21st Century PE Classroom

The PE classroom has evolved and changed many times throughout history. Historically the PE classroom could be: an open field standing in lines, a gymnasium with a variety of balls available, a wrestling room, a mat below a long rope, or even an actual classroom. As we learn more about learning, and move farther into the technology era of education we are quickly realizing that “classroom” has a new meaning, now the world is our classroom, and we can break those stereotypes of where learning occurs, and even how learning occurs.  I want to take one look into how the future of learning in physical education can look, but remember, the possibilities are endless, and this is not THE answer, this is just one teacher, one set of circumstance, and one idea, the more creative we all are, and the more we share our ideas the better our students will benefit!

In my school we are exploring new ways to implement technology into the classroom, and as a PE teacher I have been fighting for physical education to be included in this revolution.  While every class and unit has a variety of looks here are some of my thoughts on our general class idea.  It is difficult, if not impossible to explain every way this can look for me because depending on my class and unit I could be inside a gym, outside on a field, in a classroom, on the river, or countless other places doing countless activities, but for the sake of this lets look at the gym!

Traditional Classroom:

A traditional PE classroom is usually a teacher giving commands for students to do for warm ups, and then either a ball being given out and being told to go play, or a distance being given and told to go run.  This doesn’t engage students cognitively, socially, and barely challenges them in the psychomotor domain.  We want this to change, we want students to be challenged in all areas, and learn to be learners, not just factory line reproducers.

My vision: (created using SKETCHUP)


The gymnasium is great for learning, because it is a blank slate for classroom design!, If you ignore the lines on the ground it has no real orientation, which encourages interactions to happen in all directions with all individuals (students and teachers), as well it is multi-sensory!  For my vision I have a single court gym space with multiple areas set up for different groups or classes to be working on different things concurrently. The groups are spread out with lots of space to freely do their group work.


One great aspect of the 21st century is the amazing technology we have, and how it can greatly help when properly used. In the above image you see the basketball court, with 4 stands around it. These stands are Ipad stands used to record the lessons happening.  For a lesson that utilizes proper motor patterns (for example shooting a layup) we use Ipads to record the activity using an app (Coach’s Eye, Dartfish, etc.), and then allow the students to go back, review the action with their group or a teacher and analyze what movements they did correctly and incorrectly so they can receive almost immediate visual feedback which greatly improves their learning.  This has application in a variety of ways to include movement, strategy, technique, and many other aspects of physical education. The stands are easy to maneuver and therefore you can capture from any angle desired, and easily review it with your partner or group.

Mobile Lab and VR

In the corner of the space we see a laptop cart fully equipped with either laptops or Ipads to allow each student (or pair of students or even group of students) access to the internet, multimedia tools, and any other technological advancement right inside the classroom.  In addition to the laptop cart we have a table with 3 VR headsets.  VR headsets have made amazing advancements and have many applications to physical education, for some examples you can go hereor hereto see some applications that are possible now, and the future seems even brighter.  Again the layout creates space for learning, interactions and collaboration!

Our final area we see is on the side where we have a few free moving, chairs to allow organization in any way needed, and freedom to move around.  We also see two forceplates on the ground to be used in a variety of lessons.  Near the forceplates on the wall we would have a big “jumbo tron” screen (which my current gym actually has two) that can be used to present anything from video, data recorded on forceplates, or anything else a teacher or student wants to present from a laptop, Ipad, phone or any other technological device.  This just increases the access to information, increases collaboration and increases immediate feedback.


So this vision I presented is just one part of a whole vision, it also would include a certain method of teaching, a certain curriculum to teach, and many other principles surrounding it as well as a set up for when you are outside, in the weight room, on the dance floor, in the kayak on the river, etc.  But it shows some of the possibilites to rethink your learning space.  With that being said, it also has some restrictions.  Most schools will not have the budget to buy Ipads for the PE class (about $800 each), but most students or teachers will have a cell phone which can serve almost every purpose the Ipad has (think creatively here).  Most classrooms won’t be able to afford VR headsets (depending on the model anywhere from $40 to $500), but again you can use a cell phone almost the same.  Most classrooms don’t have the ability to buy force plates, which you can make yourself if you want or you can get creative with what you do have!  So money is a common limiting factor.  Another limiting factor that is more unique to PE is space.  To a non-PE teacher this may seem strange, because after all “you have the whole gym, I only have a small classroom”. But most PE teachers understand that sometimes you have an entire gym for one class of 20 students, but other times you have a class of 40 students sharing a gym with 7 other classes (I have one period a day that over 300 kids share a gym on bad weather days).  So again creativity is a MUST.

As you can see this classroom has some technologies included into it (Ipads, forceplates, VR sets, Computer cart) but these are not the main focus of the classroom, rather they are used to assist in the learning.  The most important part of the classroom is that it is collaborative, group oriented, student inquiry based, and multisensory.  Every one of the technologies used is great at improving the learning, but none are essential.  They can all be replaced by something else, or even done away with entirely if needed.  With creativity, and forward thinking you could make a 21st century classroom with nothing at all. Just get the students interacting, participating in their own learning, and be present to help guide and assist when needed, but let the students take control of their learning and that is the true way of the future!


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