Action replay

15th April 2005 at 01:00
Capturing your students on video can enhance their techniques. Mike Levy reports

How do you get a bunch of Year 10 boys jumping up and down on a trampoline - or participating in any other sport? Taking a laptop, digital camera and some clever video-capture software to the gym or sports field may be the answer.

Companies such as Kandle and Dartfish started out producing software for professional sportsmen and women. Now they have turned their attention to the schools market.

The attraction for schools is clear: the coach takes a video of students bowling, kicking or hitting a ball (for example) and, within seconds, the action is replayed on computer or projected onto a large screen.

Software is becoming increasingly sophisticated in allowing the coach to analyse what the players have done within seconds of doing it. You can slow the action, create a montage of photo clips or use split screens to compare the actions of pupils with those of professionals and gold-medal winners, or to chart the progress of an individual over time.

Latest versions of this software even let you superimpose the actions of David Beckham, Tim Henman or Kelly Holmes onto a moving image of the student.

With Dartfish, you can create moving strobe images of, say, Alan Shearer as he creates space and strikes for goal. These images can be analysed from a variety of positions and can form the basis of lively classroom debate and analysis.

The aim is for students to take a more personal interest in their progress, says Michael Pulford, faculty coach at Colne Community College School, Essex. He has been using the Kandle system for three years and has found it a big boost for boys' trampolining. "The boys love watching themselves perform and comparing their style to the professionals," he says.

But it's not all plain sailing. "Some students hate seeing themselves on screen or are very embarrassed to have their classmates see what they are doing wrong. Others love playing up to the camera - you can have a lot of silliness at first."

That said, Michael is a keen advocate of going digital. "Most pupils learn so much from analysing their own game - over 65 per cent of what we learn in PE and sport is done visually so these techniques are particularly strong."

He uses the software with GSCE and A-level students to help them build a portfolio of their progress in a library of video and photo clips with attached notes.

The software can also download and store clips taken from professional games. Michael has built up a stock of clips in football, cricket, basketball and even in sports such as kayaking, pole vault and table tennis.

"As a coach, the software allows you to have much more control." In the stored clips, there is evidence of the progress the student is making (Michael uses it to improve his batting in cricket). The result, he says, is that confidence, progress and attainment take a flying leap. "The progress of the students in all sports has been amazing", he says.

Matt Topliss is another keen advocate of going digital. He is advanced skills teacher in PE (ICT focus) at the Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge, and also lead trainer for Dartfish in Kent. "We have just received praise for our use of ICT in PE and, in particular, Dartfish from our Ofsted report", he says. "The system has had massive effects on our teaching." He also says progress in sports and PE has been significant.

He is working on cross-curricular uses of the software - in dance, theatre and science (where chemical reactions and even noisy explosions can be recorded on video, transferred to PowerPoint and analysed by the class).

The attraction of these systems is that PE and sports teachers don't have to spend a huge amount on new technology, provided they already have access to a camcorder and a laptop. The systems take time to learn - Dartfish runs courses for teachers and there are online training sites.

Whatever you think about going digital, the PE teacher of the future may have little choice but to embrace it. According to Steve Kibble, PE adviser with Devon Curriculum Services: "The time is coming when employers will only look at PE teachers who are digital friendly." That should get software producers jumping for joy.


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