The growing use of technology in society has been the driving force behind the digitization of education, as education policymakers and society in general believe that technology can improve education [1
]. This is why education systems around the world are incorporating digital skills into their curricula and assessments [2
], and are encouraging teachers to include technologies in the classroom, either as a tool to facilitate learning or as a means for formative assessment [4
]. Thus, it can be seen that there are high expectations that digital technology will optimize student learning in schools and this is reflected in the increase in educational policies and new curricula [5
Therefore, the adoption of technology has become an emerging aspect of the broader discussion within the field of education in general, as well as in the specific case of physical education (PE) [6
]. In fact, with an increasing number of technologies available, physical educators have begun to explore applications of technology related to physical education environments [1
]. However, while there has been an increase in support and research on the integration of technology and training into general teacher education, there are not enough research and programming efforts related to the integration of technology into specific disciplines, such as PE [7
], and the opportunities for digital technologies to shape PE in new and positive ways should be explored [6
Therefore, focusing on technology in PE is particularly important, given the specific technologies used in this discipline [9
]. It is also important to note that it has been suggested that the integration of the appropriate assessment of students’ physical ability into the PE curriculum is an essential element of PE [10
], highlighting the need to apply technology in physical fitness testing for young people to improve the accuracy of test results and to address the problems of deprivation due to space and time constraints [12
]. In addition, several researchers have found positive results regarding the impact of the use of these technologies in PE settings in terms of different aspects, such as understanding and cognitive motivation of students [13
], motor skills performance [17
], and the levels of physical activity in the classrooms [22
], among other aspects.
Regarding the technology used in PE, this includes everything from physical activity (PA) trackers and versatile devices that can record and track movement and therefore can help students self-assess (e.g., cameras, pedometers, heart rate monitors, PA watches), to various mobile applications and active video games (e.g., motion analysis or global positioning system (GPS) applications), as well as health-related apps [6
]. In addition, within these, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are emerging technologies that are gaining special interest in the educational field [27
In relation to VR and AR, both are based on the experience of living through the use of technology, although they are different terms. AR refers to the combination of elements from the real world and elements from the virtual world [30
]. It offers the possibility of mixing and combining two environments: the physical and the digital in real time through the use of emerging and easily accessible technologies, such as smartphones or tablets [29
]. In relation to how AR can be incorporated into the field of education, the research carried out is limited but growing [31
], with this possibly being one of the great problems it has regarding its incorporation into teaching.
Regarding VR, the person can be at home or in a classroom, and by means of this technology, be transported to a totally different context by means of the images, sounds, and videos that are presented [32
]. It is worth noting that there are many areas where VR can be integrated, but the subject of PE is presented as a flexible and adaptable area for this approach [27
]. The main advantage of this tool applied to education is the possibility of recreating and exploring different environments, whether real or fantasy, to study different types of phenomena [33
]. Therefore, the main difference between them lies in the fact that VR generates a totally virtualized world without resorting, like AR, to the introduction of virtual elements within real spaces.
This is significant at the intersection of PE and VR and PE and AR because they are technologies that can be easily introduced within the PE classes, and they can improve the learning process of the physical activity practice. In fact, some authors have highlighted the suitability of these technological tools to be used in the PE subject [27
], both to teach key concepts of PE and to increase students’ physical activity. This is because students can use these technologies to learn motor skills in a new way, such as imitating the movement of an expert avatar [34
], and thus learn new movements or improve their technique; and to learn abilities, such as reaction, coordination, and spatial skills [35
], as well as develop some offensive skills [36
In addition, these technological tools allow for the work of transversal themes that can vary depending on the theme of the game and the intention of the teacher, which makes this proposal an interesting option for working transversally with other subjects [37
]. Furthermore, they help to bring environments closer, such as facilities or natural environments that education centers do not have, and thus generate new scenarios of physical sports practice that can attract students’ attention [38
], enriching students’ motor experiences. Furthermore, through the use of these technologies, the integration of people with functional diversity in the classroom can be fostered because they facilitate the adaptation of physical sports practice environments, as well as encouraging teamwork and cooperation [35
However, although bibliometric analyses have been carried out on m-learning and AR in education [32
], as well as on AR and its role in education [27
] and higher education through virtual laboratories [39
], no specific analysis was found within the field of PE. The bibliometric studies carried out on the use of technology in PE were carried out from the perspective of information and communication technology (ICT) [40
], as well as VR [37
]. However, none of these studies focused solely on the Web of Science (WoS), nor did they address the perspective of technology in PE in general and the specific use of AR and VR through bibliometric maps. Therefore, the main objectives of this study were (a) to perform a bibliometric analysis of the articles published in WoS on technology in PE and (b) to analyze within this search the articles published on augmented or virtual reality in PE. For this purpose, the following questions guided this research:
RQ1: How did the articles published on technology in PE and AR and VR evolve over time?
RQ2: Which authors have published the highest number of articles on technology in PE in general and specifically on AR and VR, and which ones were most cited?
RQ3: Which countries, academic journals, and institutions were focusing the most attention on technology in PE in general and specifically on AR and VR in PE?
RQ4: What networks of co-authorship, co-words, and thematic analysis reflect studies on technology in PE and specifically on AR and VR?
The results showed that the number of published articles has increased significantly over the last five years, especially from 2015 onwards (RQ1). In relation to referenced authors, Goodyear was the author with the highest number of publications and citations in this field, followed by Casey, both from English institutions (RQ2). However, co-authoring networks were still scarce and small, with few consolidated networks at present. The thematic analysis showed three different lines within this field of study: (a) the training and implementation of technologies in the educational context that were more related to fitness and training evaluation; (b) the motivation of the use of technologies and gamification in PE classes, and their role in combating obesity; and (c) the training of PE teachers in the use of new technologies in the classroom (RQ4). Finally, within this search, in relation to the specific use of two technologies in PE that are acquiring great value, namely AR and VR, the number of articles found was very limited (22 articles), with a small increase from 2017 onward (RQ1). The most influential authors in this field were Arribas-Cubero, Gallego-Lema, and Muñoz-Cristobal, all of them belonging to Spanish institutions (RQ2). In this case, collaboration networks among authors are more scarce and less consolidated, although some are larger (RQ4).
In order to answer the research questions and achieve the research objectives, this article is divided into different sections as follows. After presenting the framework on which the work is developed, the method of the study is presented, in which, first, the process of searching and collecting data is explained, and second, the process of downloading and debugging the data, as well as the different analyses, are elaborated upon. The results are then presented: First, those relating to the search for technology and PE in general, starting with the basic indicators of quantity and quality and ending with the different maps of co-authoring, co-word, and thematic analysis. Later, in this same section, all the articles found on VR or AR in PE are presented, also presenting the results related to the quantity and quality of this production first, and then the co-authorship and co-word maps. Finally, the results of this bibliometric analysis are discussed, the limitations and future lines of research are presented, and this article ends with the conclusions of the results found.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Data Collection
To collect the data, a search in the Web of Science (WoS) Core CollectionTM
was performed. This database was selected because the impact factor (IF) is the most common indicator used for evaluating scientific journals [41
], and the vast majority of bibliographic analysis articles have used [42
]. Therefore, the search was performed in the WoS Core CollectionTM
using the following indicators (1900–2019): Web of Science Core Collection, Derwent Innovations Index, KCI-Korean Journal Database, MEDLINE, Current Contents Connect, SciELO Citation Index, and Russian Science Citation Index. The following indices were including during this search: Science Citation Index Expanded (1900–present), Social Sciences Citation Index (1956–present), Arts & Humanities Citation Index (1975–present), and Emerging Sources Citation Index (2015–present).
The data was gathered from the online database run by Thomson Reuters (New York, NY, USA), which contains academic publications and information regarding the authors and the publications. An advanced search using theme (TS) as the search field was performed using the following search equation: TS = ((”virtual reality”) OR (“augmented reality”) OR (technolog*)) AND (“physical education”)), obtaining 504 documents. Then, the search was redefined, and the book chapters, and the articles’ proceedings papers were deleted, leaving only the articles and early citation articles. Finally, a total of 461 articles were obtained.
Second, a more specific search was performed within the articles of the previous search, and the term technology was deleted from the equation presented above, leaving the equation as follows: TS = (((“virtual reality”) OR (“augmented reality”)) AND (“physical education”)). This search yielded 23 results, considering the indexes presented above and applying the filter articles. In this case, one book chapter was deleted, leaving this search with a total of 22 articles. Therefore, of the 461 articles collected in the first search related to the use of new technologies in PE in general, 22 of them were related specifically to the use of AR and VR in the PE.
These two searches (general and specific) were performed on 6 November 2019. No filters of language or publication year were used. All the records were downloaded in plain text format with the following fields: authors, keywords, abstract, year published, subject category, publication name, ISSN (International Standard Serial Number), and times cited, for further analyses with the bibliometric software presented in the next section.
2.2. Data Analysis
The first step was to check the records of the downloaded resources. All duplicate records were deleted before performing the bibliometric analysis. Moreover, the missing data of the records were completed by looking for that information in other sources, and the authors’ names were standardized. Then, these indicators were used to analyze the data: years, authors, countries, institutions, and journals. Moreover, co-occurrence analysis was performed to analyze the relationship between authors and keywords by creating bibliometric maps.
A bibliometric analysis of quality and quantity was performed. In fact, not only the number of publications found by a researcher, but also the quality of the journals in which they were published [44
]; these details have been fundamental factors for years, and therefore, it is very relevant and useful to know this information. In the first analysis, the productivity of technology in PE was analyses in general, while in the second analysis, the productivity of the articles published about AR and VR in PE were analyzed. The analysis was performed in two different phases. First, the basic bibliometric indexes (number of articles published by year, by author, by country, by institution, and by journal) were calculated. Toward this aim, the statistical software HistCite (ver. 2010.12.6; HistCite Software LLC, NY, USA) was used. In these cases, both the quality and quantity indexes were considered to analyze the research on VR and AR in PE.
Focusing on the qualitative indexes, the total global citation score (TGCS) and the total local citation score (TLCS) are recommended [45
], and they were considered as indicators in this study. The first index, the TGCS, is related to the number of times that a document included in a search has been cited in the whole WoS Core Collection. The second index, the TLCS, is related to the number of times that a document included in a collection (the search performed) has been cited by other documents within the same collection [46
]. These two indicators were calculated using the software HistCite.
Second, the relationships between authors and keywords were analyzed by performing co-authoring and co-keyword analysis using BibExcel (ver. 2011.02.03; Olle Persson, Umea University, Umea, Sweden) and Pajeck (ver.3.14, 2013.11.12; Batagelj and Mvar, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia). The first program was used to analyze the co-authoring and co-keywords and to generate the document to create the network maps. The second one was used to draw the maps. Finally, a thematic analysis was also performed, in which the title and abstract terms were analyzed. The software VOSviewer (ver.1.6.8; Nees Jan van Eck and LudoWaltman, Leiden University, Leiden and Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands) was used to analyze this data and to create the maps.
Bibliometric analysis is a tool that allows researchers to know the current state of research on a specific topic, along with its trends, which is very useful for establishing future lines of research. As a result of this analysis, it was observed that the number of articles published on technology and PE has dramatically increased in recent years. This has led, little by little, to the consolidation of co-authoring networks, although these are still scarce and need to be further consolidated. Of all the countries, the United States is the leading country in this subject area in terms of publishing the greatest number of articles. As for the topics, three different lines were identified: one referring to the training and implementation of technologies in the educational context, another referring to the motivation of the use of technologies and gamification in PE classes, and the third was related to the teaching of PE teachers through the use of different technological instruments. However, it is still a novel field of study, but it is currently in full growth and development, and new studies within this field are needed to contribute to its advancement.
On the other hand, in relation to the specific field of study of AR and VR in PE, it is an emerging field of study, of which few articles have been published to date, although their number has increased in recent years. Co-authoring networks are poorly consolidated, and few researchers have published more than one article. It should be noted that Spain is the country that has published the greatest number of articles, with the Universities of Granada and Valladolid being the pioneers. In relation to co-word networks, five themes were identified: the first was related to PE and the use AR and VR in relation with different specific topics, the second one related to the introduction of simulation in schools using the Markov process, the third referred to the use of technology in orientation at a university level, the fourth was related to the interventions with the aim of improving sport habits, and the last one referred to aspects related to health and physical self-concept in the educational environment. Thus, studies that contribute to these lines should be sought, as well as new lines of study within this field.
Therefore, both fields of study are currently in full development, although the specific field of VR and AR in PE is only a small line of study within this field. Hence, more studies are needed to contribute to the scarce literature on this subject. In addition, it would be beneficial to promote collaborations between researchers of different countries. Thus, in a few years, this new field of study, which arose as a result of the introduction of new technologies into society, will be a consolidated field of research.
It is important to know the current stage of this research field to achieve this consolidation because the use of technologies in PE classes can improve the quality of them, as has been previously exposed, enriching the experiences that students have with them by generating experiences of enjoyment, always with the ultimate goal of generating habits of physical sports practice that will last a lifetime. That is why this is a field of study with great potential for sports practice because it will help teachers to improve the quality of PE classes by presenting practical experiences and new ways of using these technologies in the classroom, as well as reporting the benefits they present for students and establishing guidelines and advice for their proper use within the classroom. This will help to encourage more PE teachers to introduce these technologies into their classes, as well as to ensure that they are used in the right way by PE teachers, generating the expected benefits outlined throughout this research.