Getting Kids to be Active: How Technology and Physical Education are Working Together

Getting Kids to Be ActiveWhile some students are natural athletes and look forward to physical education classes, other students are the exact opposite. It can be a challenge to ensure that all youth get enough physical exercise each day. U.S. News and World Report notes that some schools are getting more innovative in their physical education opportunities and technology is playing a key role in this.

According to the article, schools need to be more creative; less than 30% of adolescents get enough daily physical exercise (the recommendation is for 60 minutes per day). An earlier study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicated that only 24.8% of 12- to 15 year-old students get an hour of exercise each day and 29% of students in high school get the recommended daily hour of exercise. In the last 30 years, obesity has doubled in children and tripled for teenagers. Obesity in children and adolescents has been linked with more serious health complications like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Therefore, schools are scrambling to instill healthy habits in children.

In order to get more reluctant students to participate in physical education, some schools have been offering activities that focus more on individual efforts and less on team-based activities. Cameron High School, located in West Virginia, offers an “exergaming room” where students can play electronic games that incorporate movement. Some of the options include Xbox Kinect, an arcade basketball game and even an electronic boxing game in which students wear gloves and punch lights. Physical Education teacher Rich Moffo reports that the “exergaming room” is extremely appealing to all students and encourages them to be more physically active and “competitive. He stated, “It’s like they’ve been bitten by the bug.”

While gaming certainly appeals to students of all genders and age levels, Charlottesville High School, located in Virginia, is going to pilot something new and individual-oriented, a virtual physical education class. Beginning this fall, students will wear wristbands that track their physical activity and complete coursework online that covers topics like nutrition. It is an appealing option for students who want to take other electives or already play afterschool sports.

Physical education and technology work well together and can be combined to create more student-centered, individually oriented experiences for otherwise reluctant students. There are a wide variety of resources for incorporating technology into physical education, including PELINKS4U. This site includes current news, technology tools and teaching tips for coaches, regular classroom teachers and physical education and health teachers. Inquiry & Technology in #PhysEd is another site that is rich in resources. This organization also offers a podcast, an award-winning YouTube channel and a Twitter page. It is the responsibility of all educators to promote healthy habits in students and encourage them to keep moving. Their future health and self-esteem may depend on this.

Cara Clarke is a teacher, writer, wife and mother of four. She lives on the island of Kauai where she teaches middle school English and special education.


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