Participation, Success Soar After Teacher Individualizes Assessment for Each Student Using IHT ZONE Wrist Heart Rate Monitor
A California physical education director credits the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitor with lifting his program to its greatest heights by focusing on students as individuals.
“The heart rate monitors have super-charged our program,” San Bernardino City Unified School District PE Program Specialist Scott Smith said. “You can see it in the body language of the students, the look on their faces. As soon as we gave them the heart rate monitors, they really felt at that time that we really cared about them as individuals.”
Smith added IHT ZONE heart rate monitors to his district’s PE curriculum in 2019 as the final – and most impactful – step in a program revitalization he began following the 2015-16 school year.
“I knew this would have a big impact, but I didn’t think it would be this big,” he admitted.
Smith surveyed PE students at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Compared to 2016, the way students perceive – and participate in PE – is light-years different.
His most recent survey revealed that more than 70% of students felt the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors encouraged them to set their own goals and 83% of students said the heart rate monitors made PE relevant. More importantly, he said, was the way students described their PE experience compared to what they thought it might be at the beginning of the year.
“Ninety-four percent scored their experience a 4 or 5 (on a scale of 1-5),” Smith said. “That’s compared to 45% at the beginning of the year.”
Changing Students’ Physical Education Reality
Five years ago, Smith and his colleagues knew they had to do something to turn their program around.
“We couldn’t keep going down this path,” Smith said. “We weren’t getting results and we were not meeting the needs of all our students. Every day was a struggle just to get through the day.”
Smith said his program struggled with several key elements. Grades suffered and behavioral problems persisted. Smith said a stunning 29% of students earned either Ds or Fs, and his teachers referred 41 students a year to the office due to disruptive behavior and fights. Less than half the students participated in class each day, and many students showed signs of poor self-esteem.
To fix the program, Smith wanted to know exactly what he was dealing with, so he asked students to complete a survey about what they wanted to get out of a PE program. That first step proved to be significant.
“We wanted to make the students a bigger part of the game-planning, to really build on them being the reason why we are here,” Smith said. “We wanted to engage them and make them become self-determined learners.
To start, Smith changed the program to cater to the three types of students the survey revealed:
- competitive students who wanted to win every game they played;
- competitive students who prioritized game-play and activity over results; and
- students who didn’t like sports but wanted to be fit.
“We created a program where students had the choice of a traditional sport (soccer, basketball, football, etc), a non-traditional sport (Spikeball, pickleball, etc), and a fitness group,” Smith said. “The kids started feeling good about being engaged, making decisions, and taking control of their fitness and health.”
From MVPA to Heart Rate
Smith created student choice and followed that up with other changes that encouraged students to work at moderate to vigorous activity (MVPA) level. By the end of the 2018-19 school year, students were measuring their heart rate manually both before and after activity, but Smith wanted to do more to increase their focus on exercise at an elevated heart rate.
He first discovered the IHT ZONE at the annual California Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CAHPERD) conference. In early 2019, he knew he wanted to add the IHT ZONE to his curriculum. He applied for – and won – an innovation grant.
"I was able to bypass our administration to the get the funding," Smith said. "There was an innovation grant through our district for technology. No PE teacher had ever won because no one ever saw the need for technology in PE. I wrote a grant explaining the state of our program and how heart rate monitors would play a role. I wrote the grant for three other teachers so we could impact more than 750 students. I wanted to make sure the program didn’t die with me. Technology is the way of the future. IT changes and you can see how."
He purchased enough monitors for three teachers, each of whom taught six sections of PE with 50 students in each class. From the moment students first put the monitors on, Smith knew he’d found the final piece to his program-improvement puzzle.
“All of a sudden, bam, it was a game-changer,” he said. “The kids felt like they had something to come to class for. The (monitor) gave them power they never thought they had.”
For Smith and his fellow teachers, the heart rate monitor took the guessing out assessing students. Rather than assume students who were running were working the hardest and students who walked didn’t try, the teachers knew what each student was going through. And the students saw that.
“They finally felt that we were thinking about them as individuals,” he said. “We were not grading them against somebody else. It allowed them to push themselves and set their own goals. It also allowed them to have conversations about health and fitness because they felt better about themselves. Their self-esteem improved – if you say 100% is the best you can go, then it presented at 100%.”
And the problems that had overrun Smith’s program in 2016 reversed themselves. Nearly 90% of students earned an A or B in PE. Fighting and behavioral issues stopped. Attendance and participation skyrocketed. Students enjoyed the process of being active and improving their overall health and fitness, and they took their focus on fitness home.
“The one thing I didn’t realize was how many of these students took what they learned on campus about health and took it home,” he said. “They would come back and say, ‘Mr. Smith, today I walked around the block with my mom and dad for the first time ever.’”
Expanding IHT ZONE Use Across the School District
Smith’s original purchase included 168 heart rate monitors. Since then, the educator has added another 1,200 monitors and nearly 800 individual chargers. Smith met with district superintendent Harold J. Vollkommer and received funding for the latest purchase after sharing his initial progress.
SBCUSD closed its campuses last March and offered only remote education for the 2020-21 school year. Smith believes the district may start 2021-22 with a hybrid model (some students on-campus, some remote) and is prepared to provide as many students as he can with access to the IHT ZONE. On-campus students will wear the IHT ZONE in class. Remote students will be provided an IHT ZONE, a personal charger and instructions on how to connect with their classes using the IHT Spirit Mobile App on their phones or tablets.
“We need to assess where they are (physically) and ease them back into PE and remind them how important it is,” he said. “What better tool to use than this?”
With 17 teachers using the IHT ZONE monitors, Smith estimates that the district will be able to provide more than 5,000 students with PE that focuses on their own individual fitness situation.
“We can easily assess where they are and then talk about goals for both the individuals and classes and use the HRMs to assess and allow them to watch their progress,” Smith said. “We will be partners in this venture.”