Technology On the Move: Heart Zones’ Wearable Monitors Put Fitness First in Phys Ed Classes
Students in Westonka Public Schools, located outside Minneapolis, used to have a fondness for physical education classes during their primary school years. However, as they progressed to high school, gym class became one of the least desired elective courses.
Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Mark Femrite, explained that this decline in student interest was due to the outdated traditional model of physical education at the high school. This model focused on attendance, proper uniforms, and learning skills that had little to do with exercise, fitness, or enjoyment. Recognizing this issue, Femrite and the high school engaged in discussions to address the problem.
In their search for a solution, Westonka looked at other school districts in the state that had successfully attracted students to their physical education programs. They discovered a common theme among these districts: a different approach to measuring individual growth and standards, utilizing technology such as smart devices. This revelation prompted the phys ed staff at Westonka to consider implementing similar techniques.
Femrite acknowledged that technology was necessary to measure individual growth and improve student engagement. As a result, Westonka partnered with Heart Zones, a small California-based company specializing in wearable technology, for the past two years. With the use of Heart Zones monitors, students receive real-time feedback on their heart rate, steps taken, and calories burned, projected on a screen. Younger students in grades K-4 attach tracking devices to their shoelaces, while older students wear them on their arms.
This new technology has transformed physical education in the district, allowing students to see their progress and effort during class. Grades are now tied to students’ efforts based on their exercise stats, such as steps or time spent in different cardio zones. The result is increased engagement and excitement among students.
The benefits of incorporating wearable technology into physical education extend to all students. Athletes can improve their sports performance by setting individualized goals, while out-of-shape students can work towards improving their fitness.
Westonka is part of a larger trend in education-based fitness programs embracing wearable technology. The market for this type of technology in classrooms is expected to grow to 46 percent by 2020. Other institutions, such as Oral Roberts University and UNICEF, have also adopted wearable technology to promote physical fitness among their students.
For Westonka, incorporating technology into physical education classes was just the first step. The entire curriculum is being reviewed to ensure relevance and to strike a balance between learning lifelong skills and prioritizing fitness.
Femrite believes that this approach is the future of K-12 physical education and considers his district fortunate to be at the forefront of this transformation.