Imagine it is the first day of school and there is a good buzz going around the school campus. There is talk about a new innovative, progressive program that will be implemented into physical education classes. Students, parents, and school staff members are looking forward to bringing technology into the physical education curriculum through the utilization of heart rate monitors. The concept is easy to follow, easy to understand, and easy to implement. It sounds relatively simple and who wouldn’t agree that getting students healthy through engaging, fun, moderate to vigorous activities is our moral imperative?
Having been a Physical Education Teacher, a School Principal and a School Superintendent, I can tell you that it is never as easy as it seems. When launching a new program such as Smart PE, powered by the Heart Zones System, it is important to get out in front of potential problems and to consider what challenges or pushback may arise. Think about what might cause concerns from stakeholders? What systems and protocols should be considered prior to implementing this type of new program into physical education classes? Leave no question unturned in preparation and you will find far fewer headaches down the road!
Here are a few tips that I’ve pulled from my 30+ years of experience in education. As you prepare to launch your Smart PE Program using the Heart Zones System keep in mind these 5 helpful tips:
Schedule Meetings with Stakeholders
When a program such as wearable and technology driven Smart PE is being considered, it is imperative to meet with parents, students, staff members and administrators to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of what the program is. Show stakeholders how it works, goals and objectives of the program, and provide a demonstration that will garner support. For the Heart Zones System in particular, showing where the heart rate monitor is attached on the students is key. At Heart Zones, our heart rate monitors are attached on the student’s forearm or around the ankle. We have learned that heart rate monitors attached to chest strap and the lifting of shirts can be a major “red flag” on any school site. Head off any potential problems prior to beginning the program through clear communications, sharing of protocols and systems, and how it will benefit students. School assemblies, PTSA meetings, and board meetings are ideal opportunities to share information with stakeholders.
Consider Privacy and Safety
The number one concern from parents when working with their child is doing everything possible to honor the privacy of each student and put mechanisms in place to keep students safe. When using the Heart Zones System’s Big Board visual display, we provide schools the opportunity to show a student identification number versus a student’s name. The posting of student’s name on any type of display very well could be a concern for parents, embarrassing for students, and put teachers, administrators, and district administration in a difficult position. Make sure you invest time in showing people how technology and the use of heart rate monitors can be used in a safe and appropriate manner, with the students’ privacy and safety as a top priority.
Show How Grading will Work
It is very important to have multiple conversations with your staff members, site administration, students, and parents about where the data from a student’s moderate to vigorous activity will be included in his/her academic grade. For example, we have learned that having a separate grade for “heart rate” could trigger strong reactions from students and parents. It is important to think about multiple measures that might be included for a student’s grade such as effort and participation, endurance, strength, motor skills, and sportsmanship. Another area of concern would be assessing the information provided on the data display or “Big Board.” Is the student receiving positive points and reinforcement for his/her effort or is there a statement displayed at the end of class that says “needs improvement”? Clearly indicate to stakeholders that the program is designed to motivate, engage and fairly assess students, and head off any concerns that may arise as it comes to fairness of grading.
Explain how Smart PE Personalizes Fitness
As we know, individual heart rates of people at rest and during exercise vary immensely. As you introduce the Smart PE program to your school, take the tact that the utilization of heart rate monitors supports a personalized approach to fitness. Establishing baselines and taking assessments on a regular basis is a great way to measure gains in individual fitness and will foster more support as compared to setting the same standard with a specific heart that must be attained by all students during a class activity. Not only does this help in fairness of assessment, it also more accurately tracks each student for potential health risks and improves teachers’ ability to properly direct each individual student in the safest way possible.
Make sure they know there are Options
Most people respond more favorably when they have options. You might be faced with a situation when a student or his/her parent do not want them to wear the heart rate monitor. Rather than have this as a ‘non-negotiable” and penalizing the student, it is much wiser to communicate with parents in writing about the utilization of a heart rate monitor for physical education activities and always give them an option to not participate. Additionally, make sure to have an alternative activity and/or method that is equitable to assess a student’s effort for a moderate to vigorous activities. Providing students with options, make this a “win-win” for you as the instructor and for the student.
Providing a progressive physical education program with the utilization of heart rate monitors can provide multiple opportunities for students to embrace fitness, physical literacy, and develop a passion for life long fitness. Do your due diligence by taking a proactive approach to get input from stakeholders relative to situations that might be detrimental to the sustainability of a “smart” physical education program!