamandisPeter Diamandis 2S

Who is Peter Diamandis? He’s best known for being founder and Chairman of the X-Prize, as well as being the co-founder of the California based Singularity University (with Ray Kurzweil). Between them they have access to inside knowledge on the changes taking place in many major areas of invention, innovation and those areas where change is going to have the biggest impact in the future.

In January 2020, along with Steven Kotler, will be publishing a new book – The Future is Faster Than You Think. In the run up to the book coming out he’s sharing excerpts from the book weekly through a fascinating and some amazing email newsletters. In the last few months Diamandis has been blowing my mind with amazing and very understandable (for a non scientist) information on the current forces that are changing our world; 5G, 3D Printing, expansion of the mind, VR, AR, Artificial Intelligence, future of food, sensors, health and wellbeing,

Here’s Peter Diamandis himself summing up some of these issues and their implications at the annual conference at Singularity University:

 

One of the best ways for teachers and educators to keep up is to subscribe to his email newsletters, starting with ‘Abundance Insider’ – full details at his website:

Peter Diamandis Website

To finish, if Diamandis is right about even half of his predictions, and particularly the timescales, then we are looking at an amazing and exciting decade ahead. Such a time of phenomenal change offers enormous opportunities for our students but also poses challenges for those ‘left behind.’ We need to be informed.

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