This article is also in audio form! Chalk Talk brought to life the stories and insights from the teachers and coaches in this article!
A special thanks to Justin Contois who is featured in this piece. Go check out more from Justin here: Strength Training for Cross Country Athletes
Technology Under Attack feat. Justin Contois
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article breaking down the classic objections around Physical Education. The article took on all the different reasons why people think Physical Education is ‘not for everyone’. I argued PE should be in the same ranks as subjects like Math, Science, or ELA. (Go check out that article here).
While I rode off into the sunset, proud of the arguments I presented in defense of PE, I thought, there is more work to be done. This time it’s technology under attack! I turned my proverbial horse around, rode back into town, and I am back to defend technology as a tool!
And let me be clear right at the front end of this article, I myself have had many of the same objections about technology that I am about to list. I even went so far, in a speech at my Trinity College graduation, to sneak in a little attack on phones and the danger that social media presented to our world. (Seriously, go check out 4:00 to 6:00 where I really start to go off).
So before I make my case on why technology can be used for good, let’s hear what many, including myself, have to say about technology from time to time, both in general and in education.
1) Technology is going to replace jobs 2) Technology is a distraction 3) Technology Is expensive
1) Technology is going to replace teachers. Teachers have been able to teach just fine without technology. Bringing in all this fancy stuff loaded with programs, curriculum, and more is just a way to replace the teachers in the classroom.
2) Technology is a distraction. Phones in the classroom? GASP! Sounds like a recipe for social media scrolling, texting friends, and nothing productive. No phones!
3) Technology is expensive. We could never do all of this at our school because we just do not have the fancy new tech that this would require.
Because clearly I am not even sold, I turned to Justin Contois to help me take on these objections. Justin is a PE teacher at Osborn Park High School in Virginia. Justin uses PLT4M and technology in his PE classes and I wanted to know just exactly how he uses it in his classroom.
1: Technology is going to replace teachers
To set the stage, Osborn Park High School has Advanced PE classes open to 11th and 12th graders. These classes have upwards of 36 to 38 students in each class. Justin is the only teacher in the room with these big groups.
Before technology, Justin made it work, but not without his fair share of headaches. He looked to an app like PLT4M to help manage it all.
“It was tough to collect each kid’s data because I was looking and hunting down kids trying to find out ‘what was your number on that set, or what was your time on this mile or 800.’ Whereas with the app, they (the students) can just plug it right in. It is a lifesaver, and a time saver for that matter.”
And this newfound technology did not replace the experience and knowledge that Justin brought to the classroom. He could take the best pieces he liked within PLT4M, and pair them with his own expertise and experience to make his classroom successful. For Justin, PLT4M was not replacing anything he did, but rather providing an additional resource for his classes.
”The ability to copy a program and make it my own is essential… with the video library that PLT4M has, I can say ‘hey this is what I taught you guys, this is the lift or this is the movement…and if you are not sure and I am with another group, take a peek at the video and I will be right with you.’”
Technology in the classroom became a means to enhance class, not replace the teacher at the helm. But what about the students actually using it?
2: Technology is a distraction
In most cases, we look at technology, cell phones in particular, as distractions. Picture the person of any age, entranced by the glowing phone in front of their face, almost eerily glazed over. Insert, distracting app, and nothing productive is being done with phones.
Putting those same distracting phones into a classroom might sound crazy. But for Justin Contois, he encourages students to bring their phones to class.
Student’s phones are used during class to access daily workouts and lessons. Justin sets the tone that the phones are meant for school purposes and nothing else. By setting a high standard from the beginning of the semester, students know that phones are meant to be a tool.
“The students know the goal. The goal in our class is to gain strength and fitness. I have conversations with each student on the first day of class and ask what are your goals? And why did you take this course? And I always reference back to that when things start to slide or kids are not putting in the effort I am looking for.”
For the occasional student, phones might become a distraction from time to time. But Justin frames and affirms technology as the tool it can be.
“There is a time limit set on certain parts of workout. You need to accomplish it and there does not have to be any social media scrolling…And for the kids who take my class, the first couple of weeks we go over basics, ground rules and setting the tone…I think as a teacher you really need to know and understand your students…and who you might need to give a little extra ‘special’ care to.”
That little extra care goes a long way. Each student in Advanced PE at Osborn Park is being given the skills interact with technology in a productive way that is beneficial to their health.
3: Technology Is Expensive
There is no reason to sugarcoat the costs associated with technology. Yes, there comes a cost to having some sort of technology in classrooms. But schools do not need the NASA Mission Control Room to introduce technology in the classroom.
You do not even need to be ‘1 to 1’ for each student to have a positive technology experience in your class. Justin asks his students to bring their phones to class, but if not everyone has one, with PLT4M students can partner up or use other devices to still access their workouts.
Even just small pieces of technology, like the TV monitors that Osborn Park has in their weight room get put to use.
“I can throw up the leaderboards. We are one rep maxing, doing the bench today, I can show this class in particular and the leaders male and female. Or I can show all my classes I teach and show top 5 or top 10 and see where you stack up. That is motivational and the kids really enjoy that.”
For Justin, phones and a few TV monitors have gone a long way. Other schools use tablets or chromebooks.
And for some, this may still seem out of reach both financially and technologically. That is okay! Go check out our content on thinking about possible grant funding for your school here: (Full Article By Jessica Shawley Here)
The End Goal
Technology will become what we allow it to. It can replace and distract, or it can enhance and engage.
When we use technology to empower teachers and encourage students then those classic objections do not hold much ground in education. Because technology is just one small part of the equation to our greater goal of guiding students to live happy and healthy lives.
For Justin Contois, success in Physical Education is coming from a variety of initiatives. Not success from technology alone, but the total parts of what he has invested as a teacher in his students.
“Students come back after they graduate and say ‘Because of this course and this program…It has changed my life.’ It is amazing as a teacher to hear that and see a kid really embrace what you taught them in a healthy lifestyle.”
So whenever we put tech under attack, we must ask ourselves what part we have a problem with? And how we can be a positive influence to make it better? That is what Justin Contois did and now his classes are benefiting!
Osborn Park has taken technology and found positive ways that students can learn and interact with it.