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The Quantified Self & PE – Tracking Everything

I’ve always been interested in sport and technology, ever since I received my first ever sports watch as a teenager making it possible to time my laps and splits during athletic training. However while my passion for physical activity has remained, technology sure has advanced in leaps and bounds. Its truly unbelievable and with every new device,  we move closer and closer towards the quantified self.

So what exactly is this quantified self that everyone is talking about? Gary Wolf best describes it in the video below;

My journey on this quantified self journey began with a Polar Heart Rate monitor many years ago. The ability to exercise, while simultaneously observing my heart rate was something that motivated me to improve my overall health in ways I never thought possible. These same motivational qualities are reflected in our students, who revel at the ability to identify their physiological response to a lesson. The theoretical concepts that can also be explored are fantastic opening up a myriad of laboratory activities to improve student understanding.

Not too long after receiving my first iPod Nano, I found myself purchasing a Nike+ iPod sports kit which enabled me to track the distance and relative speed of my runs with a reasonable level of accuracy. However it wasn’t until the iPhone 3GS arrived that my obsession with tracking activity went to a whole different level.

The first ‘app’ that I downloaded on my new iPhone was Runkeeper. I found the whole idea of activity tracking truly out of this world, making it possible to accurately track all of the important metrics one would want within activity. My fitness levels rose to new heights and I began blogging on all of the ways in which activity tracking could be used in the PE Classroom. To this day, GPS apps have been used to teach senior PE concepts such as energy systems, training principles and acute responses in ways I could never have imagined when I was learning. Taking this even further saw the development of Heart Rate sensors such as the Wahoo Blue HR or the Polar H7 Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 9.47.00 PMwhich would enable HR tracking inside of the GPS apps. The data from these activities is full of rich goodness.

In recent months, my pursuits of health data has led me to purchase a groundbreaking device called a FitBit One. Which is an all in one tiny device that allows fluid wireless physical activity and sleep tracking. This has resulted in me being 100% aware of the total steps, total distance, stairs climbed and much more. I’m even informed of my sleep cycles and gently woken by a vibrating alarm when I’m in a light sleep phase.  All of this data is wirelessly accessible via the FitBit website or app allowing me to keep track of everything I do.

To extend my data tracking even further I have recently purchased a FitBit Aria Wifi Smart Scale, which allows me to track my daily weight, BMI and body fat percentages all of which are also uploaded to my FitBit account. This combined with the My Fitness Pal app enable me to keep an eye on my food intake and subsequent energy expenditure in a completely social environment.

This whole world of data collection and mapping truly excites me, making it possible to track health and teach health concepts in ways we could of only dreamed of in years gone by. I’m excited by where these opportunities might take Physical Education and the message we seek to instill in our students. With tremendous growth occurring in wearable technology you can be rest assured that as we gain access to even more data, the data itself will become even more readable and useable by all. This is the space I cannot wait to be in.

Bring on the Quantified Self 

What are you currently tracking? Where do you see this type of technology taking health and physical education as it becomes even less obtrusive and affordable?

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4 Responses

  1. Have never heard of the FitBit – I am so behind in PE Geekness lately. But I like the concept of this for exactly the reasons you alude to. By quantifying data about our health, it makes it easier to make decisions for our health. I checked Amazon, and in the reviews for this product there was mention of the Up by Jawbone. Have you had any exposure to that device? It seems exactly the same purpose but different form factor and only iOS.

    • There are some cool devices. The jawbone was plagued by some early release woes, I’m keen to get one and check it out soon. Along with the new fitbit wrist device. All of this stuff is way cool

  2. Hey when he talked in the TED talk about Apple filing for a patent for ear buds to track HR, T and OX, is this something currently happening?

    • Yeah your right this is currently something under development, apple have gone on a patent spree in recent years locking up lots if quantitative tech ideas including shoes and much more

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