So imagine this: You’ve applied and been accepted to college. You prepare and count down the days until you’re walking out the door to your house and into the door of your new home-away-from-home. You get your class assignments, meet your roommates—and then realize that you’re still 1,000 steps behind your mandatory fitness quota for the day. You check the tracker on your wrist and get moving, walking across campus aimlessly, trying to make up your lost ground so that when your day resets, you won’t have to make the extra effort to make up the lost distance you accumulated sitting around hanging out with your friends.
This might sound like science fiction, but it’s now a reality at Oral Roberts University. The Tulsa, Okla., school is requiring all 900 of its incoming freshman to wear Fitbit devices that wirelessly accumulate and transmit fitness data and then generate a grade for them—all inherently. The students are graded on how well they maintain their fitness levels and are required to meet an average of 10,000 steps a day, with at least 150 minutes of intense activity, as determined by heart rate.
This may seem invasive—especially when you take into account that Oral Roberts is a religious school, with mandates that prohibit both students and staff from smoking, drinking or engaging in premarital sex—all things that Fitbit data might be able to uncover. This use of technology did not necessarily appear out of nowhere, though. Before Fitbit, students were held accountable for their own fitness tracking. Now, in the age of wearables and statistics sharing, we have a school using this information to streamline students’ fitness and physical education experiences. The university also managed to make fitness more personal, which could arguably make it more effective.
Inherent technology in education is just starting to come into its own as we continue to rethink education and what technology can do for the classroom of the future—but how do we draw the line between privacy and necessity?