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Technology is paving the path to the “New PE”

The growing use of heart rate monitors is a key step in the move to bring phys-ed into the 21st century

<b>What exactly is the "New PE," and how can technology help districts embrace it? </b>

In this virtual roundtable, three educators whose districts use Polar heart rate monitors and assessment technology in their physical education programs share their observations. The panelists are John Stevens, superintendent of Grundy Center Community Schools in Iowa; Ted Nagengast, a physical education teacher at Bay Shore Middle School on Long Island, NY, and Meghan Jinguji, a physical education teacher at Antelope Crossing Middle School in California.

<b>What is the "New PE?"</b>

<i>John Stevens</i> — The traditional concept of physical education, centered on organized sports and with the athletes at the top of the hierarchy, is giving way to a model of lifestyle education where we’re teaching young people how to take care of their health.

<b>So no more sports?</b>

<i>Ted Nagengast</i> — Of course not; kids need to be introduced to sports and offered the opportunity to learn about them. But being realistic, there are a lot of kids who do not like to play sports. And if they are forced to do something they don’t enjoy, they are not going to want to go back to it after they leave school.

"I would say that our PE program provides some of the most useful and reliable data in our educational system."

<b>What’s driving the shift to the New PE?</b>

<i>Meghan Jinguji</i> — One of the biggest drivers is the obesity epidemic we’re facing. Another is the whole shift to accountability in education. If we can’t demonstrate that students are actually learning something in physical education then why not just give them recess?

<b>Can data-driven decision making be extended to the New PE? <b/>

<i>John Stevens</i> — Our Polar monitors and assessment software give us solid data about the design and delivery of instruction in our phys-ed department. It holds us accountable for seeing that all students are exercising in the healthy heart zone. In fact, I would say that our PE program provides some of the most useful and reliable data in our educational system.

<b>How does heart rate technology level the playing field in physical education classes? </b>

<i>Ted Nagengast</i> — Picture kids jogging around a gym. Kids who are fit are going around at a good pace. At the back of the pack you see kids who are out of shape, maybe overweight, half jogging and half walking. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the slow kids aren’t trying very hard and don’t deserve a good grade. But when everyone is wearing heart rate monitors, you see that the slower kids may be working just as hard as the faster kids, and in fact may be doing a better job of exercising their hearts given the way their bodies work.

"When everyone is wearing heart rate monitors, you see that the slower kids may be working just as hard as the faster kids."

<i>John Stevens </i> —In other words, effort can be measured in an objective manner and students understand that effort looks different from one person to another.

<b>Can heart rate monitors help extend the PE curriculum?</b>

<i>Meghan Jinguji</i> — I use them as an opportunity to teach different concepts. If I am teaching my students about the difference between aerobic and anaerobic activities, we will use the heart rate monitors and then look at the graphs to see how their heart rate differs.

<b>Are there cross-curricular applications to the heart rate monitors? </b>

<i>Ted Nagengast</i> —For math, our kids have to learn how to calculate their target heart rate zone and they graph their results after each class. For science, we do in-depth les- sons on the anatomy of the heart, drawing on the heart rate readings to show how exercise strengthens it.

<b>Do students like using the technology?</b>

<i>Ted Nagengast</i> —Before we opened our new wellness center, we had a very small fitness room. Kids would put on their monitors and then wait outside in the hall to use the machines. But they didn’t just sit out there. They would go up and down the staircase as if they were on a Stairmaster to see the effect on their hearts. They are motivated by the feedback they receive from the technology.

<b>Is Polar technology helping instill an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle among your students? </b>

<i>Meghan Jinguji</i> —Yes. It is not just about using heart rate monitors day in and day out to measure how active kids are in class. It is about providing students with the opportunities to learn how their bodies work, how different activities impact their fitness so that they can become more educated and live those healthy active lifestyles that we are working towards.