To me, projectors are the most versatile piece of technology that a PE teacher can have in their gym. Using a projector (or sometimes multiple projectors) has become a daily necessity within my lessons over the years. From displaying directions/objectives/outcomes to displaying animated skill GIFS and live student heart rate feeds, this piece of technology has had the single biggest impact on the way in which I teach and the way my students learn.
The unfortunate issue that a lot of PE teachers face is that their district is not willing to mount a projector somewhere in the gym (either on a drop pole from the ceiling rafters or on the front/back wall). I remember a few years ago when I heard that all classrooms in my school were getting interactive Epson projectors, but when I inquired about getting one for my gym, I was told we were the only classroom that wouldn’t be receiving one. The reason they gave was because they were worried about it getting damaged as a byproduct of the things we do day in and day out in the gym. I would imagine that a lot of districts use this same reasoning as an excuse to not invest in this type of projector set up for their PE teachers (and I say excuse because there are no shortages of gyms that I have seen that have come up with ways to protect this valuable mounted technology..it can be done).
This has resulted in the overwhelming majority of PE teachers that currently use projectors resorting to keeping their projector on a wheely cart and rolling it in/out from the plug in the wall when needed/not needed. While the benefits of using a projector in this way certainly outweigh the inconveniences, there are still limitations to this type of projector set up. One such limitation is that wheeling the projector cart out onto your gym floor results in a loss of valuable activity space since it is a safety hazard to have students moving around so close to the cart. Considering most PE teachers do not have the proper amount of activity space as it is, this is a big deal. Another limitation is the fact that since the power cord is tethered to the outlet in the wall, there is now a formidable tripping obstacle that your students and you as the teacher must try to avoid in order to stay safe. Like I mentioned earlier, using a projector on a cart to me still has benefits that outweigh the inconveniences and as long as safety risks are mitigated (coning off around the wire/cart) it is a viable option to use, but the question that can still be asked “is there a better way?” Is there some type of #physedhack that can reduce/eliminate some of the aforementioned risks while also being cost feasible? It turns out there is!
Enter the rear projector set up! I first saw this on Twitter thanks to an awesome PE teacher in Iowa named Mark Jungmann (@NorthPolkWestPE) and soon replicated by another fantastic PE teacher named Mike Graham (@pe4everykid). They had both set up their projectors against the wall with the lens facing towards the middle of the gym. Hanging off the back of their basketball hoop was a frosted shower curtain secured to some PVC pipes. Sure enough, the videos/pictures I saw of this had their students moving along to dance videos/warm ups projected quite clearly onto that frosted screen. You might be saying, “well wouldn’t the image be backwards since the projector is at the back and not the front?” As it turns out, most projectors have a setting in their menus that allow them to be projected from the rear…this effectively flips the image so it is correct when looking at it from the front!
This #physedhack is a game changer find for those that use projectors on a regular basis in their gym. It is a cost feasible way to eliminate the cord/projector cart being in the middle of your gym floor. Mark and Mike are great innovators within our profession and if you are not already following them on Twitter, do so. You won’t be disappointed.
So how can you make this set up for yourself? Check out Part 2 of this blog if you are feeling crafty!