Can Garmin Watches Educate Kids?

I’ve only ran one marathon and a few 1/2 marathons. Each time I’ve trained for one of these races, I used MapMyRun to map out runs, calculate distances, keep track of when I run, analyze my pace, and monitor shoe mileage. It’s been an extremely useful tool in helping me prepare and train for races, but more than that, it gives me information about myself. I find it extremely valuable to track what my pace was on different runs, how fast my overall time was, whether I’m consistently running on varied elevated terrains, and how many calories I’m burning.  As great a service MapMyRun is however, I feel little tied to the computer when I always have to, well, map out a run first before I start off on a run. When I first started using the service, it was exciting to me to map out different routes and see what local trail I could follow via the Google satellite map MMR provides. But after a few years of this, plotting out every point of a 13 mile run becomes more tedious than enjoyable.

Logging runs into MapMyRun

The mapping monotony soon broke for me when I recently received a Garmin Forerunner 210 watch for my birthday as a present from my wife. While this isn’t Garmin’s top-o-the line model, it suits all of my needs and then some.  Now, instead of keeping my overall time on my older Casio G-Shock (a fine watch in its own right by the way) waiting to see what my pace is after I enter the data into MMR, all I do is slap on the Forerunner 210 and run.

Gadgets are supposed to make life easier and efficient. The Garmin Forerunner 210 does exactly that.

While I’m running, the watch keeps track of:

  • Distance traveled with satellite connectivity with satellite tracking – No more mapping, just get out and go!

  • Pace – I like to keep overall pace, but it can do mile pacing and keep track of splits.

It’s also capable of tracking your heart rate, but I personally don’t like wearing a heart rate strap, so I don’t.
Perhaps the coolest part of all of this, is GarminConnect.  After a run, all I have to do is connect my watch to my computer via USB, and upload the data.  All of that information is transferred onto the site and it auto-maps it for you and shows you your pace, distance, and calories burned (provided you’ve setup the watch correctly from the start).  A map player exists to show you in realtime how you ran, and tracks your elevation and speed as you run.  It’s the bee’s knees.  This tool is invaluable to store your health information.  And, you can easily share this information on Facebook, Twitter, email, or make it a public link so others can see it.  What’s more, the data can be downloaded and exported into an Excel file, or even to MapMyRun, so I can use both services, if I wish.

So how does this fit in with education?  Well, the more I wear it, the more I think, “Why aren’t our kids wearing these?  Why don’t we hand them out in schools?  Or at least have a classroom set to work into physical education and health curriculum?”  I don’t think there are a lot of people who would argue against the idea that childhood obesity is a problem with youth.  National health trends and studies would support the claim that we need to educate and promote healthier lifestyles among students in elementary and secondary schools.  The problem is as I see it, how do we promote healthy lifestyles and get students to care about their health?

It’s obviously not a magic bullet, but giving students a tool like the Forerunner 210 might help answer that question.  It’s one thing to have a student run the mile and time them in a phy ed. class.  It’s an entirely different thing to let a student check out a watch for a period of time – say, a week or a quarter – and not only have them track what they’re doing, but teach them how to set healthy goals and how to work towards those goals.  These watches keep a history log so students could be taught how to upload the data and share it with their teachers.

There are a lot of programs that encourage 1:1 learning outside of the school with laptops, iPads, and iPods.  Why can’t 1:1 technology initiatives include health education as well?  The cost of the watch is about $200.  Far cheaper than an iPad or laptop, and that’s all you need.  The GarminConnect is free, all you have to do is set up an account.  With so many dollars being invested in technology, wouldn’t it be great if we not only invested in educating students about healthy lifestyles too?

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