From Special Opportunities to Consistent Use of Technology, Teachers Keep Students Connected

Physical Education teachers motivate their students to give their best efforts in a variety of ways.

Some, including David Lagerman at Linntown Intermediate and Kelly Elementary Schools (Pa.), offer students a chance at a prize for doing what’s asked of them in class. When Lagerman sees students who meet all of his daily expectations – “they followed directions, they gave me their bets effort, they showed great sportsmanship,” he told Cindy O. Herman for a story published by The Daily Item – they get a chance to make what he calls “The Incredible Shot.”

Lagerman built an open tube that stands several feet high. Students get three chances to lob a tennis ball into the tube from 8 feet away. The task has proven nearly impossible. But not totally impossible.

Student Engagement

Photo from The Daily Item

“I’ve been doing this for about a year now,” he said. “We’ve only had five students that ever made it.”

The entire class knows the odds, so when a student does make the shot, everyone erupts with joy and races to congratulate the student, just like they did the first time a student succeeded.

“It was a day I know this boy will remember for the rest of his life, and I’ll remember just because of the pure joy on his face,” Lagerman said in The Daily Item.

The story explains that Lagerman’s end goal is simple: to create positive memories in his class that will keep students giving their best efforts and learning skills that will help them stay healthy.

“I think physical activity is even more important than it’s ever been,” said Ryan Keiser, Middleburg Elementary School physical education teacher. “When you’re active, when you do something that’s raising the heart rate a little bit, making you work a little bit, you know, after that you just feel so much better.”

Teachers accomplish this several ways. Some, as Lagerman and Keiser do, offer the chance at rewards. Others use technology such as IHT ZONE heart rate monitors to show students how exercising at an elevated heart rate helps them become healthier.

Here are 3 ways that schools use IHT ZONE heart rate monitors to get students engaged in PE and their future wellness habits.

Making Assessment (and Grading) Personal

Scott Smith - San Bernardino CUSD

Scott Smith with a set of his IHT ZONE monitors at the 2023 CAHPERD Convention.

For years, Scott Smith struggled with pretty much everything about his PE classes in San Bernardino City Unified High School District. Students weren’t doing the bare minimum to pass the class when they bothered to show up at all, fewer than half of the students participated, and student self-esteem suffered.

“We couldn’t keep going down that path,” Smith said. “We weren’t getting results and we were not meeting the needs of our students. Every day was a struggle.”

Smith took his program on a multi-year rebuild, the final step of which was adding IHT ZONE heart rate monitors for students to wear during their class workouts. The monitors provided an instant impact.

“They understood that they were no longer being graded against somebody else,” Smith said at the time. “Kids are working harder than they’ve ever worked before. Kids who hated PE started liking it. They get a true assessment and they celebrate when they meet their goals.”

Awarding Outstanding Student Achievement

IDEA Public Schools PE and Health Curriculum Manager Eren Kirksey went all-in with IHT ZONE monitors across the growing network of schools to make sure students met basic health guidelines for physical activity. To enhance his teachers’ efforts, he followed the lead of some academic departments and created a special designation for students who met their year-long goals.

IDEAStudents have a goal to achieve 1,200 minutes of exercise at an elevated heart rate – Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) – throughout the year. If they meet this goal, they become “Fitness Ambassadors.” The school uses data from the IHT ZONE monitor to chart the amount of time each student spends in MVPA levels.

Much like Lagerman’s students who shoot their shot and make it, IDEA celebrates when students are on track to achieve Fitness Ambassador status.

“They understand 600 minutes in each semester will get them there,” PE teacher Luis Guardiola said. “Their goal is to become a Fitness Ambassador here at IDEA. We have celebrations throughout the year if they are on track or if they’ve already reached it. I think we have 138 Fitness Ambassadors in PE already.”

Teachers across the network credit the heart rate monitors for helping students stay appropriately active.

“PE isn’t easy,” PE teacher Dominic Cameron said. “We have to work. Kids are getting more information about being healthy. They put on this little (heart rate monitor) and now they want to be healthier. They get to that yellow or red zone. If we didn’t have these, I don’t think these kids would be as healthy as they are.”

Pushing Students to Succeed with Individual Goals

Before technology such a heart rate monitors, teachers struggled to objectively assess students. The conventional wisdom said the students who ran the fastest or did the most sit-ups were the hardest workers, and less-fit or even unhealthy students who simply couldn’t run or do sit-ups were judged to not be working very hard.

Portage Central Middle School (Mich.) PE teacher John Dunlop found that IHT ZONE heart rate monitors gave him objective data to assess each student at the same time – including students of wildly different fitness levels and interests.

“I have a boy who, in my 24 years of teaching and coaching, is as athletic a kid as I’ve ever come across,” Dunlop said after he started using IHT ZONE heart rate monitors in 2016. “This kid’s a beast. Then there’s another boy who is about a foot-and-a-half shorter than him, and they’re in the same class doing the same things. How do you meet the needs of both of these kids when you have them at the same time? The other kid hates PE, he doesn’t really like school and he struggles a little academically.”

Dunlop’s answer came in the technology. When Dunlop introduced the heart rate monitors, a light went on inside that second student. IHT’s technology lets teachers set a goal for the number of minutes they want students exercising at an elevated heart rate. The monitor captures that data, tracking that student’s time spent in each zone according to their own physiology. After class, students see immediately if they met their individual goal.

“I saw a complete change in his attitude, especially at the end of class when he’s downloading and looking at his data,” Dunlop said. “He said, ‘hey, I did pretty good today.’ I don’t know if that kid has ever experienced success in PE until this year.”

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    Heart Rate Monitors Remain Key Tools to Improve Student Engagement in PE
    Article Name
    Heart Rate Monitors Remain Key Tools to Improve Student Engagement in PE
    Heart Rate Monitors, other tactics, prove crucial in keeping students engaged with PE class activities and their fitness.
    Publisher Name
    Interactive Health Technologies, LLC
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