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Adding a Technological Spin to Traditional Physical Education

Chances are, by now you've heard of the online physical education trend sweeping the nation. Back in 2005, the New York Times covered the growing phenomenon of online gym classes, and it's only branched out further since then.

According to the 2010 Shape of the Nation reportRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 22 states allowed online physical education courses to count toward required phys. ed. credits. Four other states (Alaska, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Wyoming) don't have specific policies on online physical education courses, leaving the decision up to districts. In comparison, only 12 states allowed online physical education back in 2006.

The report also found that seven of the 22 states allow all students to take the online courses, three states require students to obtain permission to take the courses, and the rest of the states leave the decisions about students' eligibility up to districts. Only 10 states required that online courses be taught by a state-certified physical education teacher.

Now, Roosevelt High School in South Dakota is taking the online phys. ed. plunge with a twist, according to The Argus Leader.

Instructor Chris Clark is piloting an online phys. ed. course this year that mixes traditional physical education with health. Throughout the course of a semester, students are asked to complete 40 written assignments, covering topics such as nutrition and how fitness helps the body, and they must complete 60 activities that require parent verification.

But Clark's type of online phys. ed. program isn't the only type of tech-infused gym class making news lately.

Some schools in the Charlottesville, Va., area have been
incorporating video games such as Wii Sports and Dance Dance Revolution into their phys. ed. curricula, according to The Daily Progress.

"When you're talking about traditional P.E., with just football and basketball, that's so far out the window. We'll do sports skills, but we don't just teach basketball or football," elementary phys. ed. instructor Patricia Reardon told the paper. "That's why so many kids hated P.E., because they were made to do things they didn't like. So, we work on different things that they can do that don't always involve a ball."

By no means are the Charlottesville schools the first in the U.S. to incorporate video games into phys. ed.; back in 2006, MTV.com covered how all West Virginia public schools would be incorporating the game into their phys. ed. curricula within two years. The Charlottesville schools are just a recent example of a growing trend when it comes to blending technology with gym class.

My colleague Ian Quillen reported the results of some digging he did into the mixture of electronics and exercise over on the Digital Education blog last year and found both good and bad news for the e-phys. ed. enthusiasts.

The good news: A study from the Consumer Electronics Association in December found that technology can help motivate people to practice physical fitness. The bad news: A study from the November issue of Pediatrics found that students who spend more than two hours a day in front of a TV or computer were more likely to experience emotional and behavioral issues, no matter how active a lifestyle they led.

One bright side to online gym classes: At least the humiliations won't last a lifetime, right? 'Fraid not. My colleague Debbie Viadero covered a study back in January 2010 that found "when physical education teachers humiliate students in real life, they can turn them off of physical fitness for good."

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