Traditional classroom instructor, Mr. Dean Sahbroo, has a great job. He gets to school every morning at 8:00 am, reboots his computer, turns on the projector, and unzips the day's lesson plans from the mini drive he carries around on his key chain. The computer screen initiates and little icons start appearing, then after a few moments in the middle of the screen a tiny hoop shows a clockwise circulating pulse. Around and around it goes and after about a minute of this Mr. Sahbroo realizes the LED on his mini drive is not flashing. He tries unplugging it and plugging it back in again.
Dean concludes his computer system must be "hung up." He grabs the mini drive out of his computer and walks over to the administration office to ask the cheerful school assistant, Ms. Dunelle Carple, if she could try loading it on her computer. She obliges. Sure enough the LED starts flashing and a folder image appears on her screen. She clicks on it and then launches a document called "Third Grade Lesson 1&2:"
MAJOR AREA: The Human Body
GRADE: Third Grade (Lesson 1&2)
TOPIC: Circulatory System
EMPHASIS: Anatomy & Physiology - Heart and blood vessels
MATERIALS:PPT. DVD. Worksheet.
Power Point Lecture
Description of Heart
Weight 11 oz.
*brrympht*. The document closes unexpectedly and after a few moments in the middle of the screen a tiny hoop shows a clockwise circulating pulse.*pop*. A dialogue message box appears "Warning: Removable Drive Unreadable." Dunelle picks up the phone and calls the help desk. She describes slowly step-by-step what happened on their computers and what she and Mr. Sahbroo have done. Suddenly the normally cheerful expression on Ms. Carple's face turns ashen.
Reimage is a term used in association with computers. Essentially it means your operating system has slowed down or crashes too often because some software became damaged, corrupted or plagued with 'bugs.' During the re-imaging process everything on your computer system is removed and then reinstalled or better yet replaced with an upgraded version. Most people are deathly afraid of re-imaging and opt to simply reboot their system by turning it off and on again.
A quality health education class requires more than a simple rebooting process. The above hypothetical scenario of loading a prepackaged health lesson to be taught by someone not professionally prepared to teach health illustrates just one obvious pitfall of over-reliance on one form of technology (for a few more pitfalls see "Death by PowerPoint" from Don McMillan). Technology can certainly help with instruction, but up to this point it has been a great unrealized hope in educational reform.
Other repetitive routines including outdated lectures, recycled worksheets, and over copied quizzes need to be replaced with authentic or lifelike activities and assessments that engage the students. Students do learn what they live. Health topics relate most intimately with a student unlike other traditional class subjects. Leave it those other classes to describe the heart as a 'hollow muscle.' Students in health class can feel their own pulse and talk about what it means to "have a heart."
Once the static lifeless instruction is removed, then the lessons can be resuscitated with the students themselves breathing life into the learning activities. How this sense of authenticity extends beyond words can be found in the lyrics "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield, "No one else can feel it for you, Only you can let it in." Through in class activities students record their own comprehensive health textbook with an inner voice.
Topics such as eating disorders, alcohol related problems, harmful ways of relating, and childhood obesity to name a few can be discussed in small groups then shared with the whole class. So a student is not alone reading a textbook but supported by peers in a skit creation, a game, a Socratic seminar, or a project. Sometimes the work created can also serve as the assessment. This style also lends itself well to treatment of emerging current wellness topics such as new allergies or diseases.
In review it should be noted that over reliance on power point slides should be avoided, health should be taught by those who were professionally trained to do so, and lessons must include authentic activities in which each student can relate to their own personal health and wellbeing. Unlike traditional lectures the life-like activities can be fun! Once you reimage health education is in this manner students will retain more of the information because the way in which it was learned made it more memorable and enjoyable enough to last a lifetime.
Mr. Schuyler Antane is a Health & Exercise Science teaching major at The College of New Jersey (2013). Prior to this Schuyler earned his BS in chemistry at the University of Michigan (1987). He studied organic synthesis briefly at the University of Rochester in NY (1990) then moved to New Jersey to work as a medicinal chemist for 20 years at Wyeth Pharmaceutical pursuing research in neuroscience, cardiovascular, inflammation, diabetes and infectious diseases. During his time in the lab Schuyler made some poor personal health choices and eventually weighed >200 pounds. He decided to make health a priority by making lifestyle changes including diet and exercise. To make the transformation stick he maintained fitness through triathlon and marathon competitions in Detroit, Philadelphia, New York and Portland. Many of the races Schuyler enjoys also support causes such as the Belmar triathlon for Autism Awareness. He hopes his personal story of transformation can help motivate others and to one day guide students to becoming physically educated.