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Bright Spot Features: Dr. Lisa Hansen

Dr. Lisa Hansen has been involved in the Active Gaming Industry for 6 years. She taught elementary physical education and health for 3 years and secondary physical education and health for 1 year. Her PhD. from the University of South Florida includes a degree in Physical Education pedagogy. Dr. Hansen teaches undergraduate level courses and is the co director of the active gaming research lab on campus.
That led to pioneering research during the 2009-2010 school year with 4th and 5th graders.  She was generous with her time and answered the following questions for us.
  1. Can you provide an overview of what inspired you to do the active gaming research ?
When I helped open the first active gaming facility for children in the United States, I had the opportunity to witness children of all ability and fitness levels interact not only with the active game activities, but with one another as well. I had never observed so many overweight and unskilled children sweating, smiling, and finding success while exercising. I immediately became passionate about learning more about active gaming
2.  Of your results, which of the 7 elements supporting P2G were most beneficial to the outcomes?
I am not sure there is a single “element” that is independently stronger standing alone then when interacting with the other elements. What I mean is that the data revealed these elements were evident in conjunction or in “motion” with one another. Although not all 7 elements were present at all times, an element was not experienced alone.
For example, peer interaction was often associated with having fun, unremitting interest, and/or peer learning. However, if I had to address elements from my profession that I feel contribute to positive physical education outcomes, I would suggest that the elements of fun and unremitting interest are of importance.
We know from research that having fun is most important to children to continue any activity. We also desire to educate children in wanting to become voluntarily physically active. These two benefits address those needs.
3.  Explain the methods you used in the project
This was a qualitative, phenomenological case study in which data collection consisted of observational field notes, journal entries from both the students and the teachers, and interviews from both the students  and the teachers. Data analysis revealed one major theme, a Persistence to Game, with 7 subthemes in which I described as the elements.

4. How were “off task” students changed by the integration of FootGaming in their learning environment?
I am not sure if they were “changed” but the students and the teachers suggested via journal entries that off task behavior was reduced as a result of using FootGaming during academic class time. The teachers suggested that putting an “off task” student on FootGaming early in the day when the behavior was first observed would positively effect that student’s behavior the remainder of the day. The students suggested if they were in a bad mood or feeling down that FootGaming made them happy.
5.  Explain how children learn in all 3 domains in a “learning while moving” situation.
Learning in all 3 domains is often affected by how the teacher implements the activity in both the physical education and academic classrooms. I think “learning while moving” may be explained differently depending on the subject at hand. However, I will use an example of our Active Learning project in which 3rd-5th grade students worked together as a team to accumulate steps in order to take a simulated journey through Florida.
The students were participating in FootGaming where they had to use their feet while moving on the FootPOWR (which is an active computer “mouse pad”) in order to play an online video game. The selected game was focused on nutrition. Each step they took to play the video game was automatically logged by the FootPOWR.
Each of those steps added to the class step count which was then added to the total step count for all 3rd-5th grade classes in the school.
The students accumulated steps, automatically logged on the FootPOWR,  in order to take a simulated journey through Florida. The students “stopped” at four healthy locations/ cities, which they learned more about along the way. The students’ goal was to see how quickly they could complete the journey.  The students were physically active, cognitively engaged in interdisciplinary studies (physical education, nutrition, math, and geography), and affectively challenged by working both independently and as a school team to complete the project.
6.  How important is the presentation, pre-program planning and integration of the Active Gaming (AG) interface into the learning environment?
I feel 100% positive saying that how AG is delivered will have an substantial impact on the learning environment. Many educators believe that because Active Gaming involves “games” children already know how to play them. The good thing is that, for the most part, this is true. However, we should not be focused on teaching them  how to play the games necessarily. We should be focused on the learning objectives in all 3 domains that they need to be accomplishing as well as the type of feedback (in addition to what the game may provide) that is necessary in order to ensure an effective and successful AG experience.  If the teachers do not have experience on the games themselves,  they are most likely not fully prepared to plan appropriate ongoing lessons.
7. Why is AG a good way to add physical activity to the learning day as a complement or extension of activity provided in a conventional PE program?
Recent research broadly suggests two things: 1) Cognitive functioning is positively affected by physical activity, AND 2) higher academic scores are correlated with higher fitness scores. These concepts suggest bluntly that physical activity should be a part of the learning day. Over 60% of children are not physically active once they leave the school grounds. If physical education is eliminated or reduced in the majority of schools globally, adding physical activity time during the learning day is essential in producing “healthy”, productive children.
8. How important is the “implementer” in an AG program?
See my response to number 6.  I believe the implementer is the most influential aspect of any AG program.
9.  Will you be creating a workbook or other compilation of lesson plans or suggested use of Active Games?
The number of Active Games in the market is growing exponentially.  It is becoming incredibly difficult to keep up with all the options at this point. This is a positive aspect for the industry and field but it  is also makes it difficult to generalize lesson plans and programming. I am working on several projects with companies to help create developmentally appropriate materials for Active Games in the form of programming and workbooks. I am also working with a well known physical education resource to provide best practices in the form of lesson plans, education tips, resources etc…I believe it is extremely important to have resources available to anyone interested in implementing Active Gaming appropriately.
10.  30% of technology funds must be used for teacher training. Is there a need for a paradigm shift in the application of Active Gaming in the classroom – i.e. are teachers given an Active Gaming  station without training that results in the use of the Active Gaming station as a “free time” event rather than integral to cognitive, behavioral and engagement change – especially for at-risk or low-performing students? Should technology funds and training funds from that budget line be used to purchase and train teachers in the Active Gaming process?
The use of Active Gaming  as “free time” has been my greatest concern in the educational system. Free time used “sparingly” can be effective, especially because physical activity is a component of the activity; however, Active Gaming has been misused as free time in general. Allowing teachers to implement Active Gaming without appropriate associated lesson plans is certainly not acceptable.  Students should understand basic brain research and learning objectives associated with Active Game play. This is important even if the message is that “exercise is FUN” and is a more acceptable behavior then playing the same games in a sedentary manner.
I am not sure I can generalize a budget to how much funding should be spent for training. It would certainly depend on the type and number of active games involved as well as the “implementer’s” experience with technology/video games. What I will strongly argue is that once the appropriate equipment has been selected, the implementation process (training, practice, lessons, programming, etc) is single handedly the most important aspect of developing a successful Active Gaming experience and program.
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