Play it again

and again. Hugh John records the advantages of the slow-mo and other ICT gadgets for PE

As students pass a netball to each other their teacher records it on a digital video camera. The group then downloads the images on to a computer where they use the software to break the video clips down into smaller time units.

Having frozen the images, they move forward to the point of ball release and discuss the biomechanics of this action. Throwing, catching, jumping - basic sporting movements - can be seen and compared at the same time with an "exemplar" sample that has been pre-recorded using a top athlete. Students are then able to make adjustments to their own performance.

This is physical education in the modern world, specifically King Alfred's Community and Sports College in Oxfordshire where digital video is used across all age groups, giving students instant feedback. Dance sequences can be freeze-framed and analysed in terms of skill and anatomy. Pulse rate monitors, PowerPoint demonstrations and performance databases all contribute to the efficacy of modern PE.

Caroline Skerten, who teaches ICT in PE at King Alfred's believes successful ICT "aids the teaching of PE and is not just used because it is available". The advantages are twofold: "Students can develop a greater understanding of sport by getting instant feedback and by receiving data on performance."

With ICT as a statutory part of PE at key stages 3 and 4, are we going to be saying goodbye to muddy playing fields (the ones that are left, that is) and serious cardiovascular workouts and hello to couch potato cyber-culture?

Not if PE teachers have anything to do with it. ICT has been an integral part of professional sport for many years, and now the same technology is benefiting schools and colleges. Professor Nick Whitehead, Olympic sprint relay medallist and manager of the British Olympic team during the Eighties, suggests that ICT "provides PE teachers with the tools to describe more accurately how pupils can improve their performance".

Crichton Casbon, principal officer for PE and dance at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority agrees. The single most important use of ICT in PE, he believes, is video; not least because it allows students to analyse their performance from different positions and at various times.

Initial feedback suggested that teachers weren't entirely comfortable with the use of technology but, Crichton Casbon maintains, "the use and range of ICT in PE is steadily growing".

While the last Office for Standards in Education report into secondary PE (1999-2000) found standards had risen, it was concerned that "teachers often see the use of ICT in PE as a distraction from what they regard as the most important practical focus of the subject". Of those with ICT skills, very few were using them for PE. But not now, one suspects. Fiona Clark is in the second year of a four-year BA in secondary PE at the University of Brighton. "There is a great emphasis on ICT within our training and we must be competent in ICT to gain our teacher status," she says.

Students at Brighton routinely use a range of equipment - digicams, laptops, VHS, the internet - but only where appropriate. "It must aid the pupils' learning and enable you to deliver something that would not otherwise be achieved to such a high standard."

As well as providing performance analysis, ICT can be of enormous benefit for record-keeping. Angela Finch has been teaching at Byrchall High School, Wigan, since 1986 - until recently PE but now specialising in ICT - and also trains student PE teachers.

"ICT in school sport has only really happened in the past few years, more so since it became a requirement of Curriculum 2000. Many teachers use ICT for administration; to monitor, assess and provide the feedback which allows pupils to set targets," she says.

Spreadsheets and graphs allow teachers to extrapolate patterns from data collected during the term. Playing field allocation, sports fixtures, gym bookings can all be done quickly and efficiently over a school or LEA intranet.

At King Alfred's College, cross-curricular links have been established between departments. PE and design and technology students are working together to design a sports shoe. Maths and PE students are developing their understanding of spreadsheets to assess their own sporting achievements.

Finally, let's not forget that for today's PlayStationvideoDVD generation technology is a prerequisite of coolness.

Eltham Green School in south London is one of 40 newly designated sports colleges. With three rowing machines which can be linked to others through the internet, as well as a programmable treadmill, exercise bikes, heart-rate and blood-pressure monitors, the gym is a valuable asset to both school and community.

"The students are very enthusiastic. It feels like they are in an upmarket leisure club, not a school gym," says headteacher Anne Barton.

She also believes that ICT draws in the non-sporty types and helps establish links with other sports organisations and colleges.

PE, says the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), is above all, "about activity and movement. This means that teachers may not automatically think of ICT as a natural partner".

There are signs that this is changing, but in a society increasingly concerned with health and fitness, PE teachers will continue to advocate the benefits of physical exercise.

"The important thing," says Angela Finch, "is that ICT doesn't take away the practical participation. This is what many teachers are worried about. PE is still a practical activity and an involvement with other people."

TEN USES OF ICT IN PE

Visualisation of performance

* Usually achieved by the replay on a digital camera. Sophisticated computer systems allow for freeze frame and superimposition over exemplar models. Performances can be analysed before the next attempt

* Digicams provide accurate, recordable feedback. Students are often more willing to accept the "objectivity" of video than the comments of teachers. Performance can be evaluated and improved by a tutor's suggestion

* Video clips, CD-Roms and DVDs can be used to demonstrate correct technique in dance and gymnastics

* Game strategy and tactics can be studied and evaluated from video recording Administration

* Databases of work, awards, options and extra-curricular activities help teachers create student profiles

* Translating achievements and performance into spreadsheet format can give students a clearer idea of their progress

* Exercise templates and teaching materials can be created then modified for different schools and colleges

Communication

* Video conferencing allows schools to share good practice

* Fixtures can be booked via email or LEA intranets

* Work modules can be posted via internet or intranet

ONLINE RESOURCES

Virtual teachers' centre, PE subject resources

http:vtc.ngfl.gov.ukdocserver.php?temid=178

Sportsteacher magazine online

www.sportsteacher.co.uk

The virtual sports injury clinic

www.sportsinjuryclinic.net

Details of the PE curriculum

http:curriculum2000.co.uk

new_curriculumpe.htm

Physical Education Association of the United Kingdom

www.pea.uk.com

English Sports Council

www.sportengland.org

Sports Council for Wales

www.sports-council-wales.co.uk

Sports Council for Northern Ireland

www.sportni.org

Granada's sporting website with links to their highly regarded "World of

Sport Examined" CD-Rom

www.granada-learning.comyitm

sportlinks.html

Lesson plans, sporting pen pals, sports equipment

www.sports-media.org

Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

www.qca.org.uk

Paradigm-ICT's online magazines carry sports results and player portfolios

www.schoolgrid.net

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