Ipads in physical education

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Using iPads in Physical Education - Laura Yankov and Shannon Maion 2014


The inclusion on iPads in the physical education has great potential, although there are two main limitations for its use. The first limitation is the way that administrators and school district authorities overlook the technology needs of physical education(PE): they are either unaware of the technology possibilities within PE or they experiment financial restraints. In the study conducted by Gibbone, Rukavina and Silverman (2010), the authors reported budget restraints as the most profound barrier to technology integration in the physical education learning environment. The second limitation to the use of iPads in PE is that most physical educators may not know how to implement technology into the curriculum without taking away from activity time (Pyle, & Esslinger, 2014).

Connections to literature

New and creative ways of presenting instruction and participation in physical education are being afforded by the use of technology. Rapid technological development is making it easier to move technology in to the physical education learning environment with the use of wireless technology, projection systems, and activity monitoring devices (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 2009).

The learning theory of constructivism is an important part of integrating technology. Knowledge creation through collaboration and inquiry is a major affordance of technology integration. Technology allows the construction of knowledge to become more student-centered rather than teacher-centered. Student-centered activities enhance understanding and retention of information (Ginn, n.d.).

Educators are in the position of teaching students who have now never known life without a computer. It is expected that educators understand and can assist in students’ linking “specific physical fitness knowledge and concepts to measuring, interpreting, and prescribing appropriate fitness activities” (Juniu, Harris, & Hofer, 2012, p. 34). It is important that educators use technology as a tool to enhance effective instruction: "Research shows that adding technology to K-12 environments, alone, does not necessarily improve learning. What matters most to implementing mobile learning is how students and teachers use technology to develop knowledge and skills and that requires training. Successful technology integration for learning goes hand in hand with changes in teacher training, curricula, and assessment practices" (Edutopia, 2013, Learning Outcomes, para. 2).

When planning instruction educators should identify learning goals and activities first and then choose appropriate educational technology to enhance the experience (Juniu, 2011; Juniu et al., 2012). This leads to selecting technology that will support the lesson plan in “practical and useable ways” (Juniu et al., 2012, p. 34).

Maximizing participation and success is important when integrating educational technology (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 2009) and will promote student motivation and increase participation (Gibbone, Rakavina, & Silverman, 2010). It is important not to design instruction around the technology but to strategically implement technology based around how the teacher plans (Juniu et al., 2012). The use of technology will also be partially determined by its affordances and constraints (Juniu, 2011). A quality physical education program will “appropriately implement technology to enhance teaching and learning” (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 2009, p.5) while maintaining a maximum level of activity in the class rather than focus on the skill of using the technology.

Uses of iPads in PE

Physical educators can incorporate technology and iPads in particular through a variety of approaches. Everyday tasks such as preparing and administering information (fitness scores, class participation, motor skills, etc) can be done more efficiently with the use of the iPads in the physical education classroom. Some of its uses in the PE class include:

1. The iPad as a communication tool: Information for students, parents colleagues and administrators can be posted on a PE Web page for easy reference. The use of the iPad can ease the process of updating special events and policies, as well as uploading review worksheets and information about daily routines,etc. The iPad can be also used to communicate with students and/or parents via e-mail.

  • as a whiteboard: Teachers can use the iPad to annotate skill cues, lessons, teams, instructions, new games, activities and drills. Those notes can be wirelessly projected onto a screen in the gym. Instructions are large and easy to read and they can be saved for future use (Physedtech, 2012).
  • as a scoreboard: There is an app for virtually every sport specific scoreboard. Changing scores can be done wirelessly from anywhere in the gym by simply tapping or swiping with a finger (Physedtech, 2012).
  • as a display platform: Learning objectives, skill cues, procedures, diagrams, drills and sets of rules can easily be displayed visually to address both auditory and visual learners (Physedtech, 2012).

2. The iPad as a classroom management tool: Daily classroom management tasks can be easily be completed with the use of iPads, including:

  • attendance: Teachers can use the iPad not only to record students' absences, but also to view and email attendance reports.
  • notes: iPads can be easily used for observing, taking notes and documenting student behaviour.
  • timers: Visual timers using iPads are wonderful tools in the PE classroom. The number of students in a P.E. class often outnumbers the amount of positions available to play in a game. Shifts are often utilized to overcome these issues. By timing shifts with a visual timer students have a clear display of the length and interval on a screen. As a result students can manage themselves better (Physedtech, 2012).
  • music play: With the use of music apps such as Garage Band (http://www.apple.com/ilife/garageband), teachers can create, write, and edit music or record songs. This music or sound effects can signal students to move from one station to another, or one piece of music or song can determine the time for working at a station. “Keeping students meaningfully active is the primary goal of physical educators, but this is sometimes a difficult task. Music is a great addition to physical activities, useful for getting the students moving faster, keeping them motivated and moving, or calming them down” (Pyle & Esslinger, 2014). The iPad allows teachers to control the music remotely, while moving freely around the gym during instructional time. Teachers can also play the music through a bluetooth speaker. Therefore, they can be walking around the gym and wirelessly controlling what music is played.
  • iPad as a microphone: can be used as a microphone if an appropriate app is downloaded from the apple app store.
  • behaviour management record: The iPad can be used to track poor behaviour of students during gym class. A notification can be sent home to their parents informing them of poor behaviour that day. Also, behaviour can be tracked using various emoticons.

3. The iPad as a tool for instruction, self-assessment and feedback: iPads can be used to help students understand the relationships among the key components of physical education: motor skills, fitness, and physical activity (Pyle & Esslinger, 2014). Teachers can also use the iPad to record and analyse students’ performance on certain skills and game play.

  • random team generators: They allow making teams and grouping easy and fast. The “human factor” in creating groupings is eliminated, and students feel "it's fair". Lists can be saved or emailed for a future date with the tap of a finger. There are far fewer complaints of favouritism and unfairness and many less hurt emotions or feelings of exclusion (Physedtech, 2012).
  • incorporation of multimedia into PE: YouTube videos accessed by the iPad can be projected onto a large screen. Teachers can show clips of world records, or games that are related to the unit being taught.
  • videos of students skills or games: Teachers can film, edit and display videos of students demonstrating a skill or game, and use those videos during instructional time or review of a PE unit. In their research, Banville and Polifki (2009) found a student’s ability to learn and perform motor skills increased with the use of digital video”. Furthermore, filming movements of students in super slow motion can help them to develop a skill and instant feedback can be provided.
  • motor performance videos: Students can utilize the iPad to self-assess motor performance by analyzing their skills immediately through videos. In addition, they can use the app iMovie (http://www.apple.com/ca/ios/imovie/) to showcase their PE knowledge and skill by creating instructional and performance movies. According to Kovar, Combs, Campbell, Napper-Owen & Worrell, making this type of authentic assessment is more meaningful for the student and the teacher (as cited in Pyle & Esslinger, 2014, pg.38)
  • videos to show progress and development: Teachers can take a video of the student' performance on a particular skill at the beginning and at the end of the unit. This video analysis can help demonstrate the student's progress and development.
  • music and camera apps: During a dance unit, students can select a dance style and create a choreography. With the iPad, they can record themselves and then watch the video to look for areas of improvement (Feith, 2012).

4. The iPad as a tool for assessment: With iPads, teachers can assess student learning and evaluate health-related physical fitness. This includes using exercise equipment to assess physical activity (e.g., accelerometers, heart rate monitors, pedometers, interactive dance machines), body composition (e.g., bioelectrical impedance devices, electronic skin-fold calipers), and movement and motor-skill performance (e.g., Dartfish).(Juniu, 2011).

  • recording students times in wide variety of ways: Teachers can take a photo of each student as they cross the finish line with their time superimposed over the picture; when tapping on a student’s name when finishing a run, his/her time will be recorded. A conventional stopwatch-like app can also be use as an alternative.
  • recording scores and assessing skills: With the iPad teachers can record scores and assess skills directly on the device, by using predefined drop down menus, steppers, sliders, or enter data by just tapping the screen. Teachers no longer have to re-transcribe data and the iPad calculates it all for them (Physedtech, 2012).

5. The iPad to store teacher resources: Teaching manuals can be stored on the iPad, along with notes, diagrams and annotations directly on the screen and saved to the page. Any page or range of pages can be printed or emailed. Teachers can create bookmarks for lessons or pages as desired.

6. Video explaining Self Assessment and Feedback uses: http://youtu.be/6ITYd7YpIZQ.

7. Stop Motion Animation: Using iPads in Physical Education: https://youtu.be/qQtnob2RjVk

iPad apps for PE


Communication apps for physical education

Remind101 - Free

A safe way for teachers to text message students and stay in touch with parents using one-way messaging. No phone numbers are exchanged.

CoachNote - $4.99

Interactive whiteboard that contains diagrams and maps of more than 30 sports. Works well when paired with AppleTV.

DEJIBO - $1.99

Basketball scoreboard app.

Classroom Management

Classroom management apps for physical education


Synchronize notes, recording and photographs across all devices / computers.

CHRONOSOFT - Free or Full version $5.99

A timer that can keep track of multiple students at one time. The start time can be grouped or individual.


Interval timer that runs in foreground or background. Allows music and playlist to play during the workout.


Select from a variety of playlists to suit your needs. No listeniing limits.

STOPWATCH AND TIMER - Free or Full version $1.99

Simple stopwatch using large numbers.


Create custone tournament brackets. Tournament and bracket examples are included.


Apps for instruction in physical education


Interactive fitness activity that can be used for self directed learning. Students flip over virtual cards which contain a fitness activity and desired number of reps. Can be used with a variety of fitness levels.

iFITNESS - $2.99

Provides a database of exercises using pictures, videos and instructions. iFitness can also be used to track your workout.

iMUSCLE - $1.99

Explore various muscles when moving and exercising. You can view body parts, muscles and exercise as well as create and track workouts that can be shared with the teacher.

JUMP IT - $1.99

Task card resource that prompts students to develop jump rope skills with self directed learning.


Measures heart rate and can save information for future reference and tracking.

QRAFTER - Free or Full version $2.99

Qrafter (Crafter) scans and generates QR codes.

TABATA PRO - $2.99

Tabata timer for Tabata interval training.

TEAM SHAKE - $0.99

Create randomized teams or balance teams based on skill or gender. Ability to import users from a file.


Apps for assessment in physical educaiton


Traditional beep test with a display of current stage, laps and VO2 max that is updated as the students run. Would work great with AppleTV as the student perform the test.


Develop rubrics and assess performance.


Interactive whiteboard that allows you to great tutorials and share them online.


Create lessons, activities and assessments using an interactive whiteboard type tool. Import various media, annotate, narrate and export as movie or pdf.

There is also a free book describing how to use it that is available at http://www.explaineverything.com/ibook--itunesu.html


Video analysis. Improve your skills with slow motion video anaylysis and side-by-side comparisons.

DARTFISH - $4.99

Video analysis. Provides instant feedback with slow motion playback. Use voice or text notes, still shots and labels. Share online via dartfish.tv.

BOOKCREATOR - Free or Full version $4.99

Create and share iBooks. Use it to create manuals, textbooks, photobooks, eportfolios, etc. Integrate all types of media – text, video, pictures, webpages


Video analysis. Provides instant feedback with slow motion playback, side by side comparison and sharing abilities via coaches eye website.

TimeMotion - Free

Allows user to record the activity profile of a student. Analyze how much time your students are spending on different activities during class (i.e. running, walking, standing, etc).


Teacher resource apps for physical education


Use these games to “break the ice” or “warm up” your students, teams or groups.

TAG GAMES - $0.99

Database of differenent versions of the game of tag.

TGFU - $1.99

Teaching games for understanding (TGFU) learning model for a game-based learning approach is explained.


For teachers interested in integrating technology in physical education. Contains blogs, handouts, links and social media resources.


Tool for teachers leading activity in classrooms, outside or gymnasiums. Contains ideas, games and a lesson plan tool. Activities can be filtered by equipment needed. Some activities contain video instruction.

HKnow - Free

Information on current trends in sport and exercise science, sports, physical education and fitness from Human Kinetics and leading experts in the field.

PE GAMES - Free or Full version $1.99

PE game database containing over 100 games in a variety of categories. The app also contains the ability to add your own games and categories.


Technology integration is widely accepted amongst educational professionals but barriers experience by teachers within their learning environments may hamper efforts and meaningful use (Gibbone et al., 2010). Preparation and strategic planning is needed to overcome barriers (Gibbone et al., 2010) such as financial and accessibility constraints, time and training needs.

1. Financial and accessibility constraints: Budget concerns effect the ability to purchase a desirable amount of equipment and software for teachers and / or students to use (Gibbone et al., 2010). Teachers are less likely to implement technology in to their learning environment when there is limited access to equipment (Woods, Karp, Miao, & Periman, 2008).

Woods et al (2008) suggest that budget planning needs to happen to acquire new technologies and upgrade current technology. Grant writing is another way to secure funds for purchasing technology. Teachers can also try a bring your own device (BYOD) approach and take advantage of free applications and resources offered online.

2. Time: Learning to use and implementing technology in class takes time. Physical education teachers, particularly elementary teachers who are limited with class time, are concerned with the time commitment it takes to use technology (Woods et al., 2008). Staying active and focusing on skill development is preferred over the inactivity that can come with the use of technology (Woods et al., 2008).

Woods et al. (2008) suggest that to save time, technology must be easily understood and operated; thus, it is age appropriate. Teachers must spend time thinking about classroom management and how they will be able to maximize on task time and minimize waiting time (Wang, Meyers, & Yanes, 2010). Setting up and testing technology before class as well as having appropriate support during class is also important for minimizing inactive time during class (Wang et al., 2010).

Teachers should be offered professional development to obtain an increased comfort level when using technology. Familiarity with the technology will allow teachers to anticipate possible troubleshooting that may be needed during class time. Effective teacher training should also include timesaving features that the technology affords (Woods et al., 2008). Technical failures can happen when using technology. Being flexible with your classroom management can help alleviate the elevated stress level that technical issues may cause (Wang et al., 2010).

3. Training needs: Technology is often purchased or placed in to a learning environment with out providing training for the teacher (Woods et al., 2008). Many teachers do not have a proper and effective understanding of how to integrate technology, in this case iPads, into physical education (Woods et al., 2008). Kopcha (2012, p.1118) states “a teacher’s decision to integrate technology is based heavily on the level of support they receive, their own beliefs about using technology for learning, and their skills with using technology for instruction”.

Teachers need to have the opportunities and the skills to integrate technology (Woods et al., 2008). Participating in professional development activities will help a teacher gain the confidence and skills needed to implement technology in physical education. Peer support through modeling (Gibbone et al., 2010), mentoring and communities of practice (Kopcha, 2012) also play an important role in providing teachers with the skills for successful technology implementation.

See also

Evernote as an Educational Tool

Handheld Devices Enhancing the Learning Environment

Handheld Devices in the 21st Century Classroom

Input Devices and Physical Education

Learning with iPads

Tablet Enhanced Learning Environments

Teaching with the iPod Touch

Technology and Student-Centred Learning

Technology Enhanced Learning Environments

External Links

100+ Ways to Use Technology in Physical Education

APPitic: APP lists for physical education

Appropriate Use of Instructional Technology in Physical Education: American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation

Edutopia: Overcoming technology barriers: How to innovate without extra money or support

Physedtech: new and innovative uses of the iPad and technology in physical education (PE)

Physedtech Blog: iPad is right for PE!: iPad in Physical Education

Pinterest: PE - Technology boards

The Physical Educator: Rethinking What Can Be Done In Physical Education

Webcast: iPods and iPad in Physical Education

Webinar: Apps for PE teachers: "Don't be a sap, know your apps"

Stop Motion Video demonstrating use of iPad in Physical Education



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Apple, Inc. (2013). iMovie[iPad app]. Available from http://www.apple.com/ca/ios/imovie/

Banville, D., & Polifko, M.F. (2009). Using digital video recorders in physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Cance, 80(1), 17-21. doi:10.1080/07303084.2009.10598262

Edutopia. (2013). Technology Integration Review. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-research-learning-outcomes

Feith, J. (2012, May 17). iPads in PE: So You Think You Can Dance [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.thephysicaleducator.com/blog/files/ipad_dance_unit.html

Gibbone, A., Rukavina, P., & Silverman, S. (2010). Technology integration in secondary physical education: teachers’ attitudes and practice. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange, 3(1), 27-42. Retrieved from http://jetde.theti.org/evaluate/oinfoSingleArticle.do?articleId=2135&columnId=2129

Ginn, W. Y. (n.d.). Jean Piaget – Intellectual Development. Retrieved from http://www.sk.com.br/sk-piage.html

Juniu, S. (2011). Pedagogical Uses of Technology in Physical Education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 82(9), 41-49. doi: 10.1080/07303084.2011.10598692

Juniu, S., Harris, J., & Hofer, M. (2012). Grounded Technology Integration: Physical Education. Learning and leading with technology, 40(2), 34-36. Retrieved from http://www.learningandleading-digital.com/learning_leading/20120910?pg=36#pg1

Kopcha, T. J., (2012). Teachers’ perceptions of the barriers to technology integration and technology under situated professional development. Computers & Education, 59, 1109-1121. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131512001352

National Association for Sport and Physical Education. (2009). Appropriate use of instructional technology in physical education. Retrieved from [1]

Physedtech. (2012, November 17). iPad is right for PE!: iPad in Physical Education [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://physedtech.org/2012/11/17/ipad-is-right-for-pe/

Pyle, B., & Esslinger, K. (2014). Utilizing Technology in Physical Education: Addressing the Obstacles of Integration. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, Educational Technology, 80(2), 35-39. Retrieved from https://www.dkg.org/content/bulletin-winter-2014

Wang, L., Meyers, D. L., & Yanes, M. J. (2010). Creating student-centered learning experience through the assistance of high-end technology in physical education: A case study. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 37(4), 352-356. EJ952143

Woods, M. L., Karp, G. G., Miao, H., & Periman, D. (2008). Physical Educators’ Technology Competencies and Usage. The Physical Educator, 65(2), 82-99. Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1633&context=edupapers