Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley has introduced legislation designed to encourage the use of more technology in physical education classes in schools.
The bill is named for Olympic gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines. The 19-year-old Johnson says incorporating technology in P.E. classes would get more kids excited about exercise and fitness.
“You see how much they enjoy being on a Gameboy or being in front of a computer screen…and if you can incorporate that into exercise and physical activity, hopefully it will spark their interest enough to take that next step to leading a healthier lifestyle,” Johnson told reporters in a conference call arranged by Braley’s office.
The “Shawn Johnson Fitness for Life Act,” if passed, would provide grants to 10 universities to incorporate more technology into their master’s degree programs for physical education. Universities receiving grants would partner with a local school district to develop the program.
Braley said the programs would be required to emphasize the use of technology in P.E. teaching and innovative teaching practices. “They also have to encourage (kids) to be physically active outside the classroom and encourage broad community participation,” Braley said. The bill is modeled after a partnership between the University of Northern Iowa and the Grundy Center School District.
U.N.I. grad students work as full time P.E. instructors in Grundy Center and incorporate technology like heart monitors, computerized fitness assessment programs and pocket PCs into the curriculum. Johnson says the Wii video games are good example of how to get kids excited about exercise.
“There are so many different (video games) that get them up off the couch and moving, but they don’t even recognize it because they’re having fun. That’s the whole idea of this (legislation),” Johnson said. Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, said it’s not clear yet how much the legislation would cost to enact.
“I think one of the things that people often ignore when they’re looking at the upfront cost of establishing a program like this is the long-term benefits of an increasingly active lifestyle for all people,” Braley said. The bill was formally introduced this morning.
If passed, the U.S. Department of Education would administer the competitive grants.
Photo courtesy of Congressman Braley’s office