Teachers using apps to make lessons relevant, more interesting

Six classes at Innova Primary have tried out the app during PE lessons so far, while the rest will do so by the middle of next year. PE teachers at Innova Primary School now use video analysis, which allows slow motion and frame-by-frame scrubbing, t
Six classes at Innova Primary have tried out the app during PE lessons so far, while the rest will do so by the middle of next year. PE teachers at Innova Primary School now use video analysis, which allows slow motion and frame-by-frame scrubbing, to assess the performance of pupils and provide instant feedback.ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
Samantha Ang Xuan Liu started a blog shop when she was 12 so that she did not have to be a financial burden on her unemployed parents. For her selfless gesture, her mother submitted Samantha's name in the ST 12 Days of Christmas Surprises contest.
Samantha Ang Xuan Liu started a blog shop when she was 12 so that she did not have to be a financial burden on her unemployed parents. For her selfless gesture, her mother submitted Samantha's name in the ST 12 Days of Christmas Surprises contest.ST PHOTO: RAJ NADARAJAN

Tablet computers are increasingly regarded by many schools as a valuable teaching tool and now, even the discipline of physical education (PE) has embraced the trend.

Using an app developed by an American company, PE teachers at Innova Primary film their pupils throwing, catching and dribbling balls during lessons, then play back the videos to the pupils on their iPads in slow motion.

PE head of department Mohammad Affendy Abdullah said he can give pupils "instant feedback" on the skills they need to improve on.

"It was hard to explain to pupils what they had to do last time. I would demonstrate for them as a class and tell them what to look out for," he said.

Back then, pupils could not see for themselves what they were doing wrong, since many of the movements - like pitching a ball - happened too quickly for the eye to catch. But with the iPads, pupils can view the slow-motion playback and analyse their errors in detail.

"I realised some of my mistakes, like how I didn't step forward or stretch enough when throwing the ball," said Primary 5 pupil Chuah Sie Yu.

Six classes have tried out the app during PE lessons so far, while the rest will do so by the middle of next year.

Schools are also adopting other technological tools like social media websites and portals to engage their students.

For example, Innova Primary also encourages collaboration among pupils in subjects like mathematics and science through an online portal, where the pupils can post comments on their peers' questions and answers.

Data reports are generated based on pupils' responses, which help their teachers spot gaps in knowledge.

"Class discussions can be quite noisy, and sometimes people are shy to talk," said Primary 4 pupil Nurul Nabilah. "This makes it easier to communicate."

Bendemeer Secondary has just launched a trial using Facebook to facilitate group work in English lessons, using the website's collaborative features to assess the work of students.

English teacher Daryl Toy said the trial has worked well, with students "more proactive and engaged" in lessons.

In social studies classes, the school's Normal (Technical) students were taught to make a stop-motion film with Lego bricks.

The trend is in line with the goal of the Ministry of Education (MOE) to encourage teachers to use infocomm technologies (ICT) to transform teaching. MOE plans to roll out a new online portal by 2016 which will "help level up... students across schools".

Even special education schools are joining in, following MOE's announcement last year of a $4.5 million fund to equip them with improved ICT infrastructure.

The Asian Women's Welfare Association School, for example, has worked with Nanyang Technological University to set up a 3-D interactive room.

With a 3m screen and motion sensors, the room allows students to interact with, for example, virtual pink dolphins. Plans are under way to develop a virtual supermarket experience as well.

The school's principal, Mrs Ruby Seah, said the use of ICT has enabled teachers to "bring students out of the classroom... with a single click of the mouse".

She added: "ICT tools also provide almost instant feedback that is accompanied by sounds, movements and lights, which fascinate students with special needs who usually have a limited attention span."

linettel@sph.com.sg