Squirrels and the need to know – Greg Dryer

Greg Dryer is the Co-founder of miMove app. He’s based in London, UK but the app is being used in over 200 schools around the world. Greg can be contacted at greg@mimoveapp.com or @greg_dryer / @mimoveapp.

Squirrels.

In the literature about meaning-making, squirrels do not feature particularly prominently.  However, for one 11-year-old student in Washington DC, squirrels are clearly central to his engagement with physical activity (PA). This young man, let’s call him Sam, attends a school that is one of over 200 schools using miMove.

miMove is a digital tool designed to ‘close the loop’ – for decades, everyone in physical education has acknowledged that the mission is to help every young person (YP) find a place for physical activity (PA) in their lives. However, until now, we have never had the capacity to easily access information that indicates if and how students are engaging in physical activity both inside and outside of the school.  

It is built on the premise that it is no longer good enough for us, as a field and a society, to be ignorant of activity/inactivity amongst YP. Being ignorant makes it easy to turn a blind eye and/or apportion blame. Ignorance indicates that we do not care enough. When we value something, we know about it, we measure and track it, and miMove allows us to do just that.

It’s really straight forward – students record all the PA they take part in and teachers can access this data via the webapp. By so doing miMove creates a supportive, digital ecosystem around every student and it provides unprecedented, real time insight data about how young people are seeking and finding meaning in their PA.

Each miMove user logs the type of activity completed, the duration and the setting (in or out of school). However, the real magic lies not in this quantitative data but the qualitative, affective data that the app captures. Students have to record how each activity session made them feel and they then have the option to free write and/or upload a photo. In the hands of skilled practitioners who are working towards creating more meaningful experiences, this is proving invaluable. Some are beginning to go further and are using the app to help students to develop deeper reflective practices. Via words and/or photos students are encouraged to explore their movement preferences.

This brings us back to Sam. Here are a few of his posts:

  • Playing ball in the garden and a squirrel almost stole it!
  • Cycling – I saw an albino squirrel.
  • Walking – I saw a lot of squirrels.
  • Walking – I saw baby squirrels. I’m so happy!

As physical educators, how would we make sense of this and how would it help us work with Sam? Using the MPE features, Sam is clearly finding some personal relevance and delight in nature. How would you capture this in conversations in order to better connect with Sam?

miMove makes it easier than ever before to consistently capture student voice and feedback. It is also being used to develop students’ ability to reflect as they think more deeply about their activity experiences. Many students have reported that the mere act of journaling is itself validating and the upload photo feature can serve as photo album that triggers memories, feelings, and other sensory associations.

We are learning so much about young people’s experiences via the app. Apart from squirrels the most commonly referred to feature is social interactions. The social domain really matters as can be seen from these comments from other students in Sam’s school:

  • I got to talk to my sister whilst doing this!
  • I went running with my mum and she made it so much better. She really motivated and energised me.
  • I’ve started playing squash with my dad. I think it’s a really fun sport where you don’t only have to be athletic, you also have to be smart. I also get to spend more time with my dad which is super fun.

If you would like to be part of the journey, come onboard. After all, it all starts with knowing.

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