For the past ten weeks, I have been running. More specifically, I have been using apps from Zen Labs Fitness to get better at running. I began with their C25K app, an eight-week program that takes the user from not much of a runner to running approximately 5 km, or about 3 miles; then I progressed to week 9 of their 10K app. Last night, in a downpour, I ran just over 7 km in about 50 minutes. Considering that Week 1, Day 1 consists of 20 minutes of running one minute, walking one minute, I’m pretty proud of my progress.
Running for almost an hour, even in the pouring rain (or perhaps especially), gives one the chance to reflect on many things. When the digital Zen lady whispered into my ear “you are halfway there,” it occurred to me that many fitness apps are a great example of progressive learning, feedback, and scaffolding. There’s a good reason for it, too – as a fitness instructor, when a client says their goal is to run a 5 km race, but they’re new to running, I’m not going to say “There’s the treadmill. Start running and I’ll be back in half an hour to check your progress.” Whether your coach is an app or a person, part of the coaching job is to help the client assess where s/he is now, where s/he needs to be, and the best progression to get there. Too fast, and the client gives up because it’s too hard. Too slow, and the client gives up because there’s no challenge or results. A good program moves ahead at a pace that allows the client to feel challenged, but at the same time, to feel they’re accomplishing something.
In the classroom, we can do the same thing. We can’t expect our students to be ready for the 5k when they’ve just started. We need to help them see the goal, then provide them with the plan to get there.