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PE lessons of the future - GESS Talks

PE Lessons of the Future

In some cases, direct substitutions have taken place, such as swapping the interactive board for the Zoom screen. However, some innovative uses of technology have redefined tasks, making the previously inconceivable, entirely possible.

The rapid evolution of Edtech use since school re-opening prompted us to think ahead in wonder. Given the budget, space and resources, which technology might be used in the deliver of Physical Education lessons in the not too distant future?

Blank Canvas Flooring

One of the most exciting concepts being developed currently, is the use of LCD flooring in sports halls. This would give teachers the opportunity to design different floor plans, or load pre-set regulated playing areas which would appear on the floor. These could be easily adapted to help differentiate lessons and reduce the confusion that can often be caused by multiple courts being marked on the same floor.

As technology develops, this could be further adapted through linking to a tablet or pen, similar to current use in interactive whiteboards. Teachers would have the ability to draw directly onto the playing surface, highlighting paths of movement or strategic strengths and weaknesses.

Perhaps in the future, this technology could be modified to display movements of specific players, tracking their footsteps in real time. This would leave a literal set of removable footprints, with instant feedback available.

Real Time Data

As wearable technology starts to become more affordable, it’s possible that this will play a greater part in lessons of the future. Not too long ago, having access to heart rate monitors was revolutionary. Now, many students are starting to arrive at lessons with technology that monitors their activity levels, heart rate, sleep habits and more. Could we be seeing the end of removing watches during lessons?

It could be that in the future, teachers are able to view this data in real time, using it to help monitor activity levels, stress load and performance from a central location. While this might only be useful for some lessons, data sets could be used instantly to assist students with their understanding of physical responses to different types of exercise and activity.

360 Degree Tracking

As we discussed in our GESS Panel, 360-degree cameras are now functional, easier to use and are beginning to become more affordable. Furthermore, advances in artificial intelligence now mean that these cameras are self-operating and can track the movements of players or the ball, as directed by the user.

It could be that in the future, these cameras can be integrated into lessons, with the output transferred to tablets in real time. This would allow students to receive instant feedback, analyse performance and record observations. As this footage can be saved and stored, students could take advantage of the already existing programmes to speed up and slow down footage to further benefit.

Virtual Reality

Previously, "hands-on anatomy" was reserved for doctors and medical students. With the rollout of virtual reality software, the Physical Education classroom will become an even more captivating environment.

The use of immersive technology will likely be commonplace in anatomy lessons. Students will be able to use this to move inside the body, examining the different chambers of the heart, looking at skin cell structure or following the transportation of blood to the working muscles.  Ultimately, they will be taking a previously unimaginable journey around the human body, while not leaving their seats.

Another way this technology might change Physical Education lessons, could be the real time alteration of the environment students are playing in. We might soon have the ability to create a virtual stadium with 60,000 screaming fans, helping them to experience the effect arousal levels have on performance, all from the comfort of the sports hall. Students could even follow the running lines and actions of model performers, trying to make decisions and respond to stimulus at the same time as their heroes, comparing their performance to the world’s best.

Artificial Intelligence

Seventy years ago, Alan Turing changed history for the second time with a simple question; "Can machines think?" Now we're asking a similar question, can machines make students think quicker in-game situations?

As we know, in game situations, students are constantly making decisions. Perhaps artificial intelligence will prompt them to review their performance in greater depth, questioning what different outcomes might have occurred with a harder hit pass or a different trajectory. Increased support from artificial intelligence would in theory, allow students to get more personalised real-time feedback on their performance. In turn, this might help improve their understanding and quicken their rate of skill acquisition.

How long will it be before artificial intelligence starts to suggest and adapt personalised pathways for students as they arrive at lessons and start to warm up?

The Future…

While we don’t have a crystal ball, and as we have seen this year, the future is impossible to predict, many of these ideas and advancements seem entirely possible. In several cases, the technology already exists, and is starting to feature in player development in elite level sport. However, despite these advances and exciting opportunities, we still believe passionately that none of them can replace some of the most important aspects that are fundamental to good teaching.

The relationship between teacher and student and the bond between player and coach simply cannot be automated. Sometimes when you’re in the moment with students, it’s your emotional intelligence and knowledge of the person that leads you to the right decision, not the data. Personality and personal approach matter a great deal, and we should always remember that, particularly as more moves online. I’ve switched off several online sessions in my time, but I’ve never walked away from a coach or teacher I’ve trusted and respected, despite the relative levels of adversity.


Niall Statham, Member of Senior Leadership Team and Head of PE, Hartland International School Dubai

Damian Edwards, Assistant Headteacher: KS3 Coordinator, Kings School Al Barsha

Image used: ASB GlassFloor