A special thanks to Jay and Asako for putting this initiative together!

After a few weeks of Continuous Learning (our term for distance learning) we realized that our students are resilient and having great success in navigating this challenge, but also that it’s likely that this is going to stick around for a bit longer than we first anticipated. We started looking ahead in our school calendar and our annual Sports Day caught our attention. Jay and Asako, our fantastic ES PE teachers, along with our ES administration asked me to come on board to explore opportunities for a virtual Sports Day.

Photo by Juan Encalada on Unsplash

The Challenge

Taking our Sports Day virtually presented a few challenges. Our usual on-campus Sports Day has been polished over a number of years and included a rotation of activities, a DJ, a group of keen middle schoolers to help out – but now all of this couldn’t happen. We also faced these virtual challenges:

Balance

Technology has enabled us to provide the Continuous Learning program that we are offering, but it also means that students are spending a lot of time with their iPads. We wanted Sports Day to promote a balanced use of technology and give our students opportunities to be active with the support of technology. 

Different environments

Some of our students are allowed to go to the park and run around, but others are confined to their homes or general area. We need to respect family decisions regarding the pandemic and provide activities that can work in a variety of settings. 

Similarly, we can’t rely on every student having the same sports equipment. Activities need to be able to work with ‘normal’ household items and have flexibility. 

Easy for our youngest learners

Whatever we present to the students, we need to make sure our youngest learners can access it. The technology that will support the program should be easy to use and straightforward. I really needed to step back in the planning a few times and think ‘is this going to work for a kindergartener?’

Generating a sense of community

Our on-campus Sports Day is a community even with classes dressing up in fun themes and family members coming along for the fun. We wanted to port this idea over in a way that made sense for distance learning.

Our plan

300+ member Zoom meeting

Yes, you read that right, we are planning on getting our entire elementary school in one Zoom meeting. We’ve taken extra precautions for security (see my recent vlog on Zoom settings) and will get the entire elementary school in together for an introduction at 9:00am. Asako and Jay will take control of the introduction while I’m on ‘crowd control’ duty (primary goal, mute everyone on entry and don’t allow them to unmute themselves). 

Their intro will look a bit like this:

  • Good morning and welcome
  • A short time for each grade level to show off their special themes (each class has decided to come up with a special theme for Sports Day – could be a special color or item of clothing – their choice!)
  • Virtual, full body rock-paper scissors (check out Asako’s directions below)

Sports Day Bingo

Asako presented the idea of having a Sports Day Bingo card for the students to complete. It was the perfect way to get students motivated, while also providing a range of activities. Students could pick to complete just a line (vertical, horizontal or diagonal), or complete the entire card. This gave the students flexibility of picking activities that they had the space/equipment for while also encouraging them to do as much as they could. 

The individual activities on each Bingo ‘square’ were easy to complete and each one included a video or image with directions, all of which linked back to their PE classes. 

Check it out and click around (and join in the fun):

The techy bits

I went in a few circles deciding how to ‘host’ the Bingo card. It needed to be shareable via Seesaw, somewhat interactive and able to have multiple videos embedded, yet it needed to be easy to navigate. 

Google Slides was my first option, but I quickly became frustrated when I shared the usual ‘view’ link via Seesaw. On the student’s iPads it would automatically open the Google Slides app, which made it a challenge to click the links to navigate to the ‘video’ slides. However, this little trick helped with this:

Sharing the link directly to present mode was perfect – it would open in Safari directly from the iPad (a new feature in Seesaw – make sure you update). It was easy for the students to navigate – they stay on the same Safari page and just click the embedded links to see the videos with directions and then another button to head back to the Bingo card. 

There were only two small challenges that I faced with using a Google slideshow like this. First, the Google Slides toolbar appears each time a student clicks the screen on the iPad.

To keep this from blocking an important part of the Bingo card or slides, I just moved the title down to the bottom and moved any other content away from that area of the screen. 

Second, Slides isn’t very helpful when you want to move through the presentation in a non-linear fashion. Usually, if you click any area of the slide it will advance you to the next slide 0 I didn’t want that. The workaround is to create a background shape that is linked to the current slide and to link all elements on a page to the current slide (unless you need to link it to a different slide). Check out this blog post on how that works. However, even with all these small hacks, students could still advance to the next slide by clicking the black bars surrounding the slideshow or clicking the ‘next slide’ arrow. I’m willing to just live with that. 

How did it go?

Well, I can’t share that quite yet as it will be released tomorrow – stay tuned! Has anyone else out their run a virtual Sports Day? I’d love to hear your experiences!