The popularity of ExerGaming™ is growing rapidly in schools, YMCAs, fitness clubs, and homes across the country. The significant rise in interest caused me to wonder about the impact of this new trend on student motivation and teacher involvement in schools. My own first-hand experience with ExerGaming™ in an elementary setting gave me some preliminary answers to those questions. What I observed was incredibly positive for kids and immeasurably supportive of our physical education program. Students, staff, and parents thought our ExerGaming™ intervention was remarkable. What I wanted to find out was whether my impressions were isolated or if other schools experienced the same positive reactions that I had.
In order to acquire more information about the impact of ExerGaming™, 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 perceptions about the impact of ExerGaming™ on student attitudes and motivation toward fitness, 2) differences in the reactions of students in grades K-12, and 3) teacher motivation and personal satisfaction on the job when using ExerGaming™ strategies.
The first inquiry of the survey asked PE teachers about whether 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 a higher degree of enjoyment when ExerGaming™ was integrated into physical education. The vast majority reported that ExerGaming™ gave kids interesting and engaging choices that enhanced their desire to participate. Furthermore, it was often reported that student behavior improved, as well as student willingness to exercise longer. One teacher 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 the last day of the year. Students, who traditionally did not like PE or did not engage in recess games, were fully engaged in the lab. They had visible signs of exertion, with most students leaving the lab smiling, sweaty, and thirsty. Simply put, they had a great workout without knowing it. “
With regard to 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 secondary schools reported similar positive effects with ExerGaming™. PE teachers consistently reported that the combination of gaming and exercise was fun and enjoyable for their students. ExerGaming™ appears to have the unique ability to engage students in physical activity across the developmental spectrum.
The final area of interest assessed whether ExerGaming™ had an effect on teacher motivation and personal satisfaction with their teaching. Did the inclusion of ExerGaming™ change the attitudes of physical education teachers? Ninety percent of the respondents reported that their enthusiasm and motivation for teaching increased due to ExerGaming™. They often cited that it was easier to motivate kids to exercise. They reported that the high energy levels of kids were infectious and created an increase in their overall attitude toward teaching. One respondent wrote the following, “ I see their enthusiasm and their learning via ExerGaming™, and it certainly motivates me to continue to be the best teacher I can be each day.”
Another teacher reported that students, who did not enjoy the traditional sports model of physical education, were extremely excited about actively participating in this form of exercise. ExerGaming™ offers an advantage in that it minimizes differences in abilities better than any program I 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 your weight inhibiting your ability to perform or doubted your athletic ability when nearly every class was focused on competition? Did you ever fear being teased by your peers because you lacked basic sports skills? Given these all-too-familiar scenarios, traditional PE has often left marginalized or less-able students with very negative memories and feelings toward physical education. ExerGaming™ provides an alternative that maximizes success and enjoyment across ability level. I have watched overweight students exercise on a game bike and return to the next class determined to beat their previous time. Never did they have to think about being publicly embarrassed. Kids love technology and gaming is just a part of their world. Non-athletic students have every opportunity to enjoy physical education and benefit from exciting workouts. They don’t have to worry about whether they are skilled enough to be successful. Gaming doesn’t ever pick them last to participate. All students, even the gifted athletes, will compete for a faster time, a better effort, and ongoing growth. The power of play and the benefit of competing against oneself can be incredibly motivating and beneficial. Everything is built on the premise that each individual is on their own growth plan supported by stimulating, exciting, and motivational technology.
I am reminded of the strong, positive student and teacher reaction that occurred when schools first implemented computer labs across the country. Students could work at their own pace, often received immediate feedback, and computer intervention was a new and exciting way to learn. Computers tracked individual progress, motivation was off the chart, and everyone felt more successful using this great learning tool. ExerGaming™ is having that kind of effect in the physical education classrooms around the country. Kids love it! All students can now engage in physical activity in a safe and inspirational way, thus helping schools build a healthier culture with students who are turned on by the power of exercise through ExerGaming™.