Potential benefits and challenges of integrating technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in physical education (PE)

Physical Education (PE) plays a crucial role in the holistic development of students. It not only promotes lifelong healthy attitudes towards physical fitness and improved mental wellbeing, PE can also teach young people important life skills and values such as goal setting, emotional and social skills, problem solving, teamwork, discipline, and perseverance.

In recent years, the integration of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) into education has been a topic of growing interest worldwide. Earlier this year, we shared some thoughts on ethical and curriculum-aligned ways to use technologies such as ChatGPT to help ease teacher workloads.

In this article, we explore some of the potential benefits and challenges of incorporating AI into classes to enhance the delivery of quality PE.

5 Benefits of integrating AI and tech in PE

We agree with the Australian Human Rights Commission, “While generative AI tools may be able to replace some of the tasks that teachers currently perform, this technology is best used to enhance teaching. It cannot replace the indispensable role of human interaction and cooperation, which must remain at the heart of education in Australia.”

AI cannot and should not replace sentient human teachers, however with expanded classroom sizes and teachers’ time stretched to the limits, it has reportedly been getting more difficult to give each student the attention required to deliver meaningful, individualised and differentiated PE.

Here’s some creative and practical uses for generative AI applications that could help:

  1. Real-time feedback: AI-powered wearables and sensors can provide real-time feedback during physical activities. For instance, they can be used to analyse posture during yoga or track the velocity and accuracy of a basketball shot. This instant feedback could help students make immediate improvements.
  2. Customised learning paths: AI can assess students' skill levels and adapt physical education programs accordingly. Students can progress at their own pace, reducing the risk of injuries and ensuring they are challenged but not overwhelmed.
  3. Enhanced engagement: AI can make physical education more engaging through gamification. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications (such as the awesome Multiball installation at our June HPE conferences) can create immersive experiences that motivate students to participate actively.
  4. Efficient resource allocation: AI can optimise the allocation of resources, including time, space, and equipment. This means teachers and schools can schedule classes more effectively to reduce overcrowding and manage inventory more resourcefully.
  5. Data-driven decision making: AI generates vast amounts of data which can be used by schools and teachers to make informed decisions about curriculum improvements, resource allocation, and student performance tracking.
7 Challenges of integrating AI in PE
  1. Access and equity: Not all schools will have equal access to resources required to implement AI which can create disparities in the quality of education provided to students across different regions. In terms of equity, differentiation and planning lessons and assessments to cater for all students in your class may present an issue if using AI alone.
  2. Privacy concerns: Gathering and analysing student health and fitness data may raise privacy concerns. An example of this are the recent conversations around fitness testing and the data that has been collected for many years by PE teachers. There must be consideration into how and why this data is collected, and how we use it as teachers. If data is collected, schools must ensure it is collected and stored securely, and that students' privacy is protected.
  3. Teacher training: Educators require training to effectively integrate AI into their teaching methods. This can be time-consuming and may require additional resources. For example, if teachers use AI to help with lesson planning, they must be taught how to use it effectively to ensure lesson plans align with curriculum.
  4. Technical challenges: Maintaining AI systems, software, and hardware can be challenging. Technical issues could disrupt classes and hinder the learning process.
  5. Cost: Implementing AI technology in education can be expensive. Schools need to allocate budgets for initial setup, ongoing maintenance, and upgrades.
  6. Resistance to change: Some educators (and students) may resist the adoption of AI in physical education, preferring traditional teaching methods.
  7. Ethical considerations: Decisions made by AI systems must align with ethical principles. For example, AI should not unfairly disadvantage certain groups of students or promote unhealthy examples.

Getting the final challenge above right is critically important if the Australian educational system is to integrate generative AI into classrooms.Worth a read is the Human Rights Commission’s submission to the Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training's Inquiry into the Use of Generative Artificial Intelligence in the Australian Educational System. It makes 16 recommendations that can help to ensure that human rights are protected and promoted in respect of ethical AI in schools.

Overall, technology and AI can play a transformative role in the way physical education is delivered. And while the integration of AI in physical education offers tremendous potential to enhance students' learning experiences and overall wellbeing, there are several challenges to overcome and address.

The theme of our Annual HPE Conference coming up in November this year is, ‘Impact on Tomorrow’. It will feature ‍sessions and keynotes sharing inspirational ideas for teaching in a changing landscape – encouraging flexibility, adaptability, and a willingness to embrace new ideas and approaches.

Are you keeping ahead of the game? Click here to register for our conference and explore new technologies like AI and how they are impacting the way we teach into the future.