Teachers are familiar with the phrase, “That which is measured, improves.” Having an idea of a student’s knowledge and skills before, during and after a lesson are key measures in proving that learning is happening. The same rings true in other aspects of our life. Everyone knows that eating more vegetables, moving more and logging more z’s can help lead to longevity and vitality, but how many of us actually pay attention to, let alone measure, those habits?
For some of us, tracking our food, sleep and exercise can seem tedious and obsessive, but for others, it may be the key to making positive health gains. The same probably applies to your students. With nearly 1 in 5 children considered obese, it’s critical that we empower students with tools and ways to improve their habits. Wearable technology in education could be one intervention that not only covers standards and engages students in learning, but also helps them lead healthier, happier lives.
Benefits of Wearable Technology
Fitbits and Apple watches have become extremely popular in recent years. Even if your students aren’t sporting these wearable devices, chances are, their parents or other adults in their lives are. There are notable benefits of wearable technology, such as tracking your steps, heart rate, floors climbed and hours slept. Knowing and being reminded of these numbers throughout the day could encourage someone who is more inclined to drive or ride the bus, to walk or ride their bike. Parking spots far away from your intended destination are no longer an annoyance, but an opportunity to hit 10,000 steps. Recording your favorite show rather than staying up until 11pm isn’t as hard when you see that glorious “8 hours of sleep” appear on your smartphone the next morning. With the support of wearable technology, small day-to-day decisions can lead to large, life-long habits for adults and children alike.
Ideas for Wearable Tech in the Classroom
Of course, not all of the students in your class will own a smartwatch or fitness tracker, so you might be wondering how you can incorporate wearable technology in your classroom or lessons. If you are an elementary teacher with a reasonably sized class, one option might be to purchase inexpensive pedometers for all of your students, or ask parents to provide a few dollars for you to purchase a class set (or ask your school leadership if there is money in the budget to do so.) For older students who might already have devices (including smartphones – those track steps, too) you could provide a few options for a class health project, one including wearable technology and one that doesn’t.
Health Lessons and Competitions
Once you’ve determined which of your students have access to a tracking device, then you can design some fun health-focused lesson plans or class competitions.
- Class Step Challenges – One idea is to have a class step challenge, in which students record their pedometer readings every morning or afternoon. This would likely encourage students to be more active while also enabling you to teach younger students about bar graphs, line graphs, addition and subtraction. Older students can use this data to practice scatter plot graphs, lines of best fit and calculate averages. If students have more advanced devices, the same could be done for hours slept, heart rate and floors climbed.
- Nutrition Challenges – Another component worth measuring and teaching students about is nutrition. Apps like MyFitnessPal and MyPlate Calorie Tracker can help students understand not only how many calories they’re consuming, but also what kinds of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) they’re getting each day. This data could be represented in a pie chart and taught alongside percentages. To increase the competition (and fun) among students, consider displaying the data on a whole-class chart with stickers. You could also have students work in teams to have fewer data points to log while teaching students about averages. The same could be done if you teach multiple class periods – each class representing one team competing against other periods.
Wearable technology can certainly help lead to learning, fun and improved health for your students. It is important to note that some people can take their wearable technology to an extreme and become obsessive with tracking every movement or bite of food. It’s critical that we teach students that technology is not intended to dictate or advise every moment of their lives. Instead, it should be used as one method of collecting information to help them make healthier choices and improve their habits.