Field of expertise

12th May 2006 at 01:00
Videoing exercise and creating a website can be a great way to learn about the biology of sport, explains Patrick Kelly

"Lights! Camera! Action!" Not the normal cry you would hear at a PE lesson.

A group of Year 10 students at Stoke Newington Arts and Media College is getting stuck into some serious footie, but the whistle keeps going and the game stops. But it's not dodgy tackles or passes that are the problem - it's the fact that the players keep moving out of shot.

Soon it's clear that this class is less interested in the movement of the ball - cricket features too (above) - than in the physical movements of the players.

It's all part of a rather unusual PE lesson in the leisure area at Highwire City Learning Centre in Hackney. This group of 15-year-olds is studying the biology of sport for their GCSE, particularly the workings of the musculatory and respiratory systems. And they are filming the football match as a kind of field study.

However, rather than put their findings in a notebook or project folder, the results of this field study are going on a specially designed website.

The video recordings are just one element that, suitably edited, will find its way on to the world wide web.

Also on the screen will be animated drawings that the pupils have made of the muscles used in their chosen sport - football, basketball, cricket and weightlifting - and text which describes what is happening when, say, a classmate tries to kick a ball or pumps weights in the gym. Finally, a soundtrack is laid down with a commentary on what is happening to the muscles, the circulation of blood and how the respiratory system is functioning at that moment.

The web pages illustrate the science of what happens when activity occurs and how feedback systems help the body keep in balance... They use video to show the outer manifestations, and animation to show the inner workings of the different body systems.

"Creating a website like this is a more interesting method of learning,"

says teacher Tom Phillips. "They are seeing, hearing and reading precisely what is happening to the body during sport. And getting to grips with creating their own website helps them with their ICT skills."

He adds that the finished product has other uses: "It's a handy revision tool. Each group does a slightly different aspect of the work and they can review what each other has done. And, I might add, it's very useful for parents. It can be quite hard trying to explain exactly what goes into a GCSE in PE."

The whole project takes two days for the 18 students and comprises filming and animation, writing and recording audio tracks. Leaving the normal classroom to spend two days in the Highwire centre has other benefits, adds Tom: "It brings them into a college environment (in the grounds of Hackney Community College) and gives them more responsibility. They have to learn to handle the equipment and look after it."

Fifteen-year-old Peter Austin is working with a group on editing a film of two of his classmates running. They are cutting a video clip to show the difference between "fast-fitness" and "slow-fitness" and how the oxygen supply in intense exercise is more limited and leads the fast runner to tire quickly.

Earlier, the group has been making animated drawings of what was going on in the chest cavity in these two types of exercise. It's clear that creating a website is adding to the appeal of the lesson. "It's good to get out of the classroom to do stuff like this," says Peter. "We have used computers and digital cameras before, but we have never put it all together to make a website."

Overseeing the animated conversations of the four groups gathered around the computer site at Highwire is curriculum director Vivi Lachs. She explains Highwire's mission as working with schools to develop curriculum projects and activities that encourage involvement by students at every stage of the process. "Digital technologies are creative tools for analysis, debate, communication and presentation," she says.

"Basically, teachers and pupils use us as an extended classroom. We run projects which would be quite hard for schools to do themselves." However, Vivi points out that almost all their projects are directly curriculum-linked. "We only do curriculum support here," she emphasises.

"We do not do ICT support."

Thanks to Highwire, schools can enhance their curriculum subjects with an imaginative range of ICT flavours. Schemes are devised in consultation with schools, or teachers can choose from a variety of existing projects from local archaeology to poetry and science-based games.

"We are helping the children make connections so they don't see subjects as something that's remote from their everyday lives," Vivi says.

* To see what the students at Stoke Newington and other Hackney schools have done, go to



Recordings are made on a Canon NVX 350i digital movie camera, a light hand-held device which is adaptable and hardwearing.

Microphone - Sony ECM MS907 standard mikes costing pound;70-80. "These are not state of the art, but they are reliable," says Vivi Lachs of Highwire City Learning Centre in Hackney. "I have had them for five years without experiencing any problems. They also give a good quality sound."


Go-live is the main software used for website creation at Highwire. It's an Adobe product that Vivi discovered. "When I saw a nine-year-old making a website using Go-Live, I was impressed with how simple it was to use," she says.

Video clips are recorded on to Apple Mac computers with iMovie software and animations are created using ImageReady, which is part of Photoshop. Text is written straight into the Go-Live program. There's no need to use a word processor.

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