Recently, Dr Deborah Tannehill and I, presented our initial findings on the Phyz project at CESI (Computer in Education Society of Ireland) conference. The title of our presentation was Learning to teach the new Senior Cycle Physical Education framework using the “Phyz” app. Given the expertise and knowledge of the CESI community, we aimed to share features of the Phyz app designed to enhance teaching of the Senior Cycle Physical Education (SCPE) framework, professional development with teachers’ trialling the framework, and obstacles encountered implementing the app in Irish schools. Just a quick note to remind that the Phyz is a NCCA and UL pilot project pioneering use of mobile apps to enrich teaching and learning within the Irish Senior Cycle landscape.
Currently, the six physical education teachers involved in the project are finishing the first unit of learning. The curriculum models that they chose for their first teaching and learning experience were Sport Education, Teaching Games for Understanding and Health Related Physical Activity. Their knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge of the curriculum models and digital technology vary, as their experience teaching physical education (from two to 25 years). However, all of them reported optimal levels of enthusiasm to participate in this research project. That was the reason why the first three months, we have had face to face meetings to plan collaboratively and to learn more about the SCPE framework, and the app. It was (and it is) an informal and safe environment of discussion and meaningful conversations to build our community of learning. It has been a very positive experience. As one of the teachers highlighted: “Sometimes you just need to be in a room with like-minded people and the sharing just opens up. I’ve really enjoyed that; it has been eye opening” or another: “The community is brilliant. Like, every day we go to Limerick or Portlaoise, I leave being a better PE teacher. I leave like, that’s a great idea. We are just so keen to share”. Overall, these meetings have been very productive in terms of planning: “The better planned I am, the more confident I am. The more confident I am, the better teacher I am”. Also, in terms of assessment: “I think you think more about … like, ok, hold on now, the first thing I plan is my assessments to match the outcomes, and then I plan my learning. So, the structure of my planning changed, and assessment is no longer an add-on” or “Before I started using the curriculum models I never felt like I was assessing properly. Now, I find different ways to assess, like task cards with teaching points works well for peer assessment and feedback. The assessment criteria you posted on the Google Drive helped so much in setting this up”.
We are gathering data to inform the next teaching and learning experience. Deborah and I as critical friends, have weekly conversations with all of them. Teachers also completed a weekly diary describing some of the critical incidents happening throughout the process. Our initial findings described two different stories. On the one hand, there is a group of teachers (Niamh, Cait and Siobhan, pseudonyms) that has been more focused in the curriculum model enactment. These teachers did not get the official approval to use the app straight away. On the other hand, there is a group of teachers (Sally, Sinead and Evan) that has been focused both on the curriculum model and using the app. These teachers got the official approval to use the app from the very beginning. In this second of group of teachers, learning to integrate the app is not being an easy challenge. As Sally noted: “The kids really need more time to learn about the app, before we start enacting the curriculum model… They really need that… you can teach the app by using some games or whatever, but it really needs to be taught separately from the curriculum model”.
Although we are at a very early stage, we all are learning loads, and these are our initial conclusions. (1) Phyz and curriculum models needs to be taught separately. (2) Teachers need to have a clear understanding and knowledge of the curriculum models; (3) Teachers need to understand use of the Phyz. (4) Teachers need to set the units of learning on paper before adding the Phyz. Only in this way, will teachers be able to integrate the Phyz meaningfully to enrich the curriculum models learning experience. Overall, what we really aim is to make crystal clear that “you don’t have to use the app to do the framework…. the Phyz is a bonus” (Cait). In other words, the design, development and sustainability of digital technology pedagogies in physical education is likely to remain a challenge for the physical education community in the coming years.
Dr Antonio Calderon is a lecturer in Sport Pedagogy in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick. Antonio’s research interests mostly focus on student learning in physical education and on social media and digital technologies for learning engagement in teacher education. You can contact Antonio via email at Antonio.Calderon@ul.ie or view his research profile on Researchgate