Customizable Software Lets Teachers Record Data and Generate Reports Using Both Brockport and FitnessGram Measures
When Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI) Adapted PE teacher Ken Mansell needed a software platform to house both his FitnessGram® and Brockport assessments, he turned to the IHT Spirit System.
“I looked everywhere and IHT is the only company that has the Brockport (measures) included in its software,” Mansell said.
Working with Adapted PE students between ages 4 and 21 who have moderate to extreme visual impairments, Mansell, the Illinois Adapted PE Teacher of the Year in 2020, needed a software platform that simplified the assessment process for his teachers and students. He’d done a lot of work on his own to create assessments for his teachers to use, but his solutions still required them to manually record the data and then input it into a computer later.
“I want it to be all where you can do it on your smart device,” Mansell said. “IHT’s software does that. Having (all of our assessments) there will make things much easier and prevent data loss. The assessment will be there and they can just call it up and go to work.”
Mansell already uses IHT ZONE heart rate monitors to help his students understand their exercise on a regular basis. After they pick up the ZONE monitors at the start of class, many of his students can see well enough to check their heart rate throughout class or even see the monitor change color depending on the student’s heart rate zone:
- blue for resting or light activity;
- yellow for moderate activity;
- red for vigorous activity.
For students who can’t see the monitors, Mansell uses a special machine to turn a printout of the post-session report into a version of Braille.
“That was the thing that intrigued us (about using the heart rate monitors) for the students who are totally blind and aren’t able to read the graph,” Mansell said. “We have a tool that allows us to create grooves on the piece of paper so students can feel where their heart rate has been.”
Enabling all his students to analyze their heart rate has proven very valuable for everyone.
“They realize that even if they weren’t necessarily the fastest kid or even having the greatest mobility, yet their heart was actually working just as good,” Mansell said. “That really made a difference (for the students).”
Conducting Fitness Assessments Using Brockport, FG Measures
All the students go through fitness testing several times during the year. Mansell starts with the FitnessGram® testing. For students who can’t utilize those tests, Mansell turns to Brockport’s testing.
“Brockport gives you different options to test things like flexibility, upper body strength, core strength, all of that,” Mansell said. “If I can test them normally, I do, but if there is a test here or there that I have to change to meet a student’s needs, I utilize Brockport.”
Mansell needed a software platform that could incorporate those tests along with his FitnessGram® tests. After a quick conversation, IHT incorporated the Brockport standards and measures into its assessment software. Now, Mansell and his teachers can access any measure they need to assess, collect the necessary data, and run the appropriate report without changing devices or looking for data on a piece of paper that can be lost.
Generating reports on student performance is also essential for Mansell because ISVI houses students from all over the state, most of whom have their own Individualized Education Plans (IEP).
“We are able to call that information up and show how the students are doing,” Mansell said. “Now it’s easier to enter and access the data. We can communicate a student’s information with their home district about their IEP.”
‘Why is this Important?’
While many schools use fitness test results as part of a student’s grade, Mansell keeps the bigger picture in mind for his students.
“Fitness testing is not passing and failing,” he said. “It’s showing them where they are on levels of fitness and then they get better, but more importantly, I need to show them why. ‘Why is this important?’”
During class, Mansell and his teachers hustle to make sure students have the immediate feedback they need to meet goals. For many students, teachers or assistants paired with students get the visual cues from the IHT ZONE monitors and relay the information. After class, students get a printout of their heart rate reports and parents receive the same data via email. This feedback is essential, Mansell said.
“It’s very nice that when you print reports and send those to the child and family, I want to be able to show that you did this specific test, why this test was given, and show what you accomplished and why that’s worthy of a ‘good job’,” Mansell said. “Then I show what we recommend for improvement and how to get better. This way, they understand more about what they did.”
That’s a student benefit unique to feedback from the IHT ZONE monitors, regardless of their ability to see.
“This gives the ones who have no sight or who have other disabilities a way to realize things and get the feedback,” Mansell said. “Now they have data to show how hard they are working if ever a teacher or someone says ‘you’re not trying very hard.’ It offers them validation.”
Mastering Multiple Concepts
That validation helps students outside of their PE class. It helps build confidence in other areas, and Mansell said that confidence is a key element of the students’ mental health.
“Getting kids to believe in themselves is huge,” Mansell said. “Take public speaking. Everyone one of us gets nervous. Students want to appear confident when speaking in front of their class and that stress is normal. The heart rate monitors can validate some of this for them.”
Every student at ISVI wears an IHT ZONE heart rate monitor during PE. They’ve studied about heart rate and how heart rate relates to both their physical and emotional health.
“They do a very good job of now realizing what gets their heart rate up and what slows it down so even if they aren’t wearing a heart rate monitor and they are in the dorm and their anxiety kicks up, they can think about the things that help them lower their heart rate,” Mansell said. “I encourage them because that’s what they want to think about.”
That understanding begins with knowing their heart rate ranges. Students start with understanding their max heart rate so they can adjust their working intensity when prompted by either the IHT ZONE or the teacher.
“They’ll all ask,” Mansell said. “They all know their maximum heart rate – 220 minus your age. When we tell a kid to slow down and they ask why, we can tell them what their heart rate is and get them to feel their heart rate.”
And if colleagues ask Mansell about the heart rate monitors and the software?
“Because it is so user friendly for both student and staff member,” Mansell said, “it is a valuable asset to any school.”