There’s no denying the popularity of wearable fitness trackers. Look on the wrists of those around you and you’ll see Fitbits, Apple watches and vivosmarts, all motivating the wearer to get healthier and stay active. Physical Education teacher Chris Roberts at Walnut Hills Elementary was inspired to try the same thing with his students. He received a classroom grant from the Waukee Community Schools Foundation to purchase the IHT Spirit System, a connected assessment platform.

The IHT system uses wrist heart rate monitors and software to track student health data. Students arrive in the gym for P.E. class and “check in” using their assigned monitor. Mr. Roberts has pre-selected the activity the class will be doing, the duration and target heart rate.

During class, the monitors track each child’s heart rate, and give real-time visual feedback by lighting up according to how much energy they’re exerting. While playing the game “Ghostbusters,” which is similar to dodgeball, kids were throwing, running, and retrieving balls. The blue, yellow and red lights on the monitors were visual cues, showing students how hard they were working.

When class ends, kids scan their monitors once again, uploading their information to the tracking software. The data includes peak and minimum heart rates and actual duration of activity. Mr. Roberts can see individual student reports and session reports so he can determine how engaged students were with that day’s activity. There’s even the option of receiving district and statewide reports! “Schools across the state of Iowa could use this system. Fourth graders would all do some sort of activity, and we’d be able to see the average across the state,” Mr. Roberts said. Each student’s information is also emailed to parents, so they can see what their child has done that day.

Mr. Roberts said the information provided by the heart rate monitors has helped him become a better teacher. “Let’s say only 5 out of 25 kids reached their goal that day. So what do I need to do differently, through instruction or setup or amount of activity time, to allow them to reach what their goal is? It allows me to make those changes for the class,” he said.

Mr. Roberts has been using the IHT system for several months now, and said the lights have helped keep kids motivated and active. He has noticed several kids glancing at their monitors and increasing their activity if they’re stuck on one color too long!