Can you get P.E. credit without taking the P.E. class? Grace Brown has a packed high school schedule. It’s filled with core academics as well as Latin, chorus, and piano. What she can’t cram into her schedule is the required gym class. But there’s a new solution to help. A Fitbit helps her fit in the class—on her own time.
Gym class without the gym? Unconventional? Too good to be true? With today’s technology, this trend is catching on in schools around the country.
Wearable fitness trackers make it possible to get school credit for virtual physical education. While wearing a school-issued Fitbit, Grace squeezes in at least three 30-minute workouts each week outside of school hours. She’s held accountable to send screenshots of her activity to her school in exchange for credit.
School-issued fitness trackers let kids choose their preferred activities to get their heart rates up. As trackers closely monitor their activity, students learn hands-on how to improve heart, lung, and muscular health. Teachers set goals and check each student’s individualized progress. Some schools require weekly check-ins with coaches. Others use video feedback to make sure that students are using proper technique in their workouts. Fitness trackers and other tech become coaches’ eyes and ears.
Undoubtedly, fitness trackers eliminate notorious gym class awkwardness. No coach shouts from the sidelines. Locker rooms are out of the equation. Students aren’t hard pressed on timing—nor shamed by plugging along in the shadow of the school athletes. And kids get to choose when they feel most equipped to work out.
This trend does come with cautions. Is it safe for students to share personal information through a fitness device? Are there drawbacks to eliminating teamwork and the social aspect of class sports from the curriculum? Will students use the fitness trackers honestly? (Who’s to say a fitness tracker might not take a dishonest ride on a dog collar or a bike spoke?)
“We definitely exercise more in online P.E.,” Grace says. In a way, moving out of the classroom setting to a direct application of activity is like cutting to the chase. The intention of P.E. class is to know how to strengthen the body and build a strong heart, lungs, and circulatory system. In that regard, the fitness trackers move knowledge into action. And that’s the heart of the matter.