Using technology in K-12 gym classes

Fewer than half of high school students meet the federal standards for physical activity (60 minutes of physical activity daily). U.S. schools may soon be testing a new fitness tracker from Adidas in K-12 gym classes to support physical education, and encourage kids to get and stay active.

Regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence helps improve strength and endurance, build healthy bones and muscles, and reduces anxiety and stress while increasing self-esteem. A study sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that a large number of parents of children in grades K-12 are concerned about inadequate levels of physical education in public schools. 25% of parents reported that their child’s school gives too little emphasis to physical education.

By creating a fitness band that tracks heart rate from any activity in P.E. class, Adidas hopes to change the way fitness is measured. Rather than using a one-size-fits-all technique, the Zone tracker makes physical activity more personalized to individual students. The tracker allows teachers to track a student’s performance and set goals based on his/her personal fitness level. All the data collected is sent via the cloud to a software portal, so the teacher can see how a student is progressing.

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Adidas partnered with the tech fitness startup, Interactive Health Technologies, to develop the device. IHT already has an existing “Spirit Challenge” program to encourage students to stay active by offering incentives such as Adidas equipment and apparel, funding and scholarships. This program saw a 140% increase in student engagement in gym class among program participants.

Stacey Burr, VP and General Manager of Adidas Digital Sports said,

“In working with IHT, we found a partner that shared our vision of inspiring the next generation to lead healthy lives by making sport and fitness a life-long pursuit. We’re firm believers that healthy habits are easier to keep the earlier you start, so introducing tools and resources at the school-level offered the perfect place to lay such an important foundation.”

Below is an introductory video to the Zone tracker and its benefits.

 

So what are the implications of using a fitness tracker in P.E. classes?

With such a large number of students, the Zone tracker allows teachers to manage different classes and hundreds of students on the platform. Each student will have their own profile and data tracked, allowing teachers to be able to recognize students that might be struggling. It is possible that parents might be able to gain access to this information, which could help them better understand what goes on at school.

A class package of 28 trackers costs $3,995, so it not exactly something that is affordable by all public schools. While they are costly, only one set of trackers is needed, since the next students can use them after the information is sent to the teacher. But with limited funding, nearly half of school administrators have cut down on physical education to focus more on academic subjects. This technology has the power to help motivate students to get active, but its success is dependent upon schools realizing the importance of physical activity by dedicating more funds.

Brands such as Fitbit, Garmin, Jawbone, and Nike are the current leaders by market share in the fitness tracker industry, so it is interesting that Adidas is entering the market by targeting students. The value of the wearable tech industry is expected to reach $19B by 2018, and is mostly used in North America.

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Fitness trackers are tools to help motivate people to reach their health goals. Developing healthy habits at a young age translates into healthy behavior in adulthood. It is possible that using fitness trackers in K-12 could put too much pressure on the students if used the wrong way. Especially with the younger grades, it is important to stress that it is merely just a tool to increase engagement and make kids want to participate in being active. Ultimately, educating students about the importance of physical activity is the end goal. Whether students in P.E. classes prefer to jump rope or play kickball, the important thing is that they are being active and getting their heart rate up. Adidas’ Zone tracker seems like a good step in accomplishing this goal.

What are your opinions on using this kind of technology in gym classes?

 

 

 

9 comments

  1. Great post. I think that this is a very interesting take on how to solve the obesity problem and encourage healthy behavior by kids. I definitely see the advantages as the device would allow you to monitor individual students and customize a plan for each student based on their physical health. I think that this would also lead to a lot of competition between students to see who can get the most steps, or highest heart rate, or whatever else it measures which would encourage physical behavior. I think the cost is definitely a big problem. Technology gets outdated so quickly I am not sure many school would be willing to pay for the device. I also think many kids in high school would not take it at all serious which would not lead to great results.

  2. Interesting post. I think this would be a step in the right direction in terms of physical fitness engagement, but I see a lot more costs than benefits. Besides the cost of the actual technology, I would be worried about a gym teacher being able to make sense of the data. Maybe if there were ways to connect the information to the students’ local pediatrician it could provide valuable data to healthcare providers. Agreeing with Adam’s comment above, I don’t think high school kids would take it seriously and it would be somewhat of a waste.

  3. Great read. I think something needs to be done to help the obesity issue in the youth of America, and it is definitely an issue that is hard to address with funding and political correctness/laws that don’t allow for PE teachers to target the students that need it the most. I liked the point you raised about stress on students and I agree. I think this “fitness tracker” trend, while great for adults, is not right for children. Children have to quantify everything else in their life these days and are constantly getting numbers attached to them with numerous stressful tests. Fitness should not be a number at this age, it should be fun and one of the few parts of their life where numbers do not matter.

  4. I do confess that my Apple watch has gotten me much more active. It made me realize two things. 1) how little exercise I actually got daily if I didn’t do it intentionally and 2) how little motion it took to qualify as “exercise.” Since I got the fitness tracker, its a rare day that I don’t get the 30minutes of recommended exercise (or more).

  5. Great post! I definitely think that using fitness trackers in gym class is a step in the right direction for schools. Since many schools are starting to embrace technology more in the classroom (Smart Boards, iPads for textbooks, etc.), it’s only natural to transition school technology in other areas. It’ll be interesting to see how these watches will actually fare in a class setting. Will they malfunction. Is it easy to break? Is it easy to slip off wrists? Will readings be accurate and appropriate for children of varying ages (especially if the school decides to purchase one set and use it for different grades)? If I was a school administrator/part of a school district, I would need to know the answers to these questions before making the investment in these watches.

  6. willybbolton · ·

    I enjoyed this post. Adidas has a great idea here, but I think there are couple reasons why it would be hard for this idea to take off. Firstly, it seems like a lot for a kid to track their fitness data. It doesn’t sound like something a kid would be super interested in. Secondly, I think the price is a big deal breaker for many schools both public and private.

  7. I think this is a very interesting topic and if schools can afford it, I really think they should go for it. My high school only offered gym class freshman year, which I thought was way too little. Health is very important at a young age and since I currently tutor at an elementary school I see both ends of the spectrum. Some kids are way too active to the point it’s distracting, while other kids barely run around. I think this would help get students on the same page and since they generally like technology, I feel like they would have fun tracking their progress.

  8. Nice job! I volunteer with Playworks, a non-profit that helps facilitate structured recess at struggling schools, where I interact with a group of elementary school kids from Dorchester. During my most recent meeting with them, they were all wearing these new FitBit-like wristbands – and they were all very into how many steps they got and how many more they need to hit their daily goal (which made keeping them in their seats a struggle). I think it’s such a great idea for these wearables for grade school kids. It add an element of competition and gaming, which could really be motivating for a lot of students. I know I get that way with my coworkers and our FitBits.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this post and I think the K-12 approach is key to helping reduce obesity. I do agree that cost will be a large barrier to acquiring the necessary devices. Though, it might be a good opportunity to partner with local companies. For example, FItNola has been working on conquering obesity and created an app to support healthy decisions and healthy activity http://www.nola.gov/health-department/fit-nola/; however, it’s still a matter of getting affording the tools, getting it in the hands of those needing it, and getting them to use it. Personally, wearing my fitbit makes me much more conscious of my activity level vs. when I don’t wear it and that alone encourages me to make healthier decisions – and I agree that the competition doesn’t hurt either!

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