Live From #PhysEd! My Television Setup!
by Joey Feith
When I first got to St. George’s School, the educational technology coordinators got in touch and asked if we had any tech needs for the physical education department. Having never actually experience anything as awesome as that before, I jokingly put in that I wanted a big screen for my gym.
I say jokingly because I never expected it to happen. That being said, when we got back from the winter break last year, I turned on the lights in my gym and found myself staring at an brand new television all set up where the blackboard used to be!
In this blog post, I’m going to walk you through my television setup. I’ll share exactly how the TV is installed and wired (along with strengths and weaknesses of our system), as well as the specific apps I use in my lessons and how they tie into our lessons.
Just a head’s up: I don’t think my setup is perfect and I know other people have very different big screen setups in their gyms. This blog post isn’t meant to “show you the way” in terms of getting a TV in your gym, it’s just meant to add to the overall conversation and share my perspective on the strengths of a television setup for physical education. If you want to see a different setup and perspective, check out this post by Jarrod Robinson over at The PE Geek.
Alright! Let’s do this!
Physical Education Television Setup
Ok, so let’s actually talk about the nitty gritty of how the television is actually set up in my gym.
My television is a 60″ Sharp AQUOS. It had been living in the student lounge at our high school campus before they renovated, took down a few TVs and sent this one to my gym (so we didn’t buy it new… which is smart).
The awesome buildings & grounds team at St. G’s installed it over the holiday break. The TV was bolted and wired into the wall (with heavy duty bolts… that TV isn’t going anywhere anytime soon!).
The team also built a wooden box frame around the TV and installed a thick sheet of plexiglass over the front of it to protect the screen from any hazards in class. The plexiglass is a little annoying, because it can get scratched and make it difficult to see the screen. Also, the lights in the gym reflect off of it, so I often have to turn the ones closest to the TV off in order to show video to my students (which isn’t a big deal in our gym since you can turn the lights on/off quickly… they don’t warm up). That being said, a broken TV screen would be much more annoying…
There are holes drilled into the bottom of the screen to allow some sound to come out. However, that doesn’t really matter since the TV itself is hardwired into our gym’s speaker system (there are two of these in our gym, the soundboard is easily accessible in the music room next door if ever I need it).
Behind the wall on which the TV is mounted are all of the wires/cables for the TV (e.g. power, audio, HDMI). We also have a third generation Apple TV there which is connected to the TV via HDMI and is connected to our school’s wireless network.
Just some quick notes on the Apple TV:
First of all, when I first got the TV, we had a wireless HDMI system installed in the TV. That meant that I had to connect a dongle to my MacBook, connect my MacBook to the wireless HDMI, launch AirServer, and then Airplay my iPad screen via Airserver via my MacBook to the TV. For any of you who have ever used technology in their teaching, you’ll understand that fewer “middle men” means fewer headaches. I was very happy when the Apple TV came in.
Second, this is a third generation Apple TV, which means no tvOS, no App Store and no Siri. I have a fourth generation with all of those things at home, and I really don’t mind not having them at school: tvOS is ok (not great yet), there aren’t enough native tvOS apps I’d really want to use in my teaching anyway, and any time I try to set a time with Siri when teaching in the gym, she orders a pizza. The third generation Apple TV is cheaper and it really just serves as an Airplay box for my iPads/MacBooks (which is all I need).
Third, sometimes Airplay can be frustrating. It doesn’t connect right away (this is especially true when I have my music app open), it kicks me off randomly, and it will give me glitchy playback at times. That being, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
Alright, so now that we’ve covered the hardware, let’s take a look at the apps I most often use with my TV to help my students in their learning journeys.
(Air)Playing With Apps in Physical Education
Before we move forward here, I just want to give you a head’s up on the technology that the teachers and students have access to at St. George’s School of Montreal (and that we use in physical education class).
First off, as of grade 3, each student is assigned a MacBook Air that they bring with them from class to class (the MacBooks get docked in the students’ homerooms when not in use). As a teacher, I am also assigned a MacBook Air which I use at work.
At our Elementary Campus, we have about 30 iPad Minis and 15 iPod Touch that can be signed out for different educational purposes throughout the day. When my students are using iOS devices in physical education, that’s how I get access to them.
I also bring my personal iPad Air and iPhone 6S with me to every lesson. My iPad is my main tool when I’m teaching and the device that gets AirPlayed the most to the TV. I’ve vlogged about different ways I use my iPad, so feel free to check that video out if you’d like to learn more.
Alright, onto the apps!
Ok, so the first one is a bit of a gimme.
The reality is that we often have music playing playing during physical education class. I use it as a start/stop cue, I use it to inform students when it’s time to change stations (“when you hear the music change…”), most of all I use it because I love music.
With the Apple TV connected to the TV, I AirPlay Apple Music from my iPad as I’m teaching. Being able to start/stop/switch it on the go is a beautiful thing for a physical education teaching.
The students also control the music during our Q-Tip Hockey (i.e. Pillow Polo) intramurals (they’ll even play the Montreal Canadiens goal music after each goal and the Canadian national anthem at the end of each match).
A while back, I blogged about The #PhysEd Playlist Project. The idea was to create student-friendly playlists to help teachers find new, fun music to play in their lessons. I’ve been meaning to revamp the project and update the playlists with the help of my students. I’ll be recreating the playlist in Apple Music and will share them via the site once they are done!
Also a bit of a gimme, but essential in my teaching.
The most common way I use YouTube is to share provocative videos (i.e. videos that will help my students become emotionally tuned-in) that relate to the content we are exploring in class. I got this idea from my friend Andy Vasily after seeing his “Provocations in Physical Education” session at a conference a few years ago. Andy had all of the participants (including me) bawling our eyes out after sharing a video provocation that he uses to get his students tuned into the guiding question of what it means to be a champion. Since then, I always try to start my units off by sharing some kind of content that will get them fired up about what we are going to learn in physical education. As the world’s second largest search engine, YouTube makes it easy to find incredible content to share with your students.
During our dance units, we will also use a variety of Just Dance videos found on YouTube as warm up and/or learning activities. I’ve vlogged about these dance units before, which were very YouTube-heavy. Check that video out below.
— ThePhysicalEducator (@phys_educator) October 25, 2016
Paper is one of those apps that gets opened on a daily basis in my teaching. I recently vlogged about some of the different ways I use the app in my teaching, so be sure to watch the video below to learn more.
For now though, here are some examples of work I have created with my students using Paper and our Apple TV-powered television in physical education class:
Giphy isn’t an app I project to my TV, but it is the app I use to create animated GIFs which I will have looping on the big screen.
Giphy makes it really easy to create short, looping, animated GIFs using content hosted online (e.g. YouTube videos) or your own videos.
I’ll usually create a GIF and insert it into a Keynote of Google Slides slide which I’ll then AirPlay to my TV and have looping throughout the lesson. Here’s an example of one I created for my FMS units:
Also in the category of apps I use every day is Coach’s Eye.
If you’ve never heard of it before, Coach’s Eye is a video analysis app that gives you an incredible amount of tools to break down and annotate videos.
Be it breaking down my younger students’ skill performance and analyzing the video as a class to see which critical element are present, or having my older students create step-by-step tutorials on how to perform different skills we explore in class, Coach’s Eye is an incredibly powerful tool.
Being able to AirPlay it to the television means that all of my students have a clear view of what is going on on the screen and can learn from it.
Although I don’t use it as frequently as some of the other apps on this list, Seconds Pro is my absolute favourite interval timer.
We’ll use timers to control shifts, HIIT training activities, or station rotations. The app provides a nice, big, visual screen that is easy for all to see and understand, especially when AirPlayed to the television.
BaM Video Delay
BaM (Bust a Move) Video Delay is one of those apps that does one thing, but does it extremely well.
In BaM’s case, the app delays video. Not video recording, just video.
That means I can set up my iPad on my tripod, set a delay and allow my students to see what their performance looks like without ever having to press record, save video or use up precious class time.
For example, in my Grade 6 track & field unit, I had BaM set up by our high jump mat. Students could run up to the mat, perform their jump and then walk over to the iPad/tripod. By the time they got there, they were able to see what their approach and jump looked like which allowed them to reflect on how they could improve.
With my younger students, I’ll do the same set up and have them perform FMS skills in front of the iPad, focusing on specific critical elements as they do so. Once they have performed the skill, they can go over to the iPad, see what it looked like, and decided whether or not they had demonstrated the critical element that they were to focus on.
Again, the power here lies in the fact that BaM frees up time for me to give more one-on-one time to the students that need it and prevents students from having to step away from activity time in order to film each other.
That’s a wrap!
There are several other apps that I use with the television in my teaching, but only in specific situations. Good examples of these would be FitStar Personal Trainer and Yoga Studio (we’ll use routines from those apps during our fitness units). That being said, the ones I listed above are, by far, the most frequently used apps that get AirPlayed to the television in physical education class.
So that’s my physical education television setup! It’s not perfect, but I absolutely love it! If you use a television or projector in your lessons, I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!
Thanks for reading and happy teaching!
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