Gamification of Health and Wellness – A Next Step for Physical Education


Gamification Summit This post originally appeared on the Gamification Blog, one stop for the latest news, insight, research and commentary on gamification.View Original >


As an educator and a person who struggles with regular physical fitness, I’m excited about the current rise of gamification of physical fitness, mental well-being, and overall self improvement. For me personally, I am bored by a lot of physical fitness and wellness activities, and struggle to find activities and routines that continue to motivate me. I also see this in many students. Physical Education is often antiquated, with little emphasis giving to engagement and relevance, not to mention personalization and self-motivation. Yes, the overall objective of physical education is to human beings who take care of their bodies and remain healthy, but for some students, getting them to that point may take a variety of instructional strategies.

Jane McGonigal, guru of gaming has recently released SuperBetter, a game committed to helping people reach personalized health goals. What is truly unique about this gamification of health and wellness, is is variety of goals. Participants can pick from a variety of goals including regular workouts to injury recovery. The game leverages and builds personal resilience through normal gamification methods, but allows the user to customize the ends and even the means. Participants can utilize power packs of quests or create their own, and even gain allies. I can see this being used in the Physical Education Classroom, to increase motivation for students to participant. In Physical Education, failure is often view publicly, which can sometimes lead to students losing motivation, depending on the climate of the classroom. With Superbetter, students could be given options to fail and given further motivation to continue their quests towards health and wellness, and provided a personalize option.

There are a couple more targeted games that have been released that also leverage gamification to engage people in physical fitness. Zombies, Run! is a new game, with app for the smart phone, that turns running into quests, collection of items, and building of fortress to protect participants from zombies. As a kickstarter project, it has yet to be fully released, but will be this spring. When participants run, stories are narrated, punctuated by personal music playlists, item collection, and random sprinting to avoid zombies. As running is a regular part of Physical Education, this game could provide and interesting way to engage students in regular cardiovascular workouts. Fitocracy is also garnering attention as a way gamification can increase exercise goals. Participants work in teams and in a community on exercise goals, with easy documentation of workouts and instant motivation and feedback to improve. A class could use this platform to reinforce not only exercise and fitness, but teamwork and collaboration on these goals.

Physical Educators can leverage gamification as a viable option to engage the non-engaged in the classroom. Teachers can align quest achievements and quests to physical education content standards. They can also couple lessons with other traditional forms of assessment. As these games are often collaborative, teamwork can be fostered as well as health and wellness.

Active Game-Based Learning


This post originally appeared on The Whole Child blog, an ASCD initiative to call on educators, policymakers, business leaders, families, and community members to work together on a whole child approach to education. View Original >


OK, so I am a gamer. Not that I have the time anymore, but I do venture now and again into a game, whether a first-person shooter (FPS) or role-playing video game (RPG). I am also a big promoter of Game-Based Learning (GBL) and Gamification. To clarify, GBL is when games are used to balance the learning of subject matter through gameplay with specific learning outcomes in mind. Gamification is applying the concepts of game design to learning to engage in problem solving. Again both are geared toward building student engagement and learning important content. GBL is one method that creates not only a great opportunity to engage students in content, but also keep them active.

Brain-based learning research tells us that being active in and around rigorous learning can help keep students energized in the learning. During the activity, oxygen-rich blood flows to the brain which increases the ability to concentrate. John Medina, published a great book about how movement can increase learning. PBS did a story about a school where students took active “brain breaks” that kept students moving around the classroom. There are many ways to integrate activate movement on a regular basis for students, and using video games is another opportunity.

Microsoft’s Kinect is the key to using games for learning that require movement. Kinect demands students physically interact with the content in front of them. Whether it’s jumping in an obstacle course or moving hands to push buttons, the body is not only engaged in a game, but also in movement. Although it may seem like a far cry to link these games to authentic learning outcomes, the idea is to balance the gaming with the learning; increasing blood flow and engagement while gaming increases concentration for learning content. The other good news is that there are a plethora of resources in this area, some from Microsoft itself. They have a library, some with specific targets toward physical education, which has activities and lessons for students. These classroom activities align the video games to the Common Core State Standards (although they could be a bit more specific), and indicate which video games are necessary. I highly recommend going to to create a funding opportunity for a Kinect in your classroom.

In addition, a Twitter friend of mine, Johnny Kissko, has dedicated much of his work to using Kinect in the classroom with his website KinectEDucation. His site is complete with not only lessons that are tied to specific games, but also applications that can be downloaded and purchased. Because there are so many resources out there, there is no reason for a teacher to not give it a shot. Using video games, and specifically the Kinect, can allow us to harness the power of brain-based learning and the engagement of video games to create student concentration and engagement.

Project-Based Learning and Physical Education


This post originally appeared on The Whole Child blog, an ASCD initiative to call on educators, policymakers, business leaders, families, and community members to work together on a whole child approach to education. View Original >


Physical education (PE) can be a place where relevant and authentic learning can occur. I think project-based learning (PBL) is one way to not only create this, but to also show others how valuable PE can be. When done well, PBL gives students a relevant and authentic task—a problem or challenge—that they, as a team and as individuals, must explore and solve. Instead of a project that is a curriculum add-on or completed at the end, the standards-based instruction is filtered through this authentic task, which creates a need to know in students. They see why they are learning what they are learning. The students learn and complete the project concurrently, continually revising and producing a product that they will present publicly.

In my visits to classrooms across the country, I have seen some great projects that teachers have created and implemented. I am continually inspired and amazed by what they create. We “steal” from each other and use each other’s ideas in our own classrooms. In this spirit of stealing, here is an example of a PE PBL project filtered through the “Seven Essential Elements of Project-Based Learning,” a framework for inquiry shared by my Buck Institute for Education colleagues John Larner and John R. Mergendoller in a recent Educational Leadership article. Steal this project and use it in your classroom!

1. Need to Know

A group of high school students were presented with a letter from the local middle school principal. The letter asked them to create the best exercise program for the middle school students. They were asked to create sample PE units for the teachers and students and present their ideas to a panel of teachers, administrators, and other experts. They were also required to create, through their own participation and physical activity, data that proved physical exercise was occurring.

What a task to ask of high school students, and they had a lot of questions! What is a good PE unit? What do middle students like to do in PE? What are the goals of PE? These were all questions generated by the students. They had to engage in research, both online and in person, in order to accomplish this authentic task and present it to a real audience.

2. A Driving Question

For this project, students were trying to answer the question, How can we create the best exercise program for middle school students? All the work was geared toward this question. Students were reminded of the question in their daily lessons. It helped them answer the question, Why are you doing this today? when administrators, teachers, and other stakeholders visited the classroom.

3. Student Voice and Choice

Students were allowed a variety of opportunities to choose how they wanted to show their learning, but they were still graded on the same standards and learning objectives. Traditionally, teachers dictate all parts of the assessment, rather than give students power of how they can show their learning. If students are given voice and choice, they are engaged and empowered to perform the task.

For this project, each group was allowed to choose its PE unit, whether it was focused on a racket sport, conditioning, or a combination. However, they had to prove that this unit would meet the needs of physical education, whether the needs were created by the PE teacher or to align with specific standards and learning targets. In addition to the group work, each student was required to create another engaging PE unit for middle school students, but showcase it in a format of each student’s choice (for example, podcasts, videos, flyers, or demonstrations). This ensures accountability of the same learning targets for both the group and the individual.

4. 21st Century Skills

Students were engaged in two 21st century skills: collaboration and presentation. Unlike group work, which is activity based, they would work together to create something over a few weeks. Rather than one day, they would engage in collaboration like professionals in the workforce. These skills are valuable across disciplines and in the postgraduate world. Teachers trained students to do these skills well, whether in a team-building activity in PE class or help from the drama teacher in the art of presentation.

5. Inquiry and Innovation

Because the task is authentic and open-ended, students are constantly engaged in the inquiry process. They are finding and being armed by the teacher with the information they need to accomplish the task. Students are also creating something new. It is not simply a regurgitation of knowledge, but instead using that knowledge and newly created data to design an innovative PE unit.

6. Feedback and Revision

The students had to test-drive each other’s units, which meant they were engaged in a variety of physical activities. However, they were also looking for feedback from their peers, from teachers, and from the middle school students. They learned that continuous improvement is possible, and that revision is a great thing to do.

7. A Publicly Presented Product

Students presented to a high-stakes audience, both for the individual and group products. They shared their data, demonstrated their units, engaged in persuasive rhetoric, and shared the stage with each other. After the presentations, there was a sense of relief as well as a sense of accomplishment. They had successfully completed a project that they would remember for the rest of high school. Not only that, but they came to their own understandings of many PE content standards, as well the importance and need for a physical education program.

I encourage physical educators to think about the possibilities with PBL. The project can be geared toward any standard and any audience. Its focus can be narrow or broad, and it can last anywhere from several days to several months. The payoff is engagement. Students will see the relevance for their learning in PE through the authentic task of a PBL project. You must give up power in order to empower your students; empower them in their physical education.

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