I have recently been exploring the idea of using technology in my Health and Wellness classes to promote a healthy lifestyle. The idea is to explore apps that would allow integration of Health and Wellness concepts into class structure and into the students own personal lives. The end goal being to evaluate these apps for their effectiveness. I plan to evaluate tools that touch on the areas of evaluation, physical activity, health and safety, class management and goal setting to name a few. I also wished to explore the link between Digital Citizenship and the promotion of wellness through the use of technology. Mike Ribble identifies 9 elements of digital citizenship which can be viewed as norms for behavior with regard to technology use. In this work Ribble describes these 9 elements as follows;
In the exploration of these elements I was at first struck by the fact that my chosen area of study seemed to only touch on the area of digital health and wellness. In many mays this is true however, it is somewhat simplistic to think that just because I am exploring health and wellness topics, I will not be implicating other elements. Indeed it has been apparent in recent years that screen time among children and teens has risen drastically, often replacing physical activity and leading to increased levels of obesity according to Boone and Gordon. However, after further examination, a focus on health and wellness in a digital age could provide opportunities for other elements to explored as well. These could include but are not limited to; digital communication, digital etiquette, digital security and digital literacy. It is clear that that any inclusion of technology in any area of the curriculum must also offer a valid discussion of digital identity. As Wesitheimer and Kahne discuss in their work, the examination of digital citizenship merits a closer look at what types of citizens we want students to be online. Whether promoting personally responsible citizens, participatory citizens or justice oriented citizens, it is crucial to include discussion of digital identity and what implications health and wellness apps have for identity online. The recent debacle with Strava and their heat map has proven that releasing fitness information to the world can have consequences.
Teaching students to be conscious of what fitness/health data is published for others to see is an exercise in digital security. Students’ health information and data should be carefully considered when being shared. In addition, many of these apps contain social media features and the ability to contact and connect with others. These exchanges of information between peers and also between companies constitutes the same need for digital etiquette in regards to the publication of information. It’s clear that any examination or inclusion of wellness/fitness apps must also provide for students an open discussion around identity questions and privacy rights. As Talitha Williams points out in the following TEDTalk, data generated from Health/Fitness apps can have a tremendous impact on our general health. However, the elements of etiquette, communication, security, and literacy are all valid parts of this ongoing discussion.
As Homayoun discusses in her article, the dangers of getting caught in a feedback loop mean that teenagers are not always cognizant of what they should or should not be posting online. In many ways wellness and mindfulness apps would offer a sharp contrast to the constant need to post and share new content. Many new apps like SmilingMind are geared toward helping teens and adults find balance in their lives via a serious of meditation and calming reminders. The temptation with fitness apps is very similar to other social media apps in that many are based on comparisons with others, thereby increasing the need to outperform others. As is notable with the current rise in sales of wearable technology, the more we compare ourselves with what others are posting, the more we are motivated to continue to post our athletic achievements online as well.
As I continue to explore the world of health/wellness apps, it will be crucial to, as Costa and Tores state,
“establish a reputable digital identity which students can looks up to and follow as example.”
In closing I believe that this project touches most significantly on the elements of security, health and wellness, communication, etiquette and communication. It is in each of these areas that proper use of technology to enhance physical and mental health must be modelled. Topics of identity and and presentation of self online should be explored in detail and students should be encouraged to live “non-linear lives” as Brown puts it. As far as next steps are concerned for the project. I will be finalizing the suite of apps to explore and beginning to use them myself as well as introducing them to my students. A series of videos/blogposts will allow me to evaluate the apps and their perceived effectiveness in the area of health/wellness.