Class of 2035 - Classes apart

by Emma Boggis, Sport and Recreation Alliance CEO

I was particularly interested in the guest blog that featured on the Alliance website last week from Phil Chamberlain at the Youth Sport Trust. I encourage you to take a look, but to summarise, it talks about the future of PE and school sport and the role technology might play in shaping how children are engaged with physical activity in and out of school.

The Class of 2035 discusses four possible scenarios around young people and their interactions with technology and how this will impact upon their engagement with PE and school sport.

The Alliance has previously looked at the potential impact of technology in our Future Trends report working with the Future Foundation, as the YST have done here, and there are strands identified in that research that could impact on the class of 2035.

At the optimal end of the spectrum, technology in school can be a great equaliser when it comes to increasing participation and encouraging students of all abilities and sizes to engage in physical activity.

How can it do this? By allowing young people to track and record data, set personal targets, establish competitive games and competitions, technology can offer a sense of ownership of their future health and pride in achievement.

I am a recent convert to wearable technology despite being pretty active already and so not really in need of extra motivation. But what it has done is given me a new (and positive) way to interact with my teenage godson. So we now challenge each other from time to time about how many steps we can compete in a day or a week. And of course it was me who got caught out when as it was approaching ten o'clock in the evening on the last day of a five day challenge and I was ahead by a couple of thousands steps I thought I was home and dry....only to wake up the following morning to find I had been beaten by just over 200 steps and discovered that said god son had been racking up the steps before he went to bed just to beat me. Once I got over losing I was of course delighted!

There are however, conditions which must be met if technology is to be a positive force within school sport and PE, namely having it widely accessible to schools and students.

There also needs to be investment in staff so that they can get the most from technology and more importantly from their students who use it. Some of the scenarios described by the Class of 2035 data - ‘digitally-distracted’ and ‘go-it-alone’ - highlight the potential negative impact of technology if it’s not available or it’s not integrated early enough or properly to enable young people to thrive. In the wrong hands – or in too few hands – it can be divisive and distracting. Let’s not pretend that there is not a risk of cyber bullying based on how young people perform against their peers - but this shouldn’t put us off looking for the potential benefits that can arise too.

Of course this all forms part of a wider debate to be had on the role of technology in sport and it needs to be a continuous one as the technological boundaries change at an ever increasing pace - mostly led by the younger generation whose ability to pick up new ways of doing things knows no bounds.

So as the Class of 2035 demonstrates, the future is full of opportunities and it is up to us as a sector and community to understand how they can be best grasped for the benefit of future generations.