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Technology in PE: From BRES to the World

Ben Wells

In February, Ben Wells presented about his Bennett Ranch Elementary School PE classes at the BRICS Council of Exercise and Sports Science in Faridabad, New Delhi NCR, India.

 

Technology in PE: From BRES to the World

Students check the wall in the gym to see their heart rates displayed by a large overhead projector which is connected by Bluetooth to their wrist bands. Other students use their Chromebooks to watch a video of themselves performing specific motions to see if they did it correctly. Before class is over, the students will throw balls at the same wall, displaying a 25-foot interactive video game.  

These are just three examples of how Ben Wells uses technology in his physical education classes at Bennett Ranch Elementary School. 

“We have been doing amazing things in this building since day one, like incorporating technology and meeting the needs of the students. For PE, it’s just innovative,” said BRES Principal Martina Meadows. “We have five and six year olds reviewing their heart rate and being aware of how their hearts work. It is kind of mind blowing.”

Heart Rate

Heart rate information is projected on the wall so students can see what their heart is doing during PE class. 

 

International Presenter

What might be even more extraordinary is that Wells is now an international presenter on the topic of technology in PE. 

Wells gave his first state-wide presentation in 2011 and has been going strong ever since. His presentation at the national SHAPE America conference in Seattle 2023 was the catalyst to his international travels. That presentation opened the door for Wells to serve as a scientific advisor to the Foundation for Global Community Health (https://gchfoundation.org/).

During a video conference call meeting for FGCH last year, Wells was conducting his normal class and would check in on the meeting. The meeting participants watching the video saw what was happening in Wells’ PE class. From there, FGCH asked Wells to set up cameras so FGCH founder, Dr. Ming-Kai Chin could watch the PE class at BRES.

When a presenter had to back out of an international conference, Chin asked Wells to come to India to present at the BRICS Council of Exercise and Sports Science in February. The theme for the conference was perfect for Wells’ experience, “Advances in Holistic Health and Sport for Children and Youth: Innovation, Integration and Sustainability through Science.”
https://bricscess.com/2024-conference/ 

“I presented on the use of technology within physical education to increase engagement of student participation and tools to enhance physical education,” Well said.

Since then, Wells has presented virtually to a group in Israel. He had to turn down a trip to China this summer, but will lead presentations in Indonesia and Malaysia in 2025.

 

BRES PE video wall

Students play and learn using the interactive video wall, while their heart rate information is displayed above. 

 

Building A Program

Wells began using technology in PE classes as a student-teacher in 2009.

“Throughout my career I’ve continued to add and develop more technology,” Wells said. “I grew up with the idea that technology was a tool, not a toy. As a tool it can enhance or develop what you are already doing, and it allows for a better experience or understanding.”

Wells started at BRES when it opened in 2018.

“I wanted to build a program from the beginning,” Wells said. “I wanted to have a building, a community that I could help encourage to understand what PE should be, and not what their PE was. Bennett Ranch has provided me that opportunity of being part of a small town, but being able to go show the world that places that are small and may not have a lot can still use these tools effectively.” 

Being invited to speak internationally is both exciting for Wells, and a sign of the good things happening at BRES. 

“It shows our community that their kids are getting access to an education that is going to benefit them for the rest of their lives,” he said. 

Meadows sees his participation as a presenter and advisor to these organizations and his travels as a positive aspect for Wells and the students of BRES. 

“He’s bringing back eye opening experiences from the world that we may not experience in Falcon, Colorado,” Meadows said. “When teachers branch out to national and international realms it broadens their understanding of the importance of our work.”

 

PE Student with arm band

BRES PE student wears an arm band to check her heart rate, which appears on the wall above. 

 

Why It Matters

That work can be seen in the numbers changing on the gym wall as the heart rate monitors are projected for the class to see. 

“For me, I can see how the kids are doing,” Wells said. “There are some kids that aren’t active, so by walking, their heart rate is elevated. Their body is getting what it needs just by walking. I can see they are getting a work out. For a physical fit kid, they are going to have to move faster.” 

The students are watching the numbers on the wall too. 

“They are seeing in real time what they are doing,” Well said. “It gives them ownership and control of how active they are. It adds motivation and accountability.” 

It is now common to see students with new smart watches track their progress on a daily basis, just like their parents do. For Wells, the work of PE isn’t about a fun game of dodgeball or trying to tire out kids, so they sit still in class. 

“Physical Education is about teaching children to be physically literate in movement, skills, activities, sports … to live and develop a healthy and active lifestyle,” Wells said. “After high school you can get by and never have to use the Pythagorean theorem, but we only have one body. And you need to take care of it.” 

To put it even more simply, Wells paraphrases something he heard from another FGCH scientific advisor in his group, Dr. Stephen Kopecky, head cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic. “If you teach them to be healthy, and they take it to heart, they will never visit me as a cardiologist.” 

“I see how my students are developing and that shows what I’m doing is meaningful and getting them ready for their next steps, middle school, high school,” Wells said. “I am teaching them how to be active, not just learning these sports. They know how to be active, and how to use technology to keep track of it.”  

 

BRES Interactive Video Wall

 

Photos submitted by Ben Wells.

Joel Quevillon