School takes tech route to get pupils on fitness track

School takes tech route to get pupils on fitness track

Once a week, 12-year-old Sharlene Tan wears a heart-rate monitor and a watch that measure the intensity of her workout sessions during physical education (PE) lessons.

The information collected from the devices - which includes her activity time, step count and amount of calories burned - is then uploaded to an online portal available for downloading.

It tells the North Vista Primary pupil if she has been working hard enough in PE classes.

"I have been improving. I used to be in the lowest fitness rank, but I am slowly going up," said the Primary 6 pupil. "I'm almost reaching my targeted heart-rate zone."

At a conference organised yesterday by the Ministry of Education (MOE), North Vista Primary in Sengkang was held up as an example of a school that uses technology to teach its pupils about personal health and fitness.

"They take ownership of their own learning in this way," said Mr Alvin Lee, who heads the PE department in the school.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said one of the reasons the integration of technology with classroom learning has worked in Singapore is that it is backed by pedagogical content knowledge from the teachers.

"Technology is the tool but the teacher must be the master. A good technological tool placed in the hands of a skilful teacher can breathe life into lessons, and lessons into life," he said.

He added that since 2008, when the third technology masterplan in education was launched, a total of 1,400 teachers have been trained as information and communications technology mentors.

These teachers "engage in professional discourse to discuss how best to improve teaching and learning", he said.

The ministry is now working on the fourth masterplan, likely to be launched next year.

Mr Heng said that in the engagement sessions conducted with school leaders, students and parents, what surfaced consistently in the feedback was the "need to bridge students' digital interests (with) the way they learn in school".

Mr Phua Kia Wang, principal of North Vista Primary, agreed. Apart from teaching pupils to take ownership of their personal fitness levels, the school also uses Kinect, a motion sensing device, to introduce lower primary pupils to various sports such as badminton, tennis and baseball.

"The Kinect is not, and will never be, a replacement for the real deal. But there are some pupils who will never pick up a racket on their own," he said.

"We are using the device to get them to be interested in sports."

This article was published on April 10 in The Straits Times.

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