All during my years of school, I was smart. And if you’re assuming that “smart” is another way of saying “not athletic,” you’d be right. That’s not to say that I wasn’t actually intelligent, but smarts didn’t get you picked first for group sports.
And so I dreaded the daily Physical Education class. As if the awkwardness of the changing rooms were not enough, it continued as I watched all the other kids get chosen for teams before someone grudgingly pointed at me. I viewed picking teams as an extension of the popularity caste system that seeped into every moment of school life. But I never saw a teacher try to bypass it.
Until now. Adam Ebbole, a physical education teacher at the Ravenswood-ridge Elementary Network in Chicago, Illinois, has discovered not just one, but several innovative ways to use a projector in his classroom. One way is great for the students, by eliminating the common “chosen last” phenomena many of us suffered through as children, but the three additional uses for the Epson VS210 Projector help to make him a more effective teacher.
1. No Student Left Behind
“I have an iPad app that I use with the projector,” explains Mr. Ebbole. “It picks the groups for the students, which is both a time saver and also prevents any student from being the last choice for sports groups.”
It’s not always random. Mr. Ebbole can use the app to choose teams that include students from all ability levels—and popularity levels. “By using the app, I can make sure that our high population of special needs students aren’t waiting around after all the athletic kids are picked, and I can break up groups of students that are more likely to talk than exercise.”
2. Keeping Kindergarteners Focused
Mr. Ebbole uses the projector, acquired through DonorsChoose.org, in every one of his 15 classes encompassing grades K-8. With more than 450 students in those classes, the projector comes in handy in more ways than just team selection.
“I use it for the kindergarteners a lot. I usually can’t hold their attention for 50 minutes, so if I use the projector to screen an exercise video, like yoga, they’re not just glued to the screen, they’re also active the entire time. I can also introduce the kids to new and international sports, like tchoukball, and using videos is the best way to show them how to play.”
3. Bigger-Than-Life Stopwatch
Using his iPad, Mr. Ebbole projected a timer for his students, helping them get through the exercise stations faster than when he used a stopwatch. With a projected countdown, the kids were able to keep time on their own, and finished the exercises on time. This allowed them more time to participate in their favorite part of the class—the sports activities.
The projector has also provided a teaching opportunity to Mr. Ebbole, helping him explain to his students how participation affects grades. “With half the time left on the clock, I’d see students that hadn’t been active at all. I was able to start a conversation with them about what their grade should be if they only did half the work, versus the other students who had completed the work. They’ve realized that I watch them more carefully than they assumed!”
4. Eliminating Student Excuses
There’s a video that Mr. Ebbole plays via the projector for each and every class, and for a good reason. “As a gym teacher, I get every excuse under the sun,” he explains. “I went to University of Wisconsin with Matt Scott, a Paralympic basketball athlete. He lost the use of his legs early in his life, and Nike® featured him in a TV ad called No Excuses. It’s only one minute long, but it makes quite an impression on the kids, because you don’t see he’s in a wheelchair until the end.”
Even though it’s too late to save me from the mental scarring of being chosen last, I’m impressed with the ways Mr. Ebbole is using the projector to help students get the most out of PhysEd—whether they like it or not. Through technology and ingenuity, he has made gym class more effective at engaging the students and actually getting them to be active. In this day and age of smartphones, video games and online media, that is a trend I hope to see spread to many more PhysEd classes throughout the nation.