Teacher Sees Increased Engagement, More Efficient Assessment and A Way to Help Students Manage Emotions

John Clem Elementary School (Ohio) PE teacher Darren Athey’s results in his first year using IHT ZONE heart rate monitors already have him looking for greater successes next year.

“The kids rave about them all the time,” Athey said just four months into using the monitors with his students. “It’s become part of the routine in PE now, which is great to see, so I’m hoping that it will only get better as we use it year to year.”

As Athey and his colleagues continue to learn more about the technology while they use it, one thing is already apparent: the technology – the combination of the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors and IHT Assessment software – has already improved student buy-in and made several processes easier for teachers.

Students at All Grade Levels are More Engaged

IHTIn previous years, Athey estimates that he’d have as many as 5 or 6 students in each of his 30-student classes who wouldn’t participate. On the days those students did participate, they gave minimal effort. With the heart rate monitors, Athey said nearly all his students are doing their best.

“Before, I’d probably have about 75-80% participation,” he said. “I would say now I’m having probably 90-95% participation and I constantly see the kids looking down like they are always checking (their monitor) and honestly, I love seeing that.”

Athey credits the technology for the increased engagement. After all, he said, using technology has become innate for most children. More than that, though, Athey’s noticed students focusing on what the heart rate monitor shows them. He reinforces what students see by emailing an end-of-class summary home to each student. The summary shows:

  • How many minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity (MVPA) the student achieved
  • How many minutes the student spent exercising in each heart rate zone
  • A graph of the student’s heart rate throughout the class/session

Students know they should be spending the bulk of class in the yellow zone – indicating moderate physical activity. They watch their monitors and let him know when they get there.

“They've come to notice the colors showing up on their heart rate monitors and they're coming to realize that certain activities that we do they start seeing themselves going into the yellow (the moderate stage) and they always like come up running to me ‘hey, I'm in the yellow…I'm in the yellow!’” Athey said.

While he knew his older students would take to the technology, he’s pleased how his younger students are making the most of their opportunities with the heart rate monitors. They quickly get their IHT ZONE monitors on after arriving in the gym and they get to work.  

“I was hesitant with second grade just because they're still young but they've taken over ownership as soon as they walk in,” Athey said. “I have a routine now to where they just go right up to the (reader) and they sign themselves in. They just grab it and they scan in and they go right to their spots and they're ready to go. The process only takes like 2 minutes (for the entire class).”

Athey’s even noticed some students who previously hesitated to engage in class stepping forward and reaching his goals for minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

“They’ve just adapted well to it,” he said. “They know that they used to be the kids sitting in the corner not doing anything. It's just been really cool to have them take ownership over what they're doing in class.”

Making Fitness Testing Easier


Darren Athey with his IHT ZONE heart rate monitors.

While the heart rate monitors make it easier to get students involved in class, Athey’s also been excited about how the IHT Assessments software has made things like fitness testing easier for him and his colleagues.

The software includes all the measures to conduct the established national tests. Additionally, the software allows teachers to record scores – depending on the test – automatically.

“The assessment tool has really helped me,” Athey said. “I've been really using it for (fitness testing) and because I used to do pen-and-paper writing down everyone's score. For the Pacer test, I used to have kids have worksheets and they would watch a partner go, and then they would switch roles after that partner was done. It’s been really nice with having that on an iPad and everyone doing at the same time and it's just really easy just to click the name.”

IHT’s software also allows teachers to create individual reports that can be shared with students and parents. Teachers can also run a variety of summary reports to share with leaders and administrators, including reports that satisfy mandatory state reporting guidelines as needed. 

Beginning to focus on emotional health as well as physical fitness

As many other schools are finding, the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors can be used beyond the PE setting. Because heart rate is an indicator of emotions such as stress, anxiety or excitement, schools use the monitors with students who might be challenged to cope with stress or anxiety. 

Athey’s already explained to students how to notice if their heart rate doesn’t match their activity level, and they are making progress.

“They're taking ownership of ‘hey, I might need a drink now’ or ‘hey, I need to go calm down for a little bit’ because I've told them that there's going to be times where we're not doing anything, but you'll look down and you might be in red,” he said. “You might be angry or something like that. It's not all about the (MVPA) goal part of it. It might be your emotions taking over.”

Athey’s also approached his school’s counseling department with the monitors as well.

“I've honestly talked with our student services staff saying hey, this might be something that we can look into outside of PhysEd,” he said. “These could be kids that we’re maybe having trouble with every day. Maybe put (a monitor) on them to see where they're peaking at certain points in the day.”

A Conference Connection

From the time he saw the technology in action at the 2022 Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (OAHPERD) state conference, Athey knew that his students would benefit. 

“I wasn’t really used to a lot of the technology-type things,” Athey admitted, though he knew he’d have to move from his pencil-and-paper ways eventually. “I want to incorporate a lot of technology in PE because that’s what kids are coming to expect more of,” he said. “It’s technology and it keeps them engaged. They’re having fun and they’re learning at the same time.”

Athey learned about the heart rate monitors and IHT Assessments software, then approached his administration, thinking it would be a longshot to get his proposal approved.

“We didn’t honestly think we were going to get approved for it,” he said. “But after talking with (administration) they said ‘we haven’t done anything for the elementary PE in a really long time, so we’ll do it.’”

If the first six months are any indication, students are more than validating the district’s decision.

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    Ohio School’s Addition of IHT Heart Rate Monitors Benefits Students and Teachers Alike
    Article Name
    Ohio School’s Addition of IHT Heart Rate Monitors Benefits Students and Teachers Alike
    Teacher Sees Increased Engagement, More Efficient Assessment and A Way to Help Students Manage Emotions
    Publisher Name
    Interactive Health Technologies, LLC
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