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INSTRUCTIONAL HARDWARE IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION

Instructional Hardware in Physical Education

Ryan Hurd
EDTC 625 Fall 2015
UMUC

INSTRUCTIONAL HARDWARE IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION

Abstract
Research for this paper found that there are a variety of ways to incorporate different
hardware into modern physical education classes. The most common hardware used are
pedometers and heart rate monitors in all educational levels, ranging from elementary school
through college. While other hardware and software can be used to improve physical education
classes, teachers and students both prefer pedometers and heart rate monitors as they drive
motivation, as well as provide a fair and accurate assessment tool for teachers. The data
collected from the technology can help teacher and students analyze their activity levels as well
as be used in future health and fitness lessons.
Keywords: pedometer, heart rate monitor, technology, physical education

INSTRUCTIONAL HARDWARE IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION

The usage of technology is constantly increasing within the educational setting. Tools are
used to assist with reading, writing, and math for all ages. However, technology is also playing a
bigger role in other content areas, including physical education. Physical education programs
have begun to introduce hardware, such as heart rate monitors, pedometers, iPads, and laptop
computers. The utilization of these technologies helps build student knowledge on the benefits
of physical activity, which will help them lead physically fit and active lifestyles.
Benefits
When looking to integrate technology, a teacher must first make a plan on how it will
impact learning. The use of the technology must be meaningful and engaging for all students in
order to enhance learning (Lee & Thomas, 2011). While integration of technology is always
encouraged, the teacher must have a plan for how it will be used and how it can improve
learning. Simply utilizing technology just to use it does not have a positive impact on learning.
However, carefully planning how and why the technology will be used is an important part of
making sure the technology is incorporated into the classroom in order to improve learning
opportunities for the students. This is the case for all content areas, including physical education,
as technology can be used for assessment purposes, as well as to aid the visual learner, and to
facilitate individual development (Woods, Karp, Hui, & Perlman, 2008).
The goal of a physical education program is to provide students of all ages with the
knowledge necessary to live a healthy lifestyle (Edwards, 2012). Students may understand at an
early age that exercise is healthy, but they cannot provide more detail as to why exercise can
improve their health. As children reach adolescence and beyond, they are at a higher risk of

INSTRUCTIONAL HARDWARE IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION

leading sedentary lifestyles and consuming a high calorie diet (Scurt & Scurt, 2015). Physical
educators work hard to promote physical activity and healthy eating habits through their classes
in order to prevent their students from becoming sedentary. When provided a data source
through technology, students can see first-hand how exercise can impact their bodies. By using
heart rate monitors and pedometer features and tools, students gain a new awareness of their
physical activity measures and goals (Clapham, Sullivan, & Ciccomascolo, 2015). Physical
educators strive to help student become and remain physically active, and through technology,
they can help students learn the relationships between key components of health and fitness (Pyle
& Esslinger, 2013).
The use of heart rate monitors and pedometers also provide an individualized instruction
to physical education classes. Teachers can meet all student needs as activities can be planned to
focus on target heart rates and the amount of steps taken by the students (Clapham, Sullivan, &
Ciccomascolo, 2015). The key to success through these activities is for the students to be able to
make meaningful connections with the technology and data (Patridge, King, & Bian, 2011).
Data Collection and Analysis
Pedometers are often used in physical education in order to track how active a student is
in class. It would be impossible for a student to mentally count their steps during a class while
giving the necessary attention to the class lesson. Pedometers provide students a way to maintain
count during class and also check a final number of steps at the end of their class period.
Through pedometers, students can passively acquire a large amount of data and will be
intimately familiar with the activities in which the data were generated (Lee, Drake, &
Williamson, 2015). In other words, students will see their number of steps at the end of a class,
and thus will be able to analyze if the activity provided them with the desired amount of

INSTRUCTIONAL HARDWARE IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION

movement. One student may have a high number of steps during a dance lesson, while another
may have more during a basketball lesson. This will help the students understand which
activities lead to a higher level of movement. This knowledge from data will allow them to
choose an appropriate activity when they are choosing a health benefitting form of physical
activity.
Wearable technology, such as pedometers and heart rate monitors, also provide an
individualized set of data. More sophisticated devices can upload data to a server, providing
consistent tracking of physical activity. This data can be analyzed on a daily, weekly, monthly, or
even yearly basis. Students will have the ability to analyze the data to see when they are most
active, and link that to the lessons in physical education, or other factors that may impact their
movement (Lee, Drake, & Williamson, 2015).
Data can also be used to motivate students to be physically active as teachers can use it to
provide feedback and evidence of success in physical activity (Clapham, Sullivan, &
Ciccomascolo, 2015). With the assistance of heart rate monitors, students can learn about how
activity can help them achieve activity in the target heart rate zone. This is the optimal level of
activity in order to receive the most benefits out of physical activity. By wearing the heart rate
monitors, students are able to analyze their performance and health benefits based on their time
spent in the target heart rate zone (Clapham, Sullivan, & Ciccomascolo, 2015).
A study performed by Clapham, Sullivan, and Ciccomascolo concluded that the
combination of effective teaching, heart rate monitors, and pedometers can increase physical
activity levels and the amount of physical activity in physical education classes (2015).

INSTRUCTIONAL HARDWARE IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION

Motivation
The use of wearable technology also provides a motivational aspect for the students. By
using these devices, students may feel motivated to be physically active and have more selfconfidence because they receive instant feedback about their level and amount of physical
activity during PE class (Clapham, Sullivan, & Ciccomascolo, 2015). Clapham, Sullivan, and
Ciccomascolo also analyzed multiple studies which concluded that the integration of wearable
technology increased both activity levels in children as well as motivation (2015). Technology
has a positive impact on most students as it provides a way for them to immediately see their
activity. A student may feel like he does not move much in physical education, but then a
pedometer can show him that he has taken the most steps in the class. Wearable technology can
especially be helpful to inform and motivate students who may be not be as familiar about their
own overall level of fitness (Partridge, King, & Bian, 2011).
Motivation in physical education can be a difficult topic to address with students.
Students can be intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is when a person
gets personal satisfaction or enjoyment out of activity. Extrinsic motivation can come in the
form of awards and trophies, or in the form of grades in the educational setting. Technology can
provide extrinsic motivation for students by assigning grades to a certain requirement, such as
heart beats per minute through a heart rate monitor reading compared to a personalized target
heart rate zone. Students can also use the technology for intrinsic motivation as they can
constantly track their individual progress (Partridge, King, & Bian, 2011).
The most common way that pedometers and heart rate monitors impact motivation is
through goal-setting and the tracking of progress (Elliott, McCollum, Colquitt, & Pritchard,
2013). Students can record their data from each class and compete against themselves to beat

INSTRUCTIONAL HARDWARE IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION

their previous scores. This form of motivation allows students to improve their overall activity
and fitness levels while only comparing their data with themselves. This eliminates any issues
that may arise from students comparing data with one another, while still maintaining a
competitive and motivating focus for the students.
Overcoming Obstacles
One major obstacle when integrating any technology into the classroom is the digital
divide. The digital divide refers to the gap between those students who can afford technology,
and those who cannot (Upadhyay & Nathani, 2015). This issue generally comes up when
dealing with more expensive devices, such as computers and iPads. Fortunately for physical
education programs, pedometers are one of the cheapest forms of individualized technologies out
there. Companies also provide assistance as pedometers may be donated to schools in exchange
for schools to participate in certain health oriented programs.
Another obstacle with wearable technology is that many devices automatically upload to
a public server, which must be accessed through an internet connection. The issue of school
district firewalls may prevent access until a request is filed by the physical educator. This is a
frustrating obstacle for educators, but is usually one that can be overcome (Lee, Drake &
Williamson, 2015).
Accuracy is also a concern with technology, especially when considering the use of
pedometers. Pedometers can be overly sensitive, or not sensitive enough when calculating steps.
This can be caused by students wearing them at the incorrect place, or by interference from
clothing. It is important for physical education departments utilize reliable pedometers so
students are able to receive the benefits from wearing the technology. Students must also receive

INSTRUCTIONAL HARDWARE IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION

precise instruction on how the technology should be worn (Lee & Thomas, 2011). Lee, Drake,
and Williamson performed accuracy tests in which one student wore a pedometer through a
specific path. Multiple students followed as they counted the steps taken silently in their head.
At the end of the path, numbers were compared, displaying that the pedometer was an accurate
tool for counting steps (2015). This procedure can be reproduced as an introduction to
pedometers by different classes as a science, math, and physical education lesson. Students will
use calculations, as well as form a hypothesis on how accurate the technology will be. They can
also use math skills when plotting a walking path for the accuracy test.
As is the case with any technology, teachers require training before introducing
something new to their classrooms. Without proper training, teachers can become frustrated,
uncomfortable, and overwhelmed without the proper support and training on any new technology
(Lin, Myers, & Yanes, 2010).
Additional Hardware
While pedometers and heart rate monitors are the most common and most economical
options for physical education programs, methods of using technology for the recording of skill
performance is also gaining momentum. In the past, recording a skill would require a
camcorder, a computer, and specific software to replay and edit if necessary. In current
classrooms, this opportunity can be provided through tablets, laptops, and even smart phones.
In their study, Lin, Myers, and Yanes used recording devices to provide a student centered
learning experience (2010). Through the use of a camcorder, a laptop computer, and select
software, they provided instant visual replay of skill performance. Through this method,
students were able to increase their knowledge of the skill by knowing the cues and components

INSTRUCTIONAL HARDWARE IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION

to look for when analyzing the skill performance. The student-centered approach allowed the
students to analyze their own performance, as well as the performance of a peer, in order to
correct mistakes and improve their skills. Difficulties arose in this study as the camcorder,
laptop, and software often caused confusion because of the multiple steps involved in utilization
(Lin, Myers, & Yanes, 2010). However, modern classrooms can achieve the same tasks and
results with a tablet, laptop, or smart phone. These are all technologies students are familiar with
and they will require minimal instruction in how to record and playback a video for assessment.
Additionally, physical education teachers can utilize technology for a variety of research
based tasks for students. Laptops or tablets can be used for students to research the history of a
game they just played, or for them to create a presentation on a game they may invent themselves
(Hummell, 2006). One approach to teaching in physical education provides students with the
opportunity to play a game or sport before any skill development or background knowledge.
Students can use their portable devices to watch a video or research a game they were just
introduced to in class. They could then use that knowledge to improve their skills or play
another game with a better understanding on how the game should be played. Students can also
use their tablets or laptops to complete health and nutrition based games. Some studies even
suggest that students are more focused during video game play than when playing the same game
in a conventional board game format (Mellecker, Witherspoon, & Watterson, 2013).
There are also a variety of games available on video game consoles that can be used in
physical education (Hummell, 2006). Different dance, yoga, and sport games exist which require
a lot of movement. Jump ropes can be purchased that automatically count the number of jumps
performed by a student, and exercise bikes can be connected to a screen to make the students feel

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like they are in a race (Elliott, et al, 2013). These games can be used in a small or large group
setting, and are extremely helpful for limited space activities in physical education.
Assistive Technology
Assistive technology is used by students with disabilities in order to improve functional
independence by circumventing environmental barriers, maximizing personal independence, and
increasing activity participation (Stumbo, Martin, & Hedrick, 2009). A use of assistive
technology in schools allows children to become successful and confident adults, allowing them
to pursue a secondary education, leading to eventual careers. Assistive technology is not limited
to the classroom, as physical educators manipulate equipment in order to provide a least
restrictive environment for students with disabilities.
Modifying the size of equipment, or adding bells to the inside of a ball to help students
with visual problems are also an examples of assistive technology (Elliot, et al, 2013). Using a
bigger ball for students to play catch provides the students with an opportunity to participate with
their peers, much like a classroom teacher would use a larger pencil for a student with
underdeveloped fine motor skills. The goal of changing the equipment is to aid individuals with
disabilities in order to allow them to participate in a general physical education class
(Katsioloudis & Jones, 2013).
Technology use in physical education is continuously growing and the positive results
that come from it are justified by research. Physical educators need to embrace technology and
begin to find ways to incorporate it into their curriculum if they have not already. Various
hardware is available that can increase student content knowledge, health levels, and motivation.
Pedometers, heart rate monitors, video game consoles, iPads, or laptops should be at the top of

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all physical education wishlists as they can provide new levels of individualized instruction that
many programs could not offer in the past.

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