Author: Nana Phan Dewald

Improving Health and Fitness by Instructing Consumers through Data

With the explosion of wearable technology to monitor almost every aspect of ourselves (heart rate, breathing rate, calories burned) and our daily activities (steps taken, stairs climbed, distance traveled, minutes / hours slept), we now have a wealth of health, fitness, and medical information that could potentially revamp how we live our lives and how we care for ourselves.  As instructional designers (IDers) in the health and fitness field, this is a great opportunity for us to help consumers and healthcare professionals educate themselves and their clients / patients about health-related issues.  However, the challenge now lies in figuring out how to collect these data and present them in ways that are easily understood and meaningful to consumers and healthcare professionals.  The ultimate goals are to empower consumers to take control of their health and to help healthcare professionals provide the best individualized care as possible.

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Accomplishing these goals will require IDers to look at the data critically and understand what is important to their targeted audiences.  Since wearable technologies can create huge amounts of data, IDers will need to work with data scientists and other data mining professionals to “weed out” the relevant data and present it in a way that is meaningful to consumers.  For example, data created by heart rate monitors and activity trackers could inform consumers about their current habits, and through personalized coaches / instructors / trainers, educate and coach them in making changes to improve their lifestyles.  Reports in the form of charts need to be viewed with a critical eye.  Are consumers provided with the ability to learn from the data?  Are the reports easy to interpret?  What sort of interventions can be created from the data?

My husband uses a sleep monitor called Beddit.  Every evening before he goes to bed, he syncs it with his smartphone.  Throughout the night, it tracks various aspects of his sleep – heart rate, snoring, time out of bed, and overall sleep.  When he wakes up, he stops the tracker and a report is generated.  The report offers him an easy-to-view snapshot of the previous night’s sleep.  Additionally, based on what it learns about his sleeping habits, it offers him education on how he can improve his sleep.  For example, if it detects that he is not falling asleep right away (through heart rate data), it offers him suggestions, such as not using his smartphone before bed, and presents him with more information on how he can facilitate falling asleep faster.

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With healthcare becoming front and center in today’s society, educating and instructing consumers on how to improve their health and lifestyles are important.  Though it may not seem so, wearable technologies and the data they produce will provide IDers with ample opportunities to impact the way people learn about not only healthcare in general, but about individualized instruction focused on improving health and lifestyles through the data collected by these technologies.  IDers will be called on to create the materials that interface with these data and provide appropriate learning opportunities for these consumers to be educated about the health-based decisions they make.  Charts, graphs, and other information-communicating visuals will need to be designed and presented in ways that easily coach and educate consumers about what they need to know about themselves and how to make changes as appropriate based on what they learned and what the data tells them.  Healthcare professionals can use this information to help them monitor their clients’ / patients’ current health status and advise and/or intervene as necessary.

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Integration of Technology in Today’s Classrooms

Today’s classrooms look quite different than they did a few decades ago. The days of green chalkboards with yellow and colored chalk, overhead projectors, and paper-based textbooks that weighed a ton have given way to whiteboards with dry erase markers, smart boards, and digital books. The integration of technology into the classroom has great potential to help teachers transform their classrooms into better learning environments for their students. However, technology alone cannot improve student learning. Teachers are a critical part in the success of using technology to enhance instruction and facilitate learning in the classroom — good teaching comes first, then technology (Lowther & Ross, 2012, p. 208).

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Many strides have been made over the past three decades to help integrate technology into pre-, primary, and secondary school classrooms (Lowther & Ross, 2012). However, a gap still exists between what is currently being done in the classroom and what needs to be done to help prepare students with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in life after high school in the 21st Century (Lowther & Ross, 2012). Closing this gap will require a new educational framework that integrates student mastery of core subjects and 21st Century skills (examples: higher order thinking and learning skills, information and communication technology literacy, and life skills) into the curriculum (Lowther & Ross, 2012). The following are weblinks that provide more information on 21st Century learning / education and technology integration at the classroom level:

Next week, the conversation will shift towards how the integration of technology in classrooms has made today’s learning environments more accessible to students who are blind or visually impaired (B/VI). Smart boards, web-based course management systems, and digital books have been very effective in empowering students with B/VI to take ownership of their learning, advocate for their educational needs, and be active participants in their classes.

References
Lowther, D. L., & Ross, S. M. (2012). Instructional designers and P-12 technology integration.  In R. A. Reiser & J. V. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed.) (208-214). Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.