In the last three years, adoption of wearable fitness technology has exploded. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, adoption rate tripled from 2012 to 2013 and wearable fitness exhibitor numbers at the International Consumer Electronics Show (one of the world’s premiere technology showcases) increased by at least 30%.
One of the most powerful aspects of this technology is its ability to give personalized feedback that meets a person where he or she is, and to give that feedback regularly, allowing the individual to make incremental changes in order to improve. Small goals and regular success is addicting — wouldn’t that be great in a PE class?
It’s this personalized, visual motivation that Dave Gauvain and Eric Brown, PE teachers at St. John Vianney High School, had in mind when they selected curriculum-specific technology for their department. Instead of laptops or tablets, Dave and Eric chose the Polar GoFit program, an integrated way for students to keep track of their own progress during workouts and athletic exercises.
I caught up with Dave Gauvain during a dodgeball unit and he walked me through three elements of the technology he thought held the most merit.
“We want guys to learn what it feels like to be in their target heart rate,” Dave comments. The longer and more regularly they stay in that target area, the easier it will become to maintain without the devices. That’s the transfer goal: a physical perception our young men can work towards outside of class.
Each boy is outfit with a heart rate monitor on a chest strap and a wristwatch. The boys put in their height and weight into the watch at the beginning of every period. The heart rate monitor broadcasts to both the boy’s watch as well as to the iPad Dave carries throughout the period. Teacher and student each have an easy way to measure a student’s effort in class.
The Polar GoFit program not only shows a real-time display of student effort – it also tracks this over time. Each student’s performance throughout the period is graphed and stored in a password-protected online service. On his iPad, Dave can see these graphs, and he periodically calls students over to chat about how much (or how little) they are working themselves on the field. Off the court, students can log in to the Polar website to see their performance across multiple class periods.
While he’s not sure how the technology will impact his grading system just yet, Dave does believe he’ll begin using this data to inform how he judges how successful students are in his class, and how effective certain activities are at helping his students meet their heart rate goals.
This objective measure of effort gives a different feel to a PE class. “It allows students to feel good about their athletic work, even if they might not identify themselves as athletes,” Dave observes.
To an extent, it levels the playing field. Students involved in regular athletic programs must work harder to keep their heart rates up. Students who may not be involved in regular activity see incremental successes earlier and more often.
Polar even has special badges students earn for staying in the target heart rate area for certain amounts of time. Students compete against themselves as well as others in the class for more badges, and the bragging rights are available to anyone who’s willing to put forth the effort.
Dave and Eric’s application of the Polar GoFit technology sends a positive message about the benefits that data and computing can have on our behavior and our health. We are excited to see how our teachers use the GoFit to help our Griffins get fit and stay fit.