PLAYBuilder Q&A with Saskatchewan Physical Education Association

The Saskatchewan Physical Education Association (SPEA) is a provincial non-profit that provides quality leadership, advocacy and resources for professionals in physical and health education to positively influence the lifestyles of Saskatchewan's children and youth.

The mission is to promote and support active healthy lifestyles through the development of physical education, recreation and sport at all levels of the educational system. Executive Director Reg Leidl spoke with Sport for Life to discuss why SPEA has decided to partner with PLAYBuilder to empower coaches, instructors and teachers of physical education. 

S4L: Why did Saskatchewan Physical Education Association (SPEA) decide to team up with PLAYBuilder?

S.J.: I had the privilege of working with Sport for Life’s Lea Wiens while working as a physical literacy teacher and mentor in one of the First Nations Schools in Saskatchewan. Lea said “why don’t you try PLAYBuilder?” and right away I could tell this platform was amazing. So when I became executive director after years on the board, I told everyone we had to look at this platform because it’s exactly what we need to empower teachers of physical education. 

PLAYBuilder is a wonderful resource. I love how the thought behind the content breaks it down to the fundamental movement skills very well, so if you’re struggling to come up with something for your students, you have everything there that you would need. There are written instructions, visual aids, it addresses scope and sequence, it’s all there for you. We were looking at it from the sport perspective, but also coming from a physical education angle as well because of how physical literacy fits into our curriculum. We’re physical education teachers, and coaches as well. It had to work for both.

S4L: What challenges was SPEA facing?

R.L.: The biggest challenge was once COVID-19 hit, many of the schools and physical education teachers had to go into online platforms and it was optional for students. You could opt in, or opt out until the end of June. So teachers were looking for ideas on how to deliver quality programming to these students through online platforms and we’d tried other platform likes Moodle already. PLAYBuilder fit right into that environment, because you can pull out assignments and send them to the students as PDFS, you knew you had something solid and research-based.

Teachers were looking for supplemental material that could support their curriculum, and PLAYBuilder filled that role. It was almost like giving them a vaccination or a booster shot. We gave them the materials they needed to supplement what they were already doing, plus visual aids with with well laid-out lesson plans so that students easily related to it. It’s more accessible than resources we’ve had in the past, it’s not like a book, because it’s amazing how you can build PDFs and put them on Google Slides and you can share them. It’s so powerful in terms of being a teacher, and leads to students being taught in the correct way. It makes sense for kids and it makes sense for teachers.

S4L: Why was PLAYBuilder the right choice to take SPEA into the future?

R.L.: We’re starting slow. The teachers that use it find that it’s effective and they like it, and it grows from there. One teacher talks to another teacher and it builds by word of mouth. That’s how it’s growing now, and that’s how many good programs develop, because the plans need to be flexible and there’s an evolution to the content. It’s evergreen, because you’re always adding new and current materials, considering new ways of teaching and coaching and instructing. It offers you different methods of assessing, shows you different ways of tackling certain topics. It’s constantly evolving, so as an administrator it means we can contextualize and tweak and create our own programming as we build into it. I believe it could become all-encompassing in a way that would be very powerful for physical education in Saskatchewan. 

S4L: Do you intend to share full access to PLAYBuilder with all your teachers?

R.L.: First we took advantage of an initial free 10 memberships that were being offered [Sport for Life COVID-19 1 month response in April to support digital programming]. So we offered it out to ten teachers, and now this gives us a chance to try it out and play with it, try to figure out how it all works. Next year we have a chance to promote it to our members, to tell them this is a really good platform, and build from there. By then we’ll have 20 teachers in the province committed who like it, and they’ll pair up with people who have never used it before. Mentorship will be a big part of this process as teachers really learn how to use this tool. In the past we’ve rushed into new technologies and we’ve thrown it all out there, getting no response or people who don’t understand. So this time we want to grow and promote this properly, adding more and more teachers as we go. 

S4L: What measurable benefits have you seen since implementing PLAYBuilder?

R.L.: Teacher confidence is number one. Teachers right now, with different time tables and different technologies they’re trying to learn, they need content that’s authentic and realistic is meaningful to them. When they see PLAYBuilder in action, they realize they have something tangible they can use and it boosts their confidence. All of a sudden they’re saying ‘Im teaching outside today because I picked up 30 new ideas’. Nobody likes to go into a lesson or teaching session unprepared, and this platform puts meat on to lesson plans and gives them something solid. They know somebody else has looked through it, and that it makes sense.

I think the instruction is better. They’re able to try different modes of instruction, and makes them more confident that they can adjust to meet the circumstances. It puts more arrows in their quiver. When I use PLAYBuilder, I don’t always use the exact activity I find, but when I pair it with my experience as a teacher I know exactly what I’m supposed to do. I may not have the perfect equipment or the proper facility, but I can always modify and still have a perfect lesson. 

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