Swimming Teaching & Technology: ‘Watt’ you need to know

ipoolRAPs member Andrea Andrews gives us a follow up on her previous blog ‘Teaching Swimming in the 21st Century’.

As I have explained in my previous blog I can feel rather slow on the uptake when asked to use any new technology but I have noticed something interesting while using my waterproofed electronic iPod register device as a swimming teacher. My preschool students have become accustomed to ‘signing’ themselves present on the iPod register and the way they do this has been enlightening.

Some children are keen to show that they can nearly read or start to recognise the pattern of their own name on the class list that is displayed on the device. They enjoy identifying their name but then they may struggle to record the fact that they are present on the touch screen. This is intriguing and it tells me a number of things. Perhaps, they do not have electronic touch screen devices at home or their internal state of control renders them incapable of touching the exact point required with the correct amount of force and periodicity. Or perhaps they just need time to play with it?

Let me explain further, the device supplies the child’s name and a little white cross inside a red box to be touched if that learner is present, upon which it changes to a green box with a white tick inside it. If you press too hard, too long, too lightly or for too short a time the device does not register your touch and the red box/white cross stubbornly remains.

Once mastered, there is no problem because the device is no more difficult or easy to use than any other touch sensitive electronics and I have grown to enjoy the lack of wet paper and the time it saves. What I have discovered is that the nature of the ‘screen pressing’ by the little children tells me a great deal about their hidden nature and their concerns about being able to cope in the watery class. After all we are often sat on the side with our feet in the zero entry beach when we press the button and each child comes along with their own set of worries and excitement about what we will be doing and what is expected of them by their carers and peers.

So a child that may delight in recognising their name may fail to turn the red box into a green one because they want to emphasise that they can do something others can’t and are ‘strong’ even though they are feeling far from it in the water. This can therefore become an extended press as the child reasons that what is needed is time for the device to ‘feel’ the large amount of energy being used. So when that does not work the rationale turns to pressing too lightly and for too short a time. In the water that child struggles to engage with the water especially around their nose and eyes.

Another child cannot read their name and instead heads for the red box closest to their index finger. Pressing with utter nonchalance they turn it green to register someone else who is on holiday at the time. They had no axe to grind, pressing just right; present enough behind the finger; pressure-less.

Another child finds it hard to hold their index finger still for long enough to press the red box. The finger wanders at the tip, shaking and juddering as if connected to the tip of the tongue that is sticking out in concentration. This is an indication that their fine motor control is still developing or their parents have stretched their age to sign them up as soon as possible for swimming lessons.

In other words being able to exert the right amount of pressure, in the right place for the requisite length of time is a skill and it takes time for this to be mastered. All of the above children would master this skill if they had the time to play with the device like I did. What it also tells me is that we must not ask too much of our little children by expecting them to copy complex skills with their minds when all that is needed is for them to arrive at it through powerful emotive, exploratory play.

“If you give me your finger we can press the red boxes together…feel that? Oh someone else has arrived… oh, you aren’t listed on here…can you and Mummy take this box to Reception?”

Are you a swimming teacher who also uses the latest technology? Or do you prefer more traditional methods? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Get in touch with us via our Facebook page or why not drop us email to marketing@skillsactive.com

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