Teaching swimming in the 21st Century


My name is Andrea Andrews and I love to teach swimming. What I am teaching in the pool has changed for the better over the years through experience and by syllabus changes allowing me to place a much stronger emphasis on play, fun and enjoyment of the water. The influence of technology on my job has also grown over the years having the use of online CPD, smart phones to talk to my clients every spare minute, twitter, linked in, Facebook and now I take my registers on an iPad that is protected inside a water proof case when I work for GLL/Better at Didcot Wave. I have been using this handheld device for about 12 weeks now and enjoyably it has its advantages, removing the necessity for soggy paper records or the expense of me laminating these same sheets myself and using waterproof marker pens.

At first I found it difficult to transfer all of the details I already possessed about the children’s progress onto the device as there was a lot to enter in the short window of time that the records are modifiable (the same day of the week as the class) and I had habitually recorded more stepped detail than the iPad form permits. I am adjusting to the new leaner system by carrying more detail in my head which may keep senility at bay and may soon wonder what I ever did without it. This is what happens in life. However, I would also like to consider what will come out of this routine electronic data collection. Parents are able to go online and see the status of their child’s progress. This is useful for them to see where their child is in the stage and saves pieces of paper being exchanged. It may not reduce the necessary exchanges of words between parents and teachers, so essential for calmer waters to be maintained. It should improve safety too where a child cannot enter the water without being present on the electronic register. The operator; GLL says that they find real time live registers a key benefit.

In conditions where “the system is down” teachers revert to using paper again and I have not so far lost, dropped or drowned a device thankfully. The intrigued members of the public and the children enjoyed me asking “Anyone for pizza?” when I first started to take the register and now they have satisfied their curiosity we get can all get on with the lesson much faster. What interests me greatly however, are the statistical analyses that the operator may be able to ply on the large evolving data set that they will hold across their numerous sites. Patterns will presumably emerge that can inform the operators how to make improvements in their swim schools. What form any improvements will take and whether teachers will feel that they are empowered as part of a positive process is down to the skill of the operator and the practical accuracy of the interpretations they make. Bare statistics can hide or mislead in equal measure and I hope that operators will not become too dependent on this ready source, employ their newfound knowledge wisely, always follow up with objective on the ground researches and not ever be tempted to make speedy or financial justifications to throw any babes out with the backwash. I would love to see it used as a research tool to shine a light on why some children fail to feel like a swimmer or able to enjoy the water as this will define their future participation.

Examples of how GLL plans to use data for the benefit of the customer include – intervention schemes should pupils be stuck on particular areas of the curriculum, eg a clinic on Breast stroke leg action, monitoring of ongoing assessments, talent identification schemes linked to pupils progression speed and age.

So as a pioneering child of the Pac Man and space invaders age I am being dragged into the 21st century further every day. I never thought I would see the day that electronic records are used in swimming pools so as usual will be trying my best to keep up but will also keep an eye on the interests of the pupils we try so hard to help day in and day out.

5 thoughts on “Teaching swimming in the 21st Century

  1. Much good and experienced comment in this article.

    As a geriatric 74 year old I still run my own little Swimming Club for 150 children – but haven’t got as far as an iPhone yet as I prefer the wet paper (waterproof paper of course) method. This gives me more flexibility and allows me to add comments as I think of them and vary the lesson quickly if necessary. I enjoy hearing the gasp when I occasionally drop the clip-board into the water and the pencil floats away.

    I am fortunate as, being my own boss, I can change the course of a lesson when I see one or more in difficulty with a specific stroke.

    Yes, the fun element and a short free play time is essential. We also run survival sessions fully clothed even for the little ones – hard work but always very popular with the parents.

    Apart from the paper issue, I am in the 21st Century as I have email contact with every parent so can quickly send information round to all or to individuals as necessary – and a web site and a FaceBook page – so the all-important contact with parents is there.

    I agree it is quite frightening when (all too often) a seven or eight year old turns up who can’t swim – someone hasn’t done their job! Two brothers 10 and 11 turned up recently – their Mum had paid for school lessons but they were terrified of the deep end – they have quickly become quite good swimmers.

    I always teach children out of their depth simply because so many get away with walking across the shallow end for years of school lessons.

    Could write a book about it – I enjoyed this thoughtful article by your contributor.

    Best wishes from Jim Butterworth

  2. Andrea – Paint me GREEN (with envy). I’ve been an advocate of digital since I bought my first £100 FujiFilm digital camera in a waterproof case. One of my early uses was to use it to get reluctant kids to put their faces in the water with the question “How would you like an underwater picture of yourself to take home?” and then email their achievement. I also used it on the poolside to show students that their push-and-glides looked as if they had just emerged crumpled up out of a suitcase, and then i started to use it for stroke improvement and checking that they were breathing – the video replay has a timeline and so I was able to show them that they actually go faster with fewer strokes and better streamlining. Then came the Titanic, a two part 12 foot mural of the wreck I painted on the walls of the deep end my swimming pool so my snorkel courses had something interesting to dive down to and recover a treasure chest, underwater pictures of which made stunning graduation certificates. When the iPad came along, with its large screen and integrated camera, I just had to have one but I have been hunting unsuccessfully for a waterproof case for it ever since. As I only do one-to-one individual lessons and teach children to totally master face-up floating in out-of-depth water first, I solved my record keeping problem by using Address Book for tracking students progress. It sounds as if you have some kind of integrated record-keeping software in your iPad. Is this unique to GLL.? Can you tell me more or point me in the direction of your management that I might ask them a few more technical questions and WHERE DO THEY GET THE WATERPROOF CASE FROM? I envisage a waterproof iPhone with videos of each skill to be achieved so I can show my students what I want them to do, then film what they do and play it right back to them, in the water, for immediately.

    • Thanks Michael for asking here then receiving no reply immediately. I didn’t know it was posted until you contacted me at work. I love the sound of your wonderful lessons and look forward to hearing what features Daniel Haywood can help you with. You are clearly an aquatic fanatic just like me and I greatly admire what you and your wife are doing with the Sri Lankan women’s swimming project. Regards Andrea

  3. Pingback: Swimming Teaching & Technology: ‘Watt’ you need to know | What we're up to...

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