Promoting Active Learning with Fitbits

Wearable technology is becoming a part of our daily lives. I hardly take a step that is not counted on my Fitbit. This device not only motivates me to move more throughout the day, but it also helps me to be more aware of my health.  I monitor my heart rate and sleep patterns, much more than I did before I started using a Fitbit. I have recently been challenging my friends and colleagues to weekly challenges. This has increased my activity level even more.  All of this got me thinking about how to use wearable technologies, like a Fitbit, in the classroom.  Wearable devices promote active learning across curriculums.

Maybe a set of wearable devices, for your classroom, is out of reach. You could still integrate wearable technology, like a Fitbit, into your lesson plans. For instance, teachers could share their step counts with students and let them create charts and graphs. Teachers could create math problems using step counts. These could include everything from simple addition and subtraction to more complex problems to find averages, patterns, even standard deviations. A group of teachers could even get together to compete against each other and involve the students in tracking their progress.

The lessons do not have to stop with math.  Students could also learn skills related to geography.  Teachers could challenge their students to create walking maps for their teacher.  The teacher could select an estimated step count or distance.  Students would then need to map out a course so the teacher could reach the estimated steps or distance.  This activity could become as complex or as simple as needed for different grade levels.

Since most of these wearable devices, like the Fitbit, also monitor your heart rate the science classroom would be another great place to utilize this technology. Students could hypothesize about how they think different activities might affect the heart rate. They could also learn to track patterns in data by looking at the rich reporting provided by these devices. Students could analyze sleep patterns, heart rates; calories burned along with many other data sets provided by these devices. Then, students could dig into the reasons why these different data sets might fluctuate.

Of course, having a classroom set of wearable devices would open up a whole other world of possibilities.  All of the activities above could be applied individually so students could be tracking their data. This would make the lessons even more valuable to the students. If students had their own devices, goal setting would be fostered as well. There would be logistical problems to overcome such as charging and syncing the devices regularly. Policies would also need to be put in place for lost, stolen or damaged devices. Most lessons could be accomplished with students using the devices exclusively at school which might limit some of these problems.

Overcoming these issues is well worth the effort when you consider the opportunities for learning these wearable devices provide. Besides the endless possibilities provided in the subjects of math and science, imagine integrating these devices in a history lesson. For instance, take a day and have the students walk the approximate number of steps that one of the Cherokees walked on an average day during the Trail of Tears. Or, how many steps can a student get in while listening to a recording of Martin Luther King’s “I Have Dream” speech. Also, with the GPS tracking options, these devices are a great way to keep track of students on field trips.

Fitbit has also started adding “Adventures” that let you explore unique locations as you reach different step goals. As more locations are added this opens up another layer of learning for students. Wouldn’t it be great to let student explore Yosemite while learning a lesson about our National Parks?

It is a fact that wearable devices are becoming more popular every day. Luckily, they are also becoming more affordable and even richer in features. All of this comes together to make them a viable technology to integrate into the classrooms of today and the future. I encourage you to think of the many ways you could use wearable technology in your classroom.

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