It may seem unconventional to teach coding in PE class, but many PE teachers are becoming leaders in integrating STEM with physical activity. One of those educators is Kevin Tiller, better known online as PhysEd Review. Tiller is a PE teacher at West Elementary School in Andover, MA and he is always looking for new ways to improve his classes. Sometimes, that involves bringing in a new technology.
Kevin had already established himself as a technology-forward educator in his school so he was intrigued when the district technology director emailed him about Unruly Splats.
Tiller explained, “[The Technology Director] told me that the district had a technology grant that would be perfect for Splats. After I had a chance to try Splats, I immediately thought of ways we could use them in the warm up, fitness, and focus section of my class. I applied for the grant to get 30 Splats and it was accepted.”
Tiller was especially excited to bring Unruly Splats to the gym to integrate coding with physical activity.
“It’s unique that a PE teacher be the first in a school to use a new technology. I was very excited to get the kids coding and playing around with [Splats]. I like that the students have ownership and they are the ones coding them to light up and make noise” Tiller said.
After using them once, the kids were hooked. “When they played one game with the Splats, the next class, they were asking if they could use them again! The kids were really excited about them.”
Even before he started using Splats in his classes, Tiller was no stranger to technology. Seven years ago, he started his own website where he shared PE lessons online. He started the website as a way to share resources with PE teachers in his district. Within a week, he got an email from someone across the world saying that they really liked his content and his following started to grow. Now Tiller has 15.4K followers on Twitter and 2.68K subscribers on YouTube.
“I never put anything on my website or social accounts that I don’t think will be beneficial to other PE teachers. The biggest benefit of [the online community] is collaboration - a lot of teachers aren’t able to collaborate with others because they’re the only PE teachers at their school so they only get to interact with other PE teachers at conferences once a year. With Twitter, all you have to do is enter in keywords and everything is right there for you.”
Tiller especially loves how easy it is to get feedback from other teachers online. For example, he shared a PE activity he created called SOS. It was a partner activity where some students were active while their partners were standing still. Someone online suggested that they have the other students jumping rope while they are waiting for their partner to finish.
Tiller said, “I love when other people question what I do and get me to think deeper about it to make my lessons better. Once an idea for PE class is out there, everyone adds their own little spin and variation to it which is great.”
His advice to other teachers looking to integrate STEM into their PE class?
“Don’t take no for an answer. If you want to bring something into your class, find a way to get it. There’s so many ways -- PTO and PTA programs, DonorsChoose, district funds and grants -- be the squeaky wheel! Don’t just tell them you want it but show them how you could use this in class. Whether it’s going on Twitter and finding a video to show it in action or a website with a review of a product. Don’t let the roadblocks get in the way because there are people out there who will fund your projects if you’re willing to work for it.”
Tiller says they’re just scratching the surface of what they’re doing with Splats and will be using them even more going into November. Just last week he’s entered into a friendly competition with another PE teacher in Virginia, Eric Turrill, to see who’s students can get the most stomps on Splats in 20 seconds.