Chris Drage steps out with the TTS Easi-Walker Children's Pedometer
I'm always interested in digital devices that can help bring together a number of curriculum areas with specific relevance to each. The Easi-Walker Children's Pedometer allows for just such cross-curricular integration with ICT, maths, science and PE.
It's an innovative set of six pedometers and a docking station, from TTS, designed for education. Each pedometer allows children to record their step count throughout the day.The day can be divided in up to nine different activities – like walking to school, sports activities, or school outings – and the data collected can be uploaded to a PC for analysis using the Easi-Walker software at any time.
The Easi-Walker package also comprises, a USB docking station, user guide and a CD-Rom containing the data analysis software, PDF copy of the user guide and some sample data to get you started. Although you can purchase each item separately, to start off you will require the full Easi-Walker kit. Additional pedometers can be purchased to expand the numbers for a whole class set.
The stylish and ergonomic docking station (pictured below) holds each pedometer via a built-in mini USB connector. It couldn't be easier to operate the Easi-Walker. The six pedometers stand vertically on the docking station while charging via the USB or downloading data and the docking station fully recharges the pedometers, giving them a full day's usage.
The pedometer itself (left) can store the step counts into different activities. You can split each day into up to nine separate activities: Activity 1, Activity 2, Activity 3, etc. It will store the information for 14 separate days, then start overwriting the first date stored. As it stores the number of steps made in each two minute period during each day, you can see how the number of steps varies over the course of each day.
At the start of each day, the current activity is reset to ‘Activity 1’. Two sets of numbers are stored in the Easi-Walker: first, the number of steps that are taken during each activity; second, the step-count during every two-minute interval throughout the day i.e total number of steps taken in that day.
Pressing the Lock button on the side of the pedometer (when it is locked) briefly unlocks the device allowing you to press the Select button on the front twice to move to the next Activity number. Initially this is a little disconcerting, but once it is done you are locked out of changing the activity number for a further five seconds. Apparently this is a security measure. However, the pedometer will immediately start counting steps for the new Activity. When Activity 9 has been reached then activities cannot be increased further and all steps counted for the remainder of the day will be allocated to Activity 9.
All this actually sounds far more complicated than it is in practice. Just make sure you do read the instructions. Although you are able to display the current time, date, and name of the pedometer, changes to them are set using the Easi-Walker software and cannot be set on the pedometer itself.
The cost of consumables is usually a headache for schools, but I am informed by TTS engineers that the batteries in the pedometers will typically still be at 80 per cent of their original capacity after 500 charges. A pedometer will last about two weeks in constant use without charging, so it should be a number of years before the battery needs replacing.
Refreshingly, there are no drivers to install, but you must install the Easi-Walker software program on a computer in order to read the data held on the Easi-Walker pedometers. The first time that you attach an Easi-Walker pedometer to the PC, Windows must identify it and install its own driver. As this can take several minutes to complete when all six pedometers are connected at the same time, it is recommended that you add each pedometer one at a time to the docking station while the data is uploading to the PC.
'Easi-Walker' software is the jewel in the crown
The jewel in the crown of this product is the software. It is not only easy to use, attractive and comprehensive, but it also has some well designed features. Easi-Walker will run and initially show a blank activity table and a selection of buttons along the bottom.
As pedometers are plugged in, the data from each pedometer is downloaded and shown as a chart. Each pedometer is a different colour and these are displayed with the pedometer name on the screen. Available chart types are: pie chart, horizontal bar chart (thick or thin bars), vertical bar chart (thick or thin bars) and time chart (shows the two-minute data as a cumulative line chart or vertical bar chart).
You can select the units to use for the axes labels and the labels for each item. There are three options: number of steps taken; distance travelled (you must set the stride length appropriately for this to be accurate); table (shows all activity data for every pedometer). All data downloaded from pedometers is automatically saved in the database. The information from up to 50 pedometers can be saved for each date.
The title for each pedometer and the times/date can be changed on-screen. If you want to compare the performance of all pedometers for the same activity, you simply click on the relevant activity number. ln ‘Activity view’ the colours shown on the chart match the pedometer colour – another nice touch. You can see all the activities logged on one pedometer. lf you select any activity, it will show all activities for each pedometer currently connected.
Another worthy feature is the ability to zoom in to a part of the chart to view it in more detail. Similarly, the use of an auto-complete list when entering repetitive data like titles and employing a "copy-to-aII" button for propagating the activity titles speeds-up otherwise laborious tasks.
The ‘ScreenShot’ button will take an exact copy of the chart area including axis labels and chart title to add to presentations word processors etc; while the Export button will export the data for use in a spreadsheet should additional analysis of the detailed data from the pedometers be required.
If you require a number of different computers to share the same pedometer data, you can set the database location to be a folder on a shared drive so that any PC using this same database location will be updated whenever the database is changed by any other PC. Similarly, you can also set the configuration file to be on the network. In so doing, all connected PCs will share the same configuration, so any changes will only need to be made once.
Shortcomings? The pedometers have a spring-loaded clip with which to grasp a belt or sock, but this is not always as reliable as it could be. A small lanyard with an additional clip is provided for each pedometer. However, on the review sample the clips on these proved difficult to use. I ended up keeping it in my pocket. I am not wholly convinced as to the robustness of the mini-USB connectors on the docking station. As the pedometers stand vertically, they could be prone to serious knocks with the resulting bent connector. Some care will need to be exercised when downloading data.
'A great way to integrate data-logging into other areas of the curriculum'
Overall, this is a great way to integrate data-logging into other areas of the curriculum including walking to school, playing sport or during break time allowing children to record data throughout their day. Easi-Walker is a useful tool to engage children in a variety of subjects including science, PE and maths and could even be used for events such as school sports day and a Walk to School Week.
This is a great way for children to take responsibility for recording their own data and is an ideal introduction to data-logging. Here are just some possible applications:
- Project to find out which year group was most active during lunch and playtimes (maths data handling);
- PE, maths and science (understanding fitness and health and how important it is to be active by comparing different activities on circuit training, with graph comparisons and interpretation);
- Maths measurement and distance – accurate measurement versus steps;
- Holiday activity days – games of hockey and basketball. Give each player in each position a pedometer with a view to showing how children playing in different positions cover more ground;
- Healthy Schools Week, or Walk To School Week/month – by discussing the benefits of walking regularly, looking at how and why that helps our bodies, collecting the data from the pedometers, making graphs and spreadsheets you are covering science, PHSE, maths and ICT. You could set specific activities and get the children to record their step-counts, which in itself will encourage more physical activity - this could be in PE or any other area.
- Estimation of how many steps it takes from home to school, or around the playground, before finding out with the pedometer. Children could create a chart to show estimation and actual steps.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 4
Value for money 5
Easi-Walker Children's Pedometer
SImple to use and maintain pedometers for school use. Set of six pedometers £125.95, docking station £13.99, set and docking station together £139.95 or 5500 Tesco’s vouchers (all prices ex VAT).
TTS Easi-Walker Children's Pedometer