The popularity of ExerGaming™ is growing rapidly in schools,YMCAs, fitness clubs, and homes across the country. The significant rise in interest caused me towonder about the impact of this new trend on student motivation and teacherinvolvement in schools. My own first-handexperience with ExerGaming™ in an elementary setting gave me some preliminaryanswers to those questions. What Iobserved was incredibly positive for kids and immeasurably supportive of ourphysical education program. Students,staff, and parents thought our ExerGaming™ intervention was remarkable. What I wanted to find out was whether myimpressions were isolated or if other schools experienced the same positive reactionsthat I had.
In order to acquire more information about the impact ofExerGaming™, I administered a survey to a sample of physical education (PE)teachers around the country with experience in gaming and technology. Survey questions assessed 1) teacher perceptionsabout the impact of ExerGaming™ on student attitudes and motivation towardfitness, 2) differences in the reactions of students in grades K-12, and 3) teachermotivation and personal satisfaction on the job when using ExerGaming™strategies.
The first inquiry of the survey asked PE teachers aboutwhether ExerGaming™ affected student attitudes in the classroom, fitness goals,and overall participation. Among the respondents, 95% reported that ExerGaming™significantly improved their students’ attitudes toward PE, and they observed ahigher degree of enjoyment when ExerGaming™ was integrated into physicaleducation. The vast majority reportedthat ExerGaming™ gave kids interesting and engaging choices that enhanced theirdesire to participate. Furthermore, itwas often reported that student behavior improved, as well as studentwillingness to exercise longer. Oneteacher responded by saying, “I never had one discipline problem in the ExerGaming™lab. Students excitedly ran into the lab on the first day and on thelast day of the year. Students, who traditionally did not like PE or didnot engage in recess games, were fully engaged in the lab. They hadvisible signs of exertion, with most students leaving the lab smiling, sweaty,and thirsty. Simply put, they had a great workout without knowingit. “
With regardto student motivation and age, high interest seemed to transcend student age;students of all ages liked the experience. Physical education teachers from elementary, middle, and secondaryschools reported similar positive effects with ExerGaming™. PE teachers consistently reported that the combinationof gaming and exercise was fun and enjoyable for their students. ExerGaming™ appears tohave the unique ability to engage students in physical activity across thedevelopmental spectrum.
The final area of interest assessed whether ExerGaming™ had aneffect on teacher motivation and personal satisfaction with their teaching. Didthe inclusion of ExerGaming™change the attitudes of physical education teachers? Ninety percent of the respondents reportedthat their enthusiasm and motivation for teaching increased due to ExerGaming™. They often cited that it was easier to motivatekids to exercise. They reported that thehigh energy levels of kids were infectious and created an increase in theiroverall attitude toward teaching. Onerespondent wrote the following, “ I see their enthusiasm and their learningvia ExerGaming™, and it certainly motivates me to continue tobe the best teacher I can be each day.”
Another teacher reported that students, who did not enjoy thetraditional sports model of physical education, were extremely excited aboutactively participating in this form of exercise. ExerGaming™ offers anadvantage in that it minimizes differences in abilities better than any programI have observed in physical education. For example, have you ever waited in line to be chosen last for a game? Were you ever self-conscious about yourweight inhibiting your ability to perform or doubted your athletic ability whennearly every class was focused on competition? Did you ever fear being teased by your peers because you lacked basicsports skills? Given theseall-too-familiar scenarios, traditional PE has often left marginalized orless-able students with very negative memories and feelings toward physicaleducation. ExerGaming™ providesan alternative that maximizes success and enjoyment across ability level. I have watched overweight students exerciseon a game bike and return to the next class determined to beat their previoustime. Never did they have to think aboutbeing publicly embarrassed. Kids lovetechnology and gaming is just a part of their world. Non-athletic students have every opportunityto enjoy physical education and benefit from exciting workouts. They don’t have to worry about whether theyare skilled enough to be successful. Gaming doesn’t ever pick them last to participate. All students, even the gifted athletes, willcompete for a faster time, a better effort, and ongoing growth. The power of play and the benefit ofcompeting against oneself can be incredibly motivating and beneficial. Everything is built on the premise that eachindividual is on their own growth plan supported by stimulating, exciting, and motivationaltechnology.
I am reminded of the strong, positive student andteacher reaction that occurred when schools first implemented computer labsacross the country. Students could workat their own pace, often received immediate feedback, and computer interventionwas a new and exciting way to learn. Computerstracked individual progress, motivation was off the chart, and everyone feltmore successful using this great learning tool. ExerGaming™ is havingthat kind of effect in the physical education classrooms around thecountry. Kids love it! All students can now engage in physical activityin a safe and inspirational way, thus helping schools build a healthier culturewith students who are turned on by the power of exercise through ExerGaming™.