A multicam sports monitoring system at Babington College

While transitioning specialities from technology to sport, Babington Community College were looking for ways to embed ICT in all subjects and help students with English as an Additional Language [EAL] access the curriculum while their spoken and written English was still developing. Their PE faculty found the answer to both in a multicam sports monitoring system. Installed in the college’s badminton hall, it allowed pupils and members of local teams to review their badminton technique from multiple angles, and use that visual feedback to improve.

As an inner city school with a high percentage of SEN, Free School Meals and EAL students, Babington Community College faces several challenges when it comes to helping students with a limited understanding of spoken and written instructions access the curriculum.

“As a progressive school, we are always looking for new ways to develop the curriculum, but more important is the range of methods we use to enable students to access the curriculum and self-learn,” explained business manager Ray Allsop. “Having recently changed from a technology to a sports college, we wanted to introduce lessons learned from our technology days to develop our sports facilities and break down some of the perceived barriers.”

Designing and building the system

Babington’s PE team had one camcorder that they were using to record students practising, but were becoming frustrated with its lack of flexibility. “With a single camcorder system, you have to stop recording and play the tape back, and while you’re doing that you’re missing other things that are going on in the lesson,” explained Ray. When they partnered with the Leicestershire Badminton Association to refurbish their badminton hall, the faculty were determined to find a better feedback system. “We were very clear from the start that [in the new system] we wanted a recording tool that was easy to use, and had the means to show students multiple angles of the same position.”

Working with Sony specialists ProActive and solutions architects from Jigsaw24’s Media & Entertainment team, Babington was able to develop a four-camera setup that allowed them to record students from multiple angles and capture all the footage so that it could be used in later assessments, and simultaneously use NewTek’s 3Play system to play back clips in slow motion in realtime.

“Babington College and Sport England, who were helping fund the build, had a very progressive vision,” explained Jigsaw24 consultant Anthony Corcoran. “It wasn’t just a question of choosing the correct piece of kit – it was building a system that would fulfil their idea. On the one hand, the system was directly used to encourage and inspire students, but it also had to be sophisticated enough for coaching professional badminton players who needed to analyse and hone their technique. Then, it had to be robust enough to be placed in a sports hall, where it would be used all day by pupils, and then at evenings and weekends by pro players.”

Ultimately, what we built with them was a realtime, slow motion replay and capture system, with remote control high definition cameras. For Babington, the real key feature was the ability
to pause or play back a stream of footage while still recording, so PE staff wouldn’t have to miss filming chunks of any given lesson. “The 3Play system was chosen for its ability to continuously record sports in HD quality, and allow us to review performance and show clean movements from various angles, enabling students to learn from their own play, and see how theirs differs from that of peers and professionals,” said Ray.

To make it easier for teachers to share techniques with the whole class, Babington also installed two large screens in the badminton hall. This means that whole classes can watch a single clip together in order to learn or critique a specific move, and that groups of students can watch footage back together and peer review one another, or check the progress of students they are coaching as part of their GCSE course.

Bringing staff up to speed

Jigsaw24 ran a training session with staff from Babington and one of their partner organisations, the Leicestershire Badminton Association, with whom they share their badminton facilities. “You can master the system easily,” said Ray. “I’m far from an IT whiz, but we had a short session where we were shown how to use it, and I picked it up straight away and felt very comfortable with it.”

The PE faculty have been equally enthusiastic. “They’re extremely excited about developing their skill sets,” said Ray, “but it’s also about the finished product that they can offer to students now, and opening up access to sport at a whole new level. If students don’t understand the verbal or written instructions, we can still make an impact and move them on using the equipment we have here.”

Increasing the college’s potential

Once staff are used to the system, Babington’s team plan to allow students to use the system to review their own work or as a review tool for the coaching and refereeing elements of their PE GCSEs. “A lot of the students are very IT literate, so a piece of kit like this is actually second nature to them,”said Ray.“The system offers them a new style of sophisticated learning tool that allows them to access sport in a quicker timeframe, and also increases engagement.”

Since the refurbishment of the badminton hall, the college has seen interest in the sport skyrocket, especially as an extracurricular option. Ray is also optimistic about the multicam system’s impact on the college’s relationship with the wider community. “There is every possibility that it could increase our lettings profile, because what we’re offering is a more bespoke package for those who want to come and train. A lot of people use school sports halls as a social venue, not because they want to train, but I see this as one part of the market where we have the opportunity to change the context of the users.”

The college is even considering using part of its BSF funding to install a second system in its multi-purpose sports hall. “It’s still early days for us,” Ray told us, “but there is every indication that the system may surpass our expectations in terms of what we can achieve.”

“To our knowledge, there aren’t any other colleges with this kind of technology,” said Anthony. “It took investment and commitment on behalf of both Sport England and Babington Community College. It was a brave move – and it’s one that’s paid off. Both parties had the foresight to insist that the system was future proofed and easily adjustable, so they can expand the system if they ever need to.”

The system is opening up access to sport at a whole new level… If students don’t understand the verbal or written instructions, we can still ” make an impact and move them on using the equipment we have here.” – Ray Allsop, Business Manager, Babington Community College.

Staff have found the system innovative and ideal for assessment at a variety of levels. It also works as a fun way to motivate students with the instant feedback they receive and as a result, it has allowed us to extend leadership opportunities within lessons.” – Matt Byrne, Faculty Leader PE, Babington Community College. 

For more information about multicam and NewTek’s 3Play system, call 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com. You can also keep up with our education team by following @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’-ing our Jigsaw24 Education Facebook page.


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