Teacher Works With Athletic Director to Provide Students with Tools to Enhance Online PE Classes
Teamwork between departments enabled Leland and Gray Union High School (Townshend, Vt.) teacher Tammy Claussen to add IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors to her online PE curriculum using unspent budget funding.
Claussen, who teaches ninth grade PE, needed a better way to motivate her students to stay active and complete assignments when students shifted from on-campus to online PE. She researched heart rate monitors as a way to set expectations and assess student progress, deciding the IHT ZONE would serve her top two purposes:
“The administration was on board with the idea and the accountability that the monitors would provide,” Claussen said.
As the school year began, Claussen worked to secure the funding she’d need to provide each of her ninth-grade students with monitors they would wear at home to capture essential heart rate data. She applied for a portion of her district’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding but learned that the district had allocated all of that federal funding to bring the school’s HVAC system up to date with improved air filtration to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.
Without district-level help, Claussen committed her entire equipment budget to the cause, but that only got her halfway to what she needed. A meeting with Leland and Gray Athletic Director Marty Testo got her the rest of the way.
“He had extra money in his budget because our high school was not playing games,” Claussen said. “He was saving the money that would have been spent on traveling to and hosting home games.”
When he saw how the monitors could help students increase their activity levels – and their overall health, wellness, and academic readiness – Testo was quick to help Claussen with his unplanned funding surplus.
“I heard her talking about it in a faculty meeting and I agreed ,” Testo said. “Teaching PE remotely, it’s difficult to see the evidence that we need to see. This is great because it gives a way to find that proof and get kids accustomed to tracking their own success.”
Testo knew the money that hadn’t been spent on the school’s different teams playing games wouldn’t stay in his budget forever.
“I wanted to find a way to help the school with this money before it could be reclassified,” Testo said.
While the athletic director’s decision helps Claussen’s program in the short term, Testo also saw the long-term benefit of adding to the school’s inventory of IHT ZONE monitors.
“When we do eventually come back to school, we will be able to expand these monitors into the middle school as well,” he said. “We’ll be able to have multiple users for each monitor.”
Getting Started with Data Collection
Frustrated during the spring semester, she had difficulty motivating, supporting, and marking each student’s progress, Claussen turned to IHT. While students would benefit from learning about their heart rate and how it relates to their activity level, Claussen focused on the data she’d soon have.
“We needed a way to hold kids accountable in PE,” she said. “I’d been using heart rate monitors for 20 years, but the thing that brought me to IHT is the data. This was important to me because there is no other device like it designed for education. I really appreciate that. The evidence could come right to me virtually. This was huge.”
To use the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors, students download the free IHT Spirit Mobile App and use it to connect to Claussen’s activities. Though she’s tried having students track activities using free apps such as Map My Run before, the combination of app and heart rate monitor would result in better participation.
“We’d ask students to download free apps so they could send us proof of a workout and they wouldn’t use the app,” Claussen said. “With IHT we could get a heart rate monitor in everyone’s hands and students can use them with their Chromebooks. That levels the field for everyone.”
An Important First Step
Claussen received her heart rate monitors in early November. When the semester ends in January, her first-semester students will have had nine weeks with the monitors. That’s enough time for students to learn some important lessons and to realize the benefit of focusing on heart rate during exercise.
“They will grow through this experience,” she said. “I want them to experience an improvement in their cardiovascular strength and endurance.”
Claussen will also benefit from this nine-week pilot. Her second semester students will have more time to get familiar with the technology, and she’ll be able to speed up the learning curve using the feedback from her first-semester students.
“Having the technology from the start will be key,” Claussen said. “They’ll have it in their hands and I can walk them through everything. Then I can gradually increase expectations until they can get familiar with heart rate.”
Once they become familiar with the technology and her expectations, Claussen wants to see the students take more ownership of their PE performance.
“I always keep in mind the end goal,” she said. “I want this to be encouraging, motivating and supportive and I want them to have a true reflection of what they are doing. The kids are still learning what moderate and vigorous physical activity looks like. The kids need to understand what effort feels like.”