When PE Central launched the site LOG IT to encourage kids to be more active and record their daily steps, the program was its first designed specifically for student use. But students weren't the only ones to respond! Now in its tenth year, thousands of registered users have logged millions of miles and improved their activity and fitness while virtually hiking around the country. Healthy competitions have formed between classes in different countries that have even blossomed into long-distance friendships. Included: PE Central's executive director, Mark Manross, tells teachers and others how to put their best foot forward with LOG IT!
"LOG IT started in 2001 when pedometers were first getting popular. The staff at PE Central got a couple to use and after seeing how motivational they were for us, we figured they must work wonders for kids!" recalls Mark Manross, PE Central's executive director. "We wanted to build a program that allowed kids to go online and have a fun experience logging their physical activity steps with their pedometer."
Until that point, PE Central had been visited primarily by teachers. LOG IT was the first program on the site to be constructed directly for kids. The geography component of "walking around the USA" to reach state capitals was added to enhance the learning experience for the students.
"Teachers use the program in a variety of ways to help motivate their kids to become more physically active," Manross reports. "Many teachers use it in conjunction with their walking or running program either before or after school. The kids will run for a period of time and then log their steps at a computer at school, or they can go home to log their steps."
Some educators distribute pedometers in physical education classes. Students log their steps daily, and the teacher tracks their progress in the gymnasium on a replica of LOG IT's online map of the United States. Students enjoy joining in challenges with other classes and with teachers in a LOG IT Challenge walk. Teachers from outside the U.S. have challenged American classes, and the relationship has evolved into a pen pal exchange.
One teacher's 101 students have been logging their physical activity since last February, and they have nearly completed their 10,000-mile journey around the country. Staff and parents have also become involved, and the principal is so enthusiastic about the project that a whole-school assembly is planned for the final day. The final steps will be logged through a laptop and projected on a big screen for all to see. No one will miss the moment when they reach the last state capital and the site goes into what Manross calls "fireworks mode."
"We have a number of parent and home school groups who sign up and use the program since it is not just for teachers," he added. "Some physicians are using the program as an intervention to help motivate patients to become more physically active."
In fact, in its nine years of operation, LOG IT has accumulated 245,000 registrants -- 148,000 students and 17,000 teachers, plus many others. The registered users have averaged approximately one million miles each year, with a high of 1.3 million logged in 2007. Manross believes that the site's interdisciplinary approach and flexibility make it highly valued by classroom teachers.
"LOG IT is visually attractive and fun for kids. They like the graphics," he observed. "Kids and teachers can use the program from any place they can get Internet access. They don't just have to log in at school and use it. Therefore, after they graduate from a grade or a school, they can use it for the rest of their lives."
LOG IT won over Diane Cramer when it inspired one of her less coordinated students who lacked muscle strength. Taking part in LOG IT gave him so much confidence that he eventually began a walking program and started running.
A physical education teacher who has worked most often with schools overseas, Cramer first used LOG IT at The American Community School in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) and then at The American Cooperative School in La Paz, Bolivia. The program came along at the perfect time; she had just received a shipment of pedometers and was searching for an excellent way to implement them.
"My students wore the pedometers during every PE class except when we had swimming and gymnastic units. At the end of each class, each student recorded his or her steps," Cramer recalled.
Students enjoyed LOG IT so much that their parents became excited about the program and expressed a desire to participate, and Cramer began to sell pedometers at school. Some students wanted to own the devices and use them 24 hours a day.
"After approximately 2-3 weeks into the year, it was time for my students to write their yearly PE goals," shared Cramer. "I am a firm believer in goals. Many students wrote goals connected with LOG IT. Some had goals for steps in class; others had weekly or semester goals of distances."
Some students selected goals related to obtaining a "foot award." During monthly assemblies, Cramer distributed the "foot awards" to students who had logged more than 150 miles. Because their steps were easily accessed through LOG IT, it was a simple matter to determine which participants deserved this recognition.
Cramer made maps for her classes and tracked the progress that they made on their LOG IT hikes. Each grade level began at a different state capital. Most teachers displayed a picture or information about each state as the students traveled virtually through it.
"It was brilliant when LOG IT set up the challenges with other schools. Many of my classes challenged schools in the USA," Cramer explained. "I involved the homeroom teachers in this project. The teachers would even let students enter their steps on the class computer. (Not all students had a home computer.) With the help of the homeroom teacher, we would write letters to the classes in the USA. Some classes even exchanged small gifts."
Administrators supported Cramer's efforts by approving pool parties for students when they won competitions with other classes. Even after challenges were completed, the students' excitement for LOG IT did not wane.
"My students continued to strive to increase the number of steps they could make both in class and outside of class, and all my students kept striving to earn a foot award," she added.
"LOG IT is a great program for elementary kids," says Amy Morrison. "They really enjoy watching their progress. We had approximately 50 students, parents, and teachers who purchased pedometers so they could be even more active with this program. It really promoted exercise outside the school day."
While teaching physical education at "Holden Elementary School in Missouri, Morrison used LOG IT in conjunction with a "toe token" walking program. The students earned toe tokens-- small plastic feet -- for the miles they recorded through the Web site.
"LOG IT was a way to encourage the kids to walk even more," stated Morrison. "We used it during the winter. We met at school and walked the hallways with pedometers. At the end of the evening, the kids went into the computer lab and recorded their LOG IT miles."
Morrison tracked the total school mileage on a large map in a display case. She used red yarn to follow their route on the U.S. map and created a scoreboard with a running tally of the students' progress. She also posted spreadsheets that charted personal progress.
"I even sent out email encouragement," Morrison remembered. "On our evening walks, parents and siblings joined our exercise efforts. It was a great family time."
Morrison knew that the message of fitness had "hit home" when her students stopped her to check the pedometer that she wore during school hours to see how many steps she had taken!
Stretching beyond the school setting, LOG IT has inspired homeschoolers, boys and girls clubs, and YMCA groups. For Manross, the most surprising aspect of the program has been its varied audience. As he expected, physical education teachers have embraced the site, as well as some classroom teachers, but he didn't anticipate that so many other organizations, parents, and businesses would enjoy or use the site and that it would meet their needs.
A parent shared that LOG IT became a "religious experience" for her 14-year-old son who had a heart condition. Although unable to participate in many physical education activities, he was able to log steps through the site. If he didn't achieve 11,000 steps a day, the boy walked laps in his living room in order to "see more red" on the map. According to his mother, LOG IT gave him a chance to feel "normal."
One clinic in Florida used the site in school-based wellness intervention programs and to record the steps of kids who were engaged in pedometer use. It inspired competition among parents and children. An elementary teacher single-handedly completed the walk around the country and persuaded fellow staff members to wear pedometers and hold a group competition. A physical education teacher stated that, although he likes to teach with different approaches each year, LOG IT returned by popular demand. Teachers and students required it. Even bus drivers joined in the project.
"We are so grateful to everyone who has signed up and successfully motivated students to be more physically active," Manross told Education World. "We think it is a great program to help solve this obesity crisis which is so prevalent in today's society. This program shows that you can have fun being physically active and learn a lot, too."
Article by Cara Bafile
Copyright © 2011 Education World
Originally published 01/31/2011