Xbox and Road Safety in the classroom

Last week, I had the opportunity to share with 15-20 PDHPE teachers about the way that an Xbox could be used in PDHPE lessons. I must thank Microsoft being generous enough to lend us 2 Xbox 360’s and some mates who lent me the other stuff I needed. While we spent most of the 1 1/2 hr session exploring a range of games – particulalry using Kinect, I was really keen to try an idea for using Xbox for teaching Road Safety. During a discussion with @benpaddlejones  about ways that an Xbox could be used for teaching road safety. The plan we devised was actually quite simple but should be quite effective, and a whole lot more fun and interesting than the way we normally teach it.

So, what will I need and how will it work?

Xbox and Steering Wheel

Obviously, you need an Xbox 360, but you’ll also need a steering wheel with foot pedals (like the one above). Without this, the activity won’t really work. These are a little hard come by at the moment (I have been lucky enough to dig up 2 older ones from friends), however, word on the street is that later in the year Forza 4 (a racing game) will be released with a new steering wheel included, which will be a great bundle to get (now to find the funds!!). You’ll also need to choose a car game – and unless you want a lot of negative parental feedback – make sure you get one that doesn’t have violence or the like in it. I chose to use Project Gotham Racing 4 which is a straight up car racing game.

A lot of people who’ve played racing car games might straight away be thinking that racing car games are all about speed and that’s correct, but for this unit we’ll be using a few restrictions on our the way we play. So, how will it work?

Step 1: Choose a driver. Let them drive two laps of a race track and time how long it takes. Choose a track that isn’t too easy, but at the same time, don’t choose a really hard one because most people in your class probably won’t be too experienced at driving. While they are driving, have one student time them, one to count the number of times they break the speed limit (which I set at 80 m/hr) and a third student who will count the number of crashes they have.

Step 2: Using the same driver, drive another 2 laps of the same course and have the same people gathering the same statistics. The difference this time, is that the driver has to send 1 text/SMS message from their mobile phone per lap.

Step 3: Using the same driver, follow the same procedure as the first two steps. This time, you might like to add different variables such as having passengers sitting “in” their car with them who will provide distraction and/or you could add a stereo and require them to change radio stations/or songs on each lap (if you use speakers you could have them change tracks on their ipods while driving).

When I trialled this, it was clear to everyone that during step 2 and 3, there were more crashes and also a lower speed as they were trying hard to be safe while distracted.

This opens up loads of opportunities for discussion with students over the next few lessons. What I think would be particularly useful, would be to gather statistics in a google form similar to this one HERE. This would allow you to gather all the statistics together from your class and then graph it and analyse it. You could even compare it to statistics gathered by the Road and Traffic Authority.

One of the barriers to overcome, depending on your school’s policy, will be the use of a mobile phone to send SMS/text message and how you will check they sent it. I’m hoping that I can use a school number, otherwise I might just have to get them to type a message into a note on an ipod touch and check it at the end.

Another barrier may be that you will only have one person driving at a time. Thankfully, I had access to 2 steering wheels which made it easier, but with 2 laps per step and 2-3 minutes per lap, it will take a bit of time. Having two consoles makes that a lot easier, but you could also do step 1 over a few lessons leading in. That may help to connect the students with the topic before introducing the other factors.

Anyway, for around $600-700 you could have a really good tool for teaching Road Safety. And while that seems a little expensive, it actually does provide a very realistic view at the dangers of driving while distracted. I think a lot of parents would be happy with a program that keeps their children safer on the roads. I know I would.

Minor breakthrough

As I started with a new stage 6 (year 11) PDHPE class last year I was really keen to try and integrate technology into my teaching in a way that helped not just to engage the students but to assist their learning. My aim was to choose tasks that would allow them to find the answers to questions themselves by analyzing information and organizing their work to allow them to use it effectively.

In the start The students thought some of what we were doing was interesting but they found some of it to be ‘too hard’. Through a number of conversations with the students it was communicated that they’d just prefer to have me give them the information – effectively, to stand out the front of the class and lecture. It wasn’t the type of feedback I was hoping for after planing activities that I thought to be engaging, interesting and helpful in developing good learners.

While discouraged, I wanted to make sure I kept on with my plans but I made some modifications and being very careful in what things I chose to do. I’ve continued with that for the past 12 months and the students have come to accept the method allowing me to ‘push’ a little further.

Last night, we had parent-teacher night with the parents (and some students) from that class. It was very encouraging to hear one of the more vocal opponents of technology admit that he can now see the the worth in what we are doing with technology and that he’s finding it helpful. It was quite unexpected, but welcomed.

It’s given me the encouragement to keep pushing ahead with trying to be innovative in my teaching – not just with technology. It might take some time but the changes will be worthwhile.

Mindmeister – First thoughts

I love it when a plan works well! You’ll notice from one of my recent (well not that recent) posts that I’ve been struggling with my creativity in the classroom and trying to think of innovative ways of getting students learning and I still feel that it’s been a struggle for me. I’m really keen to get students working on things that have a real life purpose – things that can be useful or interesting to others. However, with my senior PDHPE classes I find that aspect of my teaching a little more difficult and have been trying to find new ways of getting the students organising or the information that they have learned. I’ve tried getting them to create podcasts knowing that my students are never far from their mobile phones and therefore would have a great revision tool they could use anywhere, but quite frankly what they created was boring and basically needs more time for me to think about how we can create interesting and engaging podcasts.

However, I recently stumbled upon Mindmeister, which is an online, collaborative mind mapping tool and thought that it had great potential for use with my senior classes. It gives the students the opportunity to create mind maps that they can share and collaborate on in real time and, when complete it can be downloaded in a number of formats including PDF to print and put in their study notes. There’s also an iPhone App that means those of my students with an iphone can take their revision notes with them! (I must check if there is an android app too!)

Knowing that many of my Year 12 students use mindmaps to organise their information for revision I thought I’d give it a crack. Initially, when I told them about it a number of them were hesitant and I heard things like “I use mindmaps but I much prefer writing them by hand – that’s how I learn”, and “having more than one person working on something at the same time makes things too confusing”. I cast those comments aside and went ahead. To make it easier I created enough mindmaps on my account to have 2-3 people working on each one, and invited them to collaborate on it. The advantage of this, is that I also have access to what they create so that I can easily check what they’ve done.

I’m really pleased by how the lesson went. The first 5 minutes the students spent talking among themselves working out how to using mindmeister and once someone worked something out, they showed the others so that before long they were all working on their mindmaps. They also overcame the problems of becoming confused by delegating parts of the mindmap for each other to work in, and what sections of the information to work with. Well within the time I’d allocated the students had completed the first stages of the mind maps (I plan to work on adding working examples to each of the sections in the next few lessons).

I’d recommend if you are going to use it, that creating the mindmaps yourself and sharing them with the students works well. Not only does it allow you access to their work but allows you control over who will work together in groups so that the groups can be balanced.

There does seem to be some limitations to Mindmeister that may limit it’s use – ie with the free, basic membership you can only have 3 mindmaps on the go but it does seem that you can get an educational license quite cheaply for 12 months if you are going to use it regularly. However, these limitations aren’t so significant that you wouldn’t use it. Also, for every 10 people you get to sign up you get 3 months premium free! So, if you create the mindmaps for your class you get the free bonus!!

The advantages as I see it are the collaborative nature of the tool, the ease of use for the students and the fact that it can be downloaded in a variety of formats (and even ebbeded after publishing) to add to their physical study notes or to share with others. On top of that, the class were engaged and worked solidly for the whole lesson hardly stopping to take a breath. That’s never a bad thing.

My first experiences of mindmeister will certainly have me coming back for seconds and I encourage you to have a go too.

where to next in 2011?

Its onwards and upwards as far as technology in my classroom for 2011 – well thats the plan anyway! It will be a year of consolidation of what’s already been tried and a year of adding of a few new ideas too. We use moodle at our school, so I see a greater use of that being integral in delivering our content, as well as the delivery and submission of assessments and will hopefully mean not having as many students chasing me to get information that they’ve lost or were away for.

So far, my focus has been on using technology in my theory lessons, but have done little to introduce it to my practical lessons. To help change that, I’ve made a few equipment purchases to help make it easier. As we don’t have a 1:1 laptop program in our school (it will be phased in in senior years from early next year), and a ban on the use of mobile devices, I took it upon myself to purchase a handful of the latest generation of ipod touches to use on the school’s wireless network, a couple of wii-remotes (thanks for the ideas Mr Robbo), and finally 4 sports GPS’s (they’re meant for cycling but come with an arm band too). All this goes with the Flip Cameras we purchased earlier in the year.

With our school holidays only 3 days away, I can see that I’m going to be spending a lot of time thinking about how to use these most effectively, but also, on how I can get the rest of my faculty on board. I think it will be hard to change their mindset on practical lessons but I’m hoping I can show them the importance of physical education rather than only physical activity in developing lifelong learners.

So here’s my initial plans for the use of technology in my PE lessons for 2011:

1. Ipod Touches – I see these as having plenty of uses and not just for providing music for dance routines.

a) EasyTag App – this allows you to set up templates that you can use to gather information during games (a great role for those that are unable to participate) that can then be analysed to provide feedback on the game. For example, you can count unforced errors (and where they occur on the field), succesful passes, the number of times a player touches the ball and so on. This information can then be collected, put into a google docs spread sheet and then shared with the class to analyse.

b) QR codes – using a QR code reader to watch skills at different stations is an obvious use of them, but I’d like to get the students creating instructional videos of fitness tests, games, skills etc that they can create a QR code for. Students could then view these videos at the stations they move to to get a demonstration of what they are to do.

c) By connecting to the schools wireless network, students could use them to access dance videos on youtube to teach themselves moves that they can then integrate into their dance routines. This means that they can choose styles and movements that they enjoy and not just those that we teachers can give them.

d) My long shot is to use a ‘Stop Motion’ to create an animated dance routine as an extenstion activity for a student who may struggle to move fluently but could use this to demonstrate an understanding of the use of the elements of compostition. This may take too much time but may be worth a try at the right time.

2. GPS – While scrolling through the numerous cycling websites that I frequent, I stumbled upon some Mainnav Sport GPS units on sale for $60 (what a bargain). I jumped at the chance to buy a few because I could see they could be a source of some really interesting data. At first glance the units have a complicated user interface, but once set up they should still give us great data. Files can be downloaded in different formats including an excel spreadsheet that could then be uploaded to Google docs for analysis. Primarily, I want to use them to track player movement during games to see how far they move, their use of space, their average and max speeds throughout the games. How good would it be to analyse the difference between defenders, midfielders and attackers in a game of soccer to see what their different training needs are? Or what about comparing the distance travelled in different games of different lengths – ie an hour of tennis vs an hour of soccer, basketball or whatever to see who works hardest?

The other idea I’ve been thinking of is strapping one to a student for a 24 hr period (or even just a school day if we have to) when we do our to see how far they travel during a day and to predict their energy expenditure/needs.

Mostly they’re still vague ideas that will hopefully become clearer as I test what these pieces of technology can do during the summer break. Wish me luck, and I promise I’ll report back on how we (me and my classes) go with all this.

A year’s learning in review …

I’m only reasonably new at Blogging, and for that matter, trying to integrate technology into my teaching, and I’ve learned a lot, and still have a lot to learn. I’m thankful that my Boss thought it important enough to give one of our staff a generous allocation to support staff integrate technology. Without it I would have floundered and probably dropped the ball a few times – and maybe not even picked it up again. I have had some great people who have been at it for a while already though like MrRobbo, Jonesytheteacher and plenty more have inspired with their ideas and enthusiasm.

I’ve tried plenty of things, some which may not be called back into the game for a while, but many things that we’ve tried have shown enough promise to persit with them. My favourite ‘web2.0’ tools so far have been xtranormal, glogster and student podcasting. Apart from those, I’ve used Skype, Flip cameras to film instructions and to give feedback to students, used a metronome dowloaded to my Iphone to control exercise intensity when working with HR monitors, experimented with to create some revision games, created a school PE blog and twitter account, created online embeddable magazines using Scribd and Calameo, screen captured presentations and instructional videos using Jing and have grown more aware of the uses of Moodle for my classes.

Some of the things that I’ve learned so far are:

I’ve learned that the 21C tools that we have access to shouldn’t be treated any differently to other classroom tools that we’ve used for however long, but need to be used carefully and planned well.

I’ve learned that it’s ok to let the student play with the technology rather than being shown exactly what to do. Most of the time, it didn’t take much longer than it would have for me to have explained to them anyway, and once they’d worked it out, their friends were asking them how they did it and they were able to show them what they did. The learning isn’t just about the information, but also the process.

I’ve learned that no matter how cool something is, if you overuse it, the novely will wear off and the students’ engagement will be affected.

I’ve learned that it takes some time to experiment and plan, but the payoff is having your students engaged in ways that ‘chalk and talk’ will struggle to do.

Finally, I’ve learned that these tools aren’t added extras, but necessary tools for engaging students in a meaningful way that allows their work to be shared with the real world rather than staying between the two cardboard covers of an exercise book. How good is it to think that our students can create things that people anywhere in the world could benefit from?!

The year ahead promises a lot, but I’ll talk about that in a different blog post. I will actually need to spend more time sitting down and reflecting on what worked, what didn’t and what could have been done to make it work next time, and how to make things work better.

Time, Time, Time …

Not so long ago, as you’ll read from my other blog posts, I realised the potential for enhancing student learning through technology. Since then I’ve been busy gathering ideas from others in my PLN on ways to use technology. I’ve observed plenty of great things that happening in classroom by sitting back and watching/listening to my twitter feed. Now that’s all well and good but now I’ve hit a snag. Where do I get the time to integrate all these into my teaching? There’s so much to try but even just sorting through the different tools can take up an age of time and I guess I’m becoming frustrated that I don’t have the time to apply these tools to my teaching.

I get the feeling that the people who are doing it well are spending hours of time finding tools and then implementing them into their teaching. I don’t think I’m doing too badly at it, it’s just the potential for engaging with the students is so great and doing things that help them learn has to be a good thing right? But, where do I find the time to do this without upsetting my family and missing out on life?

On top of that, how do I encourage other members of my staff to try these new things when they already feel they’re strapped for time, and that learning new technologies is only going to burdern them more?And the thought of having to introduce it to their physical education lessons too adds even more time to the mix.

Is it that this is just something we have to do if we want to improve our teaching or, if this the future then should we be allowing more time for professional development and follow up?

I’m really interested in knowing what others who are bit further down the track have gone about it? What’s the process been in your school?

just for starters …

In the last week of the school term, I facilitated a session on integrating technology to PDHPE teachers at the CEN 2010 NSW State Conference. Full of enthusiasm, I had created a list of what I thought would be useful ICT resources and websites. What I had forgotten to take into account was that many of the schools in attendance don’t have the IT resources that I am blessed with at our school. I get the feeling that many would have left wondering how they were going to be able to integrate many of these resources when their school has a poor wireless network or limited access to computers.

So what I’ve done (with the help of a few other PDHPE teacher blogs) is try to identify 3 ideas that PDHPE teachers can use to get started even when they have limited resources or access to resources. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Blog sites: I feel a blog site is an essential tool for engaging students. It makes their work public for others to see (even if it is only their own classmates). People other than their teacher giving feedback really helps get the process going. You could use a blog in a number of ways:
  1. To post individual student work (students email you a copy of their work for you to post) – this can help getting students engaged in higher order thinking analysis style tasks.
  2. You can post a statement and get each students to post their thoughts to the statement as feedback. Feedback can be set to be moderated by the blog’s author and if done publicly (ie through a projector in class) it shows the students how the process works.

NB – For both of these, the work can be done as homework and emailed to you if don’t have access to computers during lesson time

  • Text to movie websites (E.G. xtranormal) – many people would use this by getting the students to create their own scenario or short video. However, when you don’t have resources to do this, why not use it to create your own stimulus material? Create your own scenarios to show through a projector. You could leave the ending open and have students write a script for an appropriate ending. As the teacher you could then chose a number of these and add them to your original scenario to show the class in the next lesson. The advantage of this is that the students don’t get caught up in the novelty of the technology rather than spending time on the learning activity.
  • Video reviews – giving students a video camera to create an infomercial about the concepts that they are learning about and then uploading it to their MP3 players. One that I’ve used is to divide the class into groups and get the students to create an instructional video for each the fitness tests that explains how to set up the test, how you complete the test and what constitutes a good performance. The students video’s have been uploaded to moodle for the students to download. If you don’t use Moodle I’m sure that a site like podomatic would allow you to do a similar thing (I’m sure someone can confirm this or give me a better option!)

Becoming George Jetson

I spent today listening to a number of engaging presentations from Dr Barrett Mosbacker on how schools, and in our case, Christian schools need to come into the 21st century by engaging our students in learning with the use of technology in relevant ways. One of his comments particularly stood out – “We can’t have Fred Flinststone schools for George Jetson students”. The obvious implication for us as teachers is that we can’t continue to live in a Fred Flinststone world – we need to morph ourselves to become George Jetson.

Our students are using technology all the time – many of them carry ‘smart’ phones that they can use to connect to the internet whenever they like, where ever they are. It’s simply not good enough to try and shape technology to fit our ‘old’ teaching methods. Our teaching methods must evolve with the times and take what the technological world is producing and apply it to our Programs and lesson plans.

It was interesting to note that:

– there are over 2 billion google searches each month

– more text messages will be sent each day than there are people on the earth

– In 2008, the amount of new technical information was doubling every 2 years. In 2010 the estimation is that it is doubling every 72hrs.

Dr Mosbacker believes we are living in a 3rd industrial revolution as so much of our old technology has become obsolete – the VCR, dial-up internet (which even I have now ditched at my wife’s insistence!), the type writer, encyclopaedias, polaroid cameras, and I’m sure you can think of plenty more.

How we now use this information (that people are embracing technology more and more) is something we must deal with.The use of mobile phones at school is a prime example of an area we need to give greater thought to. At Covenant, students aren’t allowed to use their phones in anyway during school hours (including break times) however, the possibilities for enriching education are worth considering.

It would be naive to think that every single one of our students have a smart phone, but almost all of them would carry a mobile phone of some sort that carries a camera. How can we put that to use in our lessons? Use the cameras for individual and peer review technique when practicing skills? Using video functions to film scenarios for discussion or create a Health TV article? Use the recording device to podcast their thoughts or a summary of their notes?

Could we use the calendar and organisational tools in each of the phones to help students better manage their time to complete homework, assignments and assessments? It’s not like they ever leave it too far out of reach! We could explore the possibility of students using them to submit feedback on what they are currently learning in class by using a website such which allows students to SMS a code to give instant feedback that would be presented on a live animated chart that can be projected onto the board.

For those, that do have access to a smart phone, we could use applications such as ‘runkeeper‘ to track and analyse student movement patterns, monitor their average speeds, highest speed, the amount of time spent in specific training zones.

I understand that there are issues with who ‘owns’ the content of photos or videos that we upload, but maybe we need to consider how we can embrace the technology that our students carry with them each day.

As you would know from my previous post, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this recently. Today, I realised that I’m becoming more George Jetson that Fred Flintstone!