Minneapolis Schools Pilot Wristband To Track Physical Education

A wristband that automatically records a student’s physical activity is being added to the curriculum for some Minneapolis high schools, a move that comes almost a decade after since they successfully led Minnesota into online physical education courses.

This fall, in a pilot test aimed at automatic recording of their activity, 10 online PE students donned Movband step-tracking wristbands. At least 200 are expected to wear the $35 bands to make sure they meet the course’s requirement for physical movement when the second semester begins this month. Downloading data as a substitute for having to do the online course’s required computer logging of physical exercise impressed students.

“It’s a heckuva lot easier than entering [data] in every single day and hoping that they qualify,” said Washburn junior Noah Solfest.

Students must do at least 15,000 recorded moves (up from 12,000 in the pilot period) in a day, the equivalent of more than half an hour of activity, to qualify their day’s activity. Each quarter requires 30 such days of activity.

According to Steve Brandt of the Star Tribune, activities ranging from picking up football to shoveling snow to participating in rehearsals for the school musical can add to students’ moves. For instance, as Solfest admitted, shoveling snow at home after a heavy snowfall can lead to as many as 6,000 moves. Additionally, behavior can also be modified by the bands when students analyze their data.

A combination of computer-based study of healthy habits and exercise is also included in online physical education. However, it can be a challenge fitting in the district’s physical education and health requirements for Minneapolis students who typically have just two periods a day open for elective classes which often are consumed by a foreign language and a music ensemble.

That’s one reason that a number of districts across Minnesota have piggybacked on the Minneapolis district’s entry into online physical education in 2005. Using the Minneapolis approach, tens of thousands of students across the state to date have taken online gym.

Goodrich believes that technology many students already use can be integrated by the wristbands. Adding a Facebook site remains to be the districts’ hope according to him.