In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast we navigate the various ways In which I have been able to motivate improvements in my own daily incidental activity. This includes using a variety of apps and mobile activity trackers which have changed the game and brought the quantified self movement to the forefront.
We also explore how these have been used with my PE Students in a range of contexts.
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00:28 Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone, and welcome to Episode 22 of the PE Geek Podcast. And I must say, it’s absolutely great start to 2015. Right now, I am currently involved in a little bit of a workshop tour throughout India and finishing off in Hong Kong, and I’m really excited about that, I absolutely love getting around and working with teachers. And that’s pretty much the most rewarding thing that I can do, besides from you guys listening to the podcast right now. But yeah, 2015 is shaping up to be great, I hope you’re excited about what it’s going to bring for you. For me, there are so many projects happening in the background that I have yet to reveal to anyone, but there are some that are about to roll out next month and I’m really excited for their release, including Sports Tracker, which you may have heard me speak about at the end of last year. It’s my upcoming software solution for track and field and swimming carnivals.
01:31 JR: If you’re running those, then it’s designed to help you with that, to make you more efficient. It deals with everything from registrations right up to the actual event, and the recording of results, and parents can track the results while the events are happening. And I feel like it’s something that I’ve needed to build for many years. I mean, I was a sports coordinator when I first started teaching and we used to use Excel really to track our carnivals. And not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s certainly scope for much better, in terms of software to do this. And there’s some high end packages that people use that are really expensive and are convoluted setups, but there’s certainly a space for a product that PE teachers can get, and sports coordinators, and sports managers, and so on can wrap their head around and get that into their school.
02:28 JR: So, really excited to bring that out, this is something that I will be using every single time that we run our carnivals, and I look forward to bringing it to everyone else. Now, in today’s episode we’re gonna be focusing on something that I think all PE teachers have a major influence over, and it doesn’t necessarily happen in the PE classroom. So, we’re gonna be talking about incidental activity, and how we can motivate that in our student cohorts. Now, obviously our role and our influence doesn’t stop when the bell goes. And in fact, the greatest legacy that we can leave is this appreciation with physical activity that continues beyond the time that they are students at our school. Now, the sort of choices that we want them to make during their everyday life, all this sort of incidental activity, choosing to walk up the stairs rather than going in the elevator, these choices are the sort of the things that we want to make common in the students’ everyday lives.
03:29 JR: And I think that begins in the PE classroom in many ways, so I’m looking forward to sharing with you a whole host of technologies and various apps, and things that I feel have a major motivational quality over improving our incidental activity. Now, I sort of say this because it’s actually happened to me, and it’s happened to quite a few adults that I know. And I know a lot of you that are listening have experienced similar outcomes when you start to use some of these various devices and apps, and so on to track your physical activity. I mean, becoming aware of it is sort of the first step. And a lot of those apps are all about that, Quantified Self, trying to tell you the amount of steps that you’re doing and all those sorts of things, so that you can become more aware of those choices that you’re making everyday and then try and be more active, just incidentally.
04:25 JR: So, that’s the flavour of today’s podcast, I look forward to sharing it with you. If you have any questions at all, at any stage, you know where to get me, that’s at thepegeek.com/voicemail, leave a question and I look forward to answering them, but let’s dive into today’s content.
04:41 JR: In the last couple years, I’ve been really excited about the Quantified Self movement. And if you’ve never heard me talk about this before, essentially the Quantified Self is all about devices and apps, and so on that quantify things that we do. Now, in the years gone by, it wasn’t really possible to gather data on the scale that we can now do so. Bring along a varied amount of apps that have entered this space and you can record data for pretty much anything that you want these days, and it happens all automatically.
05:14 JR: So, what’s starting to happen is that you can make really good informed decisions based on this data that’s being collected about you. Now, the first ever experience I had in this space was probably with a pedometer. So, a pedometer, many, many years ago, in some ways, is part of that Quantified Self movement. It would give you a total number of steps that you had completed throughout a day, or a given period and that would be used to sort of tell you a little bit about the behaviour of yourself, it couldn’t tell you about whether you were meeting physical activity guidelines or anything like that, but it gave you a small picture of the type of physical activity that you were doing.
05:59 JR: Move ahead with technological advancements and we’re starting to see smartphones appear into people’s lives, and smartphones have accelerometry in them. And accelerometers used to be really difficult to get access to, but their becoming a part of smartphones meant that everyone had access to a accelerometer in some scale. And then what we’re starting to see is all of these apps that have been released that enable you to track and record your physical activity. So for me, the very first chance I ever had to record my physical activity in a quantified sort of manner using an accelerometer was with the Moves app. The Moves app is awesome. I mean, it’s 100% free for starters, and it’s something that I’ve had my oldest students download on a number of instances. And when you download it, you basically are done. I mean, you open the app for the first time and then you can get tracking.
06:58 JR: And all you need to do is put your device into your pocket or your handbag or whatever it is that you hold it. I mean, it is advised that you wear it on your body, so that you get the most accurate results. But what it does is it actually starts to create this activity diary, and you can go back through it at the end of the day and you can see in detail the sort of amount of steps that you did, where you were when the activity took place, and it basically creates this really beautiful timeline of your activity. Now, if you compare that to a pedometer, which just gives you steps, I mean, this is giving you context as well. And in some cases, I mean, you can even use it to determine the intensity and the duration of the different activity periods that you’ve identified. So, the Moves app was a really big move forward. It’s a bit funny, but the Moves app was a really big move forward in that Quantified Self movement. And it certainly is one of my favourites, and it’s absolutely one of the reasons why I integrated it into Active Globe, which you’ve heard me talk about before on previous episodes.
08:02 JR: Now, what I absolutely love about Moves is the fact that most of it is done without you ever thinking about it. So, unconsciously, it’s recording all of your behaviour. But then the whole point is that you can start to get this information about the activity that you’re doing. And over time, it’s designed to try and improve the amount of physical activity that you’re doing, so that you start to choose these different modes of transport which are more active, or that you choose to walk when you could take the elevator. And all of those decisions start to take place. Taking this a little bit further, an app that was released last year called Human. It’s absolutely incredible, and you can head to thepegeek.com/human and you can download it. And essentially, it is like Moves. It’s an activity tracker, it tracks your walking, your running, riding, and any sort of indoor activity.
09:01 JR: But does it with a little bit more gamified approach to it, in that you actually get notified when you’re in active minutes and when you reach your daily 30 and 60 minutes of physical activity. And it actually rewards you for day by day participation where you meet your 30 minutes of expected physical activity per day. And it does it all in this really beautiful user interface where you can clearly see what you did the day before and how much physical activity you’ve done in the previous months. And it does this all socially, so that you can compare yourself against others and your friends and all that sort of stuff as well. So, Human is fantastic and in a school context, I mean, there’s no reason why this absolutely free app couldn’t be downloaded onto all student devices. And then, the competition basically becomes this competition between students that happens outside of the PE classroom. I mean, when they’re walking between school and when they’re walking between classes and after school hours, and all that sort of stuff. The competition is about how much physical activity can they build up.
10:04 JR: And the whole point is they actually end up building up this big library and this big competition of their physical activity, and then they start to hopefully choose more of these active transportation methods and more of these incidental activity that we want them to choose. In the same vein, if you’ve ever heard of the app, RunKeeper, then they have actually released an app called Breeze. And Breeze is pretty much like Human in that it lets you track your physical activity using the in-built accelerometer and the whole idea being that it’s integrated underneath that RunKeeper login, so that if you already have a RunKeeper account, then it makes it far easier to go about getting started with it. And in the same way, it tracks your steps, gives you reminders, lets you know when you’ve met your physical activity goals that you set, and sort of strings together a bit of a diary, so that you can see an overall snapshot of your activity. And the point being that when you start to see this information presented to you effortlessly, you actually start to be conscious of it and by being conscious of it, you actually start to look towards changing it.
11:14 JR: So, I’m a massive fan in this Quantified Self movement, and particularly with the use of some of those apps. It makes it really powerful and seamless way to integrate those into your life. But if you’re looking for something a little bit more advanced in this space, then you might wanna actually start looking at a dedicated device for activity tracking, and you would’ve heard me blog about these numerous times. I’ve actually given them away a lot at both PE Geek workshops and through the blog, and they are Fitbit devices. And they come in a whole variety of different sizes and functions. The very first Fitbit I ever got was called a Fitbit Flex, and it still is the Fitbit that I use now and have access to.
11:56 JR: And basically, it’s like a little wristband that you wear on your wrist and it tracks your activity. It tracks how many steps you do, the intensity of those activity, the amount of time that you have done throughout the duration of the day. And it basically syncs it to your mobile device, so that you can get a snapshot picture of how much time you spent that was sedentary, how much you spent that was active and you can start to use that information to shape your future behaviour. The best part for me, was actually being able to wear it to sleep, while you are sleeping. And being able to track the amount of good and bad sleep that you sort of get. Like the deep sleep phase versus the light sleep phase. Fitbit tracks all of that for you and syncs it to your device. And the part for me that was probably most exciting and the most transformative, was that there was that competitive side. So all of my friends who had Fitbit devices, well, we could compete against one another to win the weekly most steps, total. And it was a really motivating and rewarding way of to sort of participate in this incidental activity.
13:07 JR: When wearing it, I’m really mindful of what I’ve done. I’m really mindful of where I… How many more steps I need to meet my goal throughout the day. And when I get home, let’s say I had a really passive day, I look at my Fitbit and I see that I haven’t actually met my goal for that particular period of time, that I’m really conscious about going out and actually doing something else to try and meet that goal. That same mindset actually exists for our students as well. So, earlier on last year… In the middle of last year, sorry, we purchased a couple of Fitbit units for my students. And the whole reason we did this, was to try and have them aware of their physical activity. And I know some schools that have gone out and bought class sets, but what we did is we had two devices and we rotated those through students on day by day basis. And then we basically… They would bring them in after they have had it for 24 hours, we’d sync it to one of the school iPads, and then they would have their data and they would be aware of it. And then it was sort of a competition to be the most active.
14:08 JR: It would be nicer to have more devices so that we could have them happening live at once. That’s sort of how we did it with the limited amount of devices. And you can imagine how powerful that would be if you had one… Or every student wearing a Fitbit Flex. And everyone being able to compete against one another outside of physical activity time in your school, or at any stage throughout the day. And if you want to go out and check a Fitbit Flex, just go to pegeek.com/fitbit and it will redirect you to the Amazon store where I made my purchases for the Fitbit and where I would recommend going and checking them out. But you can get them wherever you like. They are just not available online. And this sort of leads into the device that I’m really excited about at the moment. And it is also a Fitbit device. I mean it is sort of that next step in the Quantified Self movement. It is a ‘Fitbit Charge HR’. And a Fitbit Charge HR is about to be released in the first part of 2015. And what it let’s you do is all the same things that a Fitbit does. Tracks your step with accelerometry, your intensity range, and so on. But the HR part of the name, stand for ‘Heart rate’.
15:16 JR: So it is a live, 24/7 heart rate monitor. And it does it without the need for chest trap. So it tracks it from your wrist. Sure that’s not quite as accurate as a chest trap has been over the past. We’ve reached a stage now where the technology has sort of advanced, and that’s possible. And it’s done in a way that is non-invasive and really easy to use. And you can imagine how much more deeper picture you can build up in that sort of Quantified Self movement when you’ve got heart rate integrated to it. So thinking about Fitbit Charge, and thinking about what that would mean when heart rates have been added to the equation, the possibilities here for school… Sort of classroom education are enormous. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Fitbit sort of tap into this. How other developer tap into the capabilities of a 24/7 heart rate device that you can wear on your wrist and is… Fits into your lifestyle. Isn’t clunky, and cumbersome, and sort of is there 24/7. I’m really excited to see what happens with that.
16:20 JR: I mean, initially, I’m thinking sort of classroom tracking of heart rate via bluetooth is something that is absolutely possible now but it’s gonna be even more accessible through devices such as a Fitbit Charge. So I’m really keen to see where that heads. As you know I have spoken a lot about Fitbit devices over the years. However, I do know that there are a number of PE teachers around the globe who are using other devices in the similar space. And the first one that comes to mind that I know is very well received by PE teachers is the ‘Up by Jaw Bone’. Particularly, the Up by Jaw Bone, the 24 which stands for obviously 24 hours of tracking. It does very much the same as a Fitbit Flex does. It’s a little bit stylish perhaps, and integrates, and does very much have the same features with the mobile app and so on.
17:10 JR: There also is a device known as a Garmin Activity Tracker. And particular one you are interested in looking at is a Vivofit. I had a PE teacher at my school who has one of these. And the reason they got this over a Fitbit Flex was that it actually had an LED device on the screen that enabled them to see the time and so on and so forth. So as we move down the lines, there are some that have different features to others, a little bit more expensive than others. But the basic premise is that they allow you to track physical activity. And that physical activity become really powerful as this behavioural change mechanism that you can use to sort of model physical activity really well.
17:52 JR: I think the first part of knowing that you need to change your physical activity is actually realising that there needs to be some sort of change, and that actually can only occur when you know what you’re actually doing, so these devices are really powerful for that. They allow you to track what you’re doing, so that you can make a logical decision about improving them. Now, if that is benefiting me, which it has in the past, then I know for a fact that it benefits students, so looking at how these can integrate into our student lives is something that I’m absolutely interested in blogging about even further and seeing how PE teachers are using them. So if you are using any of these devices that we’ve sort of spoken about today with your students, things like the Moves app or the Human app or Jawbone or Fitbit Flexes, send me an email, [email protected]. Let me know how you’re working with them, what you’re doing, if there’s any particular unit that you think they work best with. I’d love to hear about them.
18:48 JR: But other than that, that brings us to the end of today’s episode. A bit of a shorter one today, but just wanted to give you a bit of insight into this whole world of how we can increase incidental activity through the integration of some of these really accessible technologies, and I’m really excited for where this is headed, because this year, we know we have the Apple Watch which is about to launch, and it, itself, has a whole host of sensors and so forth which are all about tracking and monitoring our health. So this space is set to get even bigger, and I think it’s a big plus that we can sort of look to improve as much of our incidental activity as we possibly can. So really excited by it, and if you have any questions, send me an email, but other than that, I look forward to seeing you in Episode 23. Alright. See you later.
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