Dartfish Express is a video analysis app used in sport. It is priced at €6.99 and is available to download from both the App Store and Google Play Store. Dartfish Express is used by elite sportspeople as a performance analysis tool. Speed-skater Bridie Farrell, for example, used the app in conjunction with an iPad to prepare for competition after a lengthy absence from her sport.
Watch this 4.09min YouTube video for a demonstration of who the app works:
Who are we?
Dr Richard Bowles lectures in physical education (PE) within the Department of Arts Education and Physical Education in Mary Immaculate College (MIC), Limerick, Ireland. His teaching duties contribute to the initial teacher education (ITE) programmes in the college, with a specific focus on primary school PE pedagogy. He is interested in the use of technology in a variety of PE contexts. These include the use of technology by children in primary school environments, and the application of technology to enhance third-level students’ PE experiences during their ITE study. His research interests include the delivery of sport programmes in primary schools, the development of children’s fundamental movement skills (FMS), and the use of self-study approaches in teacher and coach education contexts.
Having originally intended on becoming a school teacher after degree study at MIC, David Moloney detoured into the world of Digital Learning and Technology, obtaining his MA in Technical Communication and E-Learning from the University of Limerick (UL) along the way. His work in MIC began as an Educational Technology Assistant at the inception of the Blended Learning Unit (BLU) in 2012. Since then, he has been working in enhancing learning with technology and has helped to co-ordinate the design, development and implementation of a number of many unique academic programmes and modules both of a blended and fully online nature. He is particularly interested in researching and applying digital technologies and innovative methods of integration to teaching and learning contexts, and believes that when harnessed well, technology can have huge potential to positively impact learning.
The Case Study
The Dartfish Express app was used as a teaching and learning tool with groups of Initial Teacher Educator (ITE) students undertaking an undergrad Bachelor of Education degree or a post-grad Professional Masters in education (PME) course. We were exploring the theme “Assessment in PE”, and the app was made available to students via iPads. There were approximately 30 students in each class. Each pair of students in the classes had access to an iPad. Each lecture featured a mix of theory and practice, with the topic of assessment in PE being first explored through whole-class discussion, followed by practical peer-teach scenarios. We had worked on the Games, Athletics and Gymnastics strands of the PE curriculum earlier in the semester, so assessment in PE was now explored using examples from these strands. Specifically, we focused on spatial awareness in Games; sprinting technique in Athletics, and the creation of movement sequences in Gymnastics. In addition, key aspects of our work on assessment included teacher observation and questioning. We wanted to see if our use of the Dartfish Express app enhanced our ability to assess in PE across a range of very different contexts.
Benefits for the Lecturer
There was certainly a “novelty” about using the iPads and app within the PE lecture. Very little introductory work was needed as the video capture and playback features of the app are straightforward and intuitive to use.
The three assessment tasks were each very different: the spatial awareness task was tactical in nature, the sprinting task built on our FMS work, and the sequencing work focused on creativity. Accordingly, our assessment focus, and our types of feedback, varied for each one. Using the app allowed us to back up our subjective observations with easy-to-access video clips. During the peer-teach phase of the lesson, students were able to show the “players” specific examples of “good” movement into space once we took a short break; they were enabled to give specific technical feedback to the “runners’” after they sprinted; and they could lead a discussion on the quality of movement observed during the gymnastics sequence. Critically, I think novice “observers” had some clear visuals on which to base their feedback. Having the confidence to observe and give meaningful feedback can be challenging for student teachers; the footage and analysis tools available within Dartfish Express provide a very useful support when they are learning these important pedagogical skills. From the lecturer’s perspective, this experience gained by the students enriched our discussions during a review of assessment strategies at the end of class.
Benefits for the Students
While it must be acknowledged that this was not a formal research project with predetermined research questions and subsequent findings, students engaged positively with the app, and with the associated assessment tasks. As I mentioned earlier, feedback was enhanced by the availability of relevant footage. The analytical components of the app (such as the ability to draw on still images, to illustrate particular points by inserting lines and shapes, and to point out specific movement patterns using the slow-motion feature) were easy to use, and “added value” to the captured footage.
Potential benefits for a teacher of PE
From a university teaching perspective, our exploration of PE assessment strategies was enhanced by using Dartfish Express. But would it be useful for a primary school teacher’s teaching of PE? Based on our experiences, we think it would. Firstly, there are the motivational benefits that might accrue when children get to use an app that mimics what they would be familiar with from TV sports analysis slots. Secondly, the provision of immediate visual feedback could encourage reflection and improved technique. Finally, the app could be used to assemble portfolios illustrating examples of their good PE practice.
Other Things to Consider
Simple video or still photograph capture using digital cameras, tablets and other devices is commonplace in educational establishments. Previously, for example, we ourselves have used digital cameras to explore shape in gymnastics. So, is Dartfish Express worth the extra cost? The analytical tools are certainly useful, providing our students with the capability to give clearer, richer, feedback. Additionally, the absence of the intrusive ads that are often embedded within “free” apps is also an advantage in educational contexts.
Our observations are based on our reflections after a relatively short unit of work. We would like to use the app over a sustained period of time to give a more in-depth appraisal. We are also aware of the possibility to upload and store materials on the dartfish.tv platform. We have not done this ourselves yet, so we would welcome feedback from anybody who has explored this in greater detail.
There are ethical issues that need to be considered when capturing video footage in any educational settings. These might be addressed in general school policies, for example. At a class level, the teacher or lecturer would need to develop protocols on the future use of stored materials. In our case, we delete all footage as soon as possible after each class so that materials cannot be viewed by other groups who may have access to the iPads.
Our experience of Dartfish Express has been largely positive, and we suggest that it had a positive impact on our teaching this semester. For further information, or any questions about our experiences, please contact Richard (firstname.lastname@example.org) or David (email@example.com ) via email.
For more general reading on the use of technology in PE, the following articles might provide a good starting point:
Casey, A., Goodyear, V. A. and Armour, K. M. (2016) ‘Rethinking the relationship between pedagogy, technology and learning in health and physical education’, Sport, Education and Society, 1-17.
O’Loughlin, J., Chróinín, D. N. and O’Grady, D. (2013) ‘Digital video: The impact on children’s learning experiences in primary physical education’, European Physical Education Review, 19(2), 165-182.