Thursday, December 8, 2011

PE Fitness Class... Cellphones to record performance

The goal of the PE class in the weight room is to teach students about maintaining a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.  In order to do that, Sueli Valades requires students to record their workout in terms of sets, repetitions, weight, heart beat, etc, and also write reflection journals. As we discussed ways to wave technology into the process to facilitate record keeping and engagement, the idea of using cellphones came up.

The use of cellphones in schools has been debated for some time and I have been waiting for opportunities to explore those for educational purposes. The idea of record keeping in the weight room seemed perfect, as students need to constantly move around a room full of equipment and therefore require an easy way to keep records on the spot. 

A Google Spreadsheet was then created to keep records online and therefore accessible anytime anywhere. The spreadsheet also provided an automatic calculation of target heart rates according to age. At the end of the semester, students will create graphs from their workout record tables to help evaluate performance. The spreadsheet also provides a template page where students can write their reflection journals and add links to images and videos of their performance, also taken from cellphones.

So the initial challenge was to provide wireless access to the weight room as that was a new place for such type of activity! The access was quickly provided by our Tech Department, so the next step was to actually test the use of student cellphones to edit the Google Spreadsheet.

Students were given options for record keeping, including not only personal cellphones but also personal laptops, the classroom desktop and even a printed copy of the workout sheet for later transfer to the online version.

It was interesting to see how students are unaware of certain functions of the cellphone like sending pictures and videos to themselves by email, or even keeping a web page open for later use. That seems to reflect the heavy use of cellphones for instant messaging. Slowly, more students started to bring cellphones specially for making videos of their performance. In the end, there was a mixture of students using cellphones, laptops and class desktop, being paper the less popular as it tended to get lost and it was harder to handle in the weight room. iPhones worked better with the Google spreadsheet while some Blackberry models did not allow editing, so students spontaneously used the notes feature on their phones for later transfer to the online document.

This was a new experience not only for the PE class but also for me. Students found the use of cellphones for recording convenient and the teacher reported a significant increase in student engagement in the workout. Students now choose a larger variety of equipment and exercises and they are more focused on the work. Applications written specially for cellphones provide the best type of interaction as opposed to a Google spreadsheet. So the next challenge will be to see if a similar type of application is available or hope one will come up soon, as it can really help in life long maintenance of physical health.