With the global pandemic of 2020, hopefully we all have had some time to reflect on the qualities of a Physical Education program. 2020 has been an interesting year. We have seen the rise of distance learning, the loss of teacher-focused pedagogy and the birth of innovative 21st-century pedagogy, the creation YouTube PE/Fitness sensations like Joe Wick, and the realization that many people believe that Physical Education classes could simply be replaced by YouTube videos, charts, and apps. To be honest, some of those frighten me.
I am going to be “that guy” and just say it. Anyone, who believes that quality Physical Education can come from a YouTube channel or app, is wrong! There is so much more to Physical Education than many people know and as professionals, we need to do what we can to not only educate our students on the dimensions of Physical Education but the community as well. Now I am not writing this to be critical or judge anyone. The purpose is to generate healthy reflective thinking and application of future practices.
Now with that out of the way, I wanted to introduce a concept that came to me as I was reflecting on my experience teaching virtual Physical Education and from what I have seen from the PhysEd community. First, we all did the best we can given the situation. All of us were given a difficult situation to respond to and we all did our best given our resources, expectations and experiences. Many of us gathered together via social media to share resources and projects that we could have our students do to keep them active and moving at home. Never in my experience have I seen the creation of such unique games and activities that could be used in our classes. Students were given the opportunity to be active during their time at home where they needed movement the most.
Unfortunately this also strengthened the stereotype that haunts Physical Education and the profession; PE is just games and fitness. There is much more to quality Physical Education programming, and at this point I would like to introduce the concept of the Physical Education Matrix.
The elearning experience was a great example of the importance of physical activity and movement for a quality experience, but it is also just a small piece of quality programing. A true, quality experience involves learning not only physical activity and movement, but also about Physical/Sport Literacy, and Health/Wellness Literacy. Focusing on just one area of the matrix is easy and emphasises WHAT we are doing as educators and leaves us vulnerable to miss the WHY we are learning a concept.
Here is a break down of what each section of the Physical Education Matrix includes:
So it is time to reflect: have your lessons and learning experiences engaged all these qualities of Physical Education? I will be honest, mine have not been but I strive to make that happen. I have also seen that some division developed resources that were mandated to be followed by a number of schools also did not. Many of us focused on activity and movement and missed the “education” part in Physical Education. It was a case of survival and making it day-to-day.
It was not until the halfway point of my eLearning experience until I realized that my lessons and experiences were missing the other two areas of the Phys Ed Matrix. So, I sat down and thought about how I can still keep the students moving and incorporate Physical, Sport, Wellness, and Health Literacies? This could happen and all with purposeful planning to create a unit that would explore each of these concepts. Hence, the creation of the Learn a New Skill unit. In this unit, we strived to keep students active while exploring the understanding and development of fundamental movement skills and concepts of learning and motivation. All developed with eh purpose of developing the skills for students to be active and healthy for life without the direct instruction of a teacher.
Moving forward, I think that all of us need to take a look at the ways we are meeting the criteria of quality Physical Education for our students. Are we promoting the Joe Wicks and YouTube stars that send the message that Physical Education is just movement and fitness, or are we striving to put the education piece back into Physical Education?