Saturday, 5 June 2010

Ratio of Students per Exergame in PE Class

Exergaming is delivering physical activity very well but does not obviously fit in with the traditional teaching of Physical Education. Aside from specialist gymnastics or sports coaching, the majority of classes are based around the whole class being active at the same time.

The engagement levels of exergaming are very high, using technology that is more expensive and requires more space than traditional PE store equipment. The extra cost and space, for many, will reduce the number exergaming stations available compared with the number of students in the class.

This post explores the options to gain benefits from the technology within a physical education arena. The six options are based on a 45 minute class of 30 students. Using 15 minutes for briefing, warm up and debriefing gives 30 minutes for potential activity.

Option 1 – Play and Observe
Three two-player exergaming stations give a total of six available places for students. This represents a typical resource for a small or medium sized school without its own dedicated exergaming space. The 30 students will be just as happy watching the games in progress, often being quite animated and offering game play advice, as they are playing the games. No child will be left excluded by rotating the class through the 6 stations. A typical 5 minute game will involve one minute of changeover, especially as children don’t like to restart without choosing new characters! While the fun factor is high, each student will gain just 5 minutes physical activity and each student is able to play just one game. A high energy output exergame is essential in this scenario to improve fitness levels.

Option 2 - Multi Play
To increase the physical activity, without adding significantly to cost or the storage requirements of exergaming, the extended multi-player features of some games can be used. Increasing the number of players from two to four per screen doubles the places available to twelve. The number of games that support four players is less than those that support dual or solo play. In practice there are plenty of titles and genres to choose from and the restriction to four player only needs a little more care in selection, especially when children bring their own games to class. Now each student will get 10 minutes physical activity and is able to play two games in the lesson. Once again, the higher the calorific burn of the exergame the better.

Option 3 – Split Class
If the school employs teaching assistants or student teachers it is viable to split the class to further enhance the active time of children. Using the exergaming equipment as per option 1 the class can be split with 6 children playing supervised exergames for a lesson, with the remaining 24 children being instructed in traditional PE. The split can be rotated over a number of weeks, making sure each student has a varied curriculum. The intensity of the exergames must be reduced, and lower energy exergames can introduced in this scenario that makes sure all students are active for the maximum amount of time.

Option 4 – Skill Enhanced Reward
Exergaming can be used as the basis of reward for achievement in PE and still deliver physical activity. The imagination of the PE teacher can be used to the full by adding the exergame reward to skill based games. Three two player exergames can be used as the reward for six students. An example would be a team catch skill development game with 5 teams of 6 students, where the team who manages the most number of complete passes over a set course are rewarded with the exergame. While this team is being rewarded, the remaining teams play the skill task again to determine the next exergame rewarded team. The students are active throughout the class and more likely to be anticipating the lesson with PE wear instead of excuses not to participate.

Option 5 – Fitness Enhanced Plan
There is an existing traditional PE example where equipment spaces are limited, the fitness circuit. This has been successfully employed in teaching skill and fitness development since long before video games were invented. Using a small setup of two dual-player exergames fits in well with existing circuits and will raise the student’s enthusiasm for the entire class. The students will be keen to get back around to the exergame activity, so may need a little more supervision on the traditional activities. The children all get maximum activity during the lesson.

Option 6 – The 1:1 Ratio
The ultimate flexibility is open to those schools that have the resource and are large enough to dedicate a space for exergaming. With such a facility on site it is possible not only to engage all of the students in a PE class at once, but also introduce more specialist exergames that may have a lower spectrum of games that can be played. Unlike a team game, where one PE teacher can supervise a large number of children, the activities will be split and extra teaching resource will be required to supervise such a large unstructured play. To reduce this reliance on teaching staff the lesson can follow programming that is easily understood by the children and introduces a set routine that children enjoy.

From the options it is clear that exergaming has a place in physical education, and is a very flexible resource, but the applications have yet to be written into curriculum. This gives the PE teacher a chance to take these options as a basis, build on them, alter them and add to them.

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