Technology, Heart Monitors Hit Physical Education Classes

Technology is bringing changes to the education system in unexpected places, as even physical education classes aren't immune to modern technologies introduced to meet the growing needs of 21st century students.

Lawrence High School in New York is one of many schools using new technology in physical education classes. During class, students wear heart rate monitors on their wrists that track each student's heart rate during physical activity, from warm-up to cool-down, writes Caitlin Doornbos of Lawrence Journal World.

Physical Education teacher Amy Hoffsommer said the monitors show her students a quantitative assessment of their effort, enabling them to keep track of their own health. The heart monitors were purchased by the Lawrence Schools Foundation (LSF) through a Teacher Innovation Grant.

"I'm not going to be grading them the rest of their lives, so they have to find out for themselves what exercise really is," Hoffsommer said. "This tool lets them know if they're doing what it takes to be considered healthy."

Hoffsommer said incorporating the heart rate monitors in her class gave her students autonomy. When class begins, students raise their heart rates with a 5-minute jog.

"With this tool, they don't have to come up and ask me, ‘am I doing it OK?'" Hoffsommer said. "They know what they're doing and they're taking care of themselves."

Hoffsommer added that physical education grading can be difficult because it takes more physical effort for people in good shape to raise their heart rates than those who are not. The heart rate monitors help her grade without bias — as long as their heart rates are in a good place, she knows her students are pushing themselves.

The program was launched in 2012 with 12 monitors bought with a $3,000 Teacher Innovation Grant from Lawrence Schools Foundation. Foundation Executive Director Susan Esau said the grants are awarded for proposals that enrich education.

In 2012, LSF distributed $24,391 in Teacher Innovation Grants across the district, purchasing educational items such as iPads, microscopes, computer programs and project materials. In 2013, Hoffsommer received another $3,000 grant, allowing her to purchase enough heart rate monitors to outfit all of her students. This program was one of the 11 projects supported by Teacher Innovation Grants in 2013.

In addition to the Teacher Innovation Grants, LSF also funds the district's Early Childhood Education program, district-wide grants, student scholarships, teacher awards and the Lawrence Education Achievement Partners (LEAP) program. In total, the foundation gave $302,174 last year, and plans to distribute about the same amount during the 2013-2014 school year.

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