Flipping for fitness

The flipped learning model can be applied in physical education classes with great success.

Physical education (PE) teachers are often on the short end of the stick when it comes to technology innovations in school. When the battle of the bulge is fought every day in our schools, the conversations are usually more about removing the symptoms of childhood obesity, like limiting soda pop in vending machines and offering healthier school lunch options, than addressing the true cause of the problem–lack of overall physical activity.

I know what you’re thinking – “Technology in PE? Is this guy crazy?”

While I admit that PE is likely the last educational frontier you would expect to see being reshaped by the digital revolution, this is exactly what is happening at my school. I hope to be just the first of a new breed of PE pioneers in the classroom, keeping students engaged and moving by “flipping the gymnasium”–a new take on the flipped learning instruction model.

When flipping a class, teachers film lectures with software like Camtasia Studio (my go-to video recording and editing tool) and have students watch the videos at home, so that class time is spent covering questions on the material, not teaching new content. While it might seem strange to learn that I’m taking this approach in my PE class, of all places, it’s actually a perfect “fit” (forgive the pun). After all, isn’t the whole point of physical education to get, and keep, kids moving?

I’m no technological pioneer. I’m a physical education teacher at The Joseph Sears School in Kenilworth, Ill. during the day; a football, basketball, and track coach in the afternoon; and a “PE class flipper” at night. To the students and athletes I coach, I’m doing some things they’ve never seen done with technology before. And my Pickleball flipping video is nearly legendary.

It’s amazing what happens when you embrace emerging technology in school. It makes a huge difference in the classroom as well as on the athletic field. And I use technology available to any student or teacher.  It’s not magic, but it really works.

Flipping my PE class was actually pretty simple. Jon Bergmann, our school’s lead technology facilitator, came in at the beginning of the school year to introduce us to the flipped learning model. After his talk, I thought if we could spend less time in class talking about what the students were going to do and how to do it, and instead just come in and give them a few reminders and go, then activity time would increase (which is ultimately one of our top priorities in PE).

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