An East Carolina University (ECU) director has been recognized by the Center for Digital Education as one of the country’s Top 30 Technologists, Transformers and Trailblazers of 2017 for his efforts to transform learning through the innovative use of technology.
Tim Hardison, an ECU alumnus and former Martin County Schools teacher, is developer and director of ECU’s MATCH Wellness program, an interdisciplinary, community-university partnership created to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity.
MATCH stands for Motivating Adolescents with Technology to Choose HealthTM and targets seventh-grade students. It is currently supported by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) program.
Students are motivated through digital tools such as gamification, leader boards and trophy cases. Their schools use a Web-based management system to submit baseline data of height and weight, and fitness testing results. The program also uses an online behavioral survey to track sleeping and eating habits and technology uses. At the time MATCH was created, Hardison’s rural county had the lowest life expectancy in the state.
“When you’re trying to head off an epidemic like obesity, schools are the place we need to intervene,” said Hardison. “We’ve developed a program that meets teachers’ needs first, that just happens to produce unprecedented wellness outcomes, reducing these students’ risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes.”
As part of ECU’s Pediatric Healthy Weight Research and Treatment Center, in the past decade MATCH has reached over 17,000 students in 49 public schools throughout the Carolinas and Mississippi—the state with the third-highest adult obesity rate in the nation. The program has prevented an estimated 1,500 cases of obesity.
Hardison said one key to MATCH’s success is that it teaches students about nutrition and physical activity at a time in their development when they’re beginning to make decisions independent of their families.
Fifteen percent of participants improve to a healthier weight. At 17 years of age, graduates of the program demonstrate decreased obesity when compared to their peers, and are twice as likely to have achieved a healthy weight.
The program has earned a “research tested” designation by the Center for Training, Research and Translation—an independent group that evaluates programs for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and has gained national attention for its unparalleled long-term success.
The Center for Digital Education (CDE) is a national research and advisory institute specializing in K-12 and higher education technology trends, policy and funding. The 2017 Top 30 designees were selected based on their efforts to improve education through effective implementation of technology-rich solutions, their impact on student outcomes, and their overall initiative, creativity and leadership skills. They recently received their awards at the Digital Education Leadership Conversation event in Austin, Texas.
“Our winners have shown an immense amount of passion and courage as they take on education in an era that encompasses rapid changes. They have demonstrated a unique ability to use technology as a catalyst to transform education at all levels and to have a positive impact on student success,” said Dr. Kecia Ray, executive director, CDE. “I am thrilled to recognize this outstanding group for their work, and wish them the best as they continue to push the field forward with education technology.”
For more about this year’s Top 30 visit http://www.centerdigitaled.com/top30/.
For more about the MATCH Wellness program, visit https://www.matchwellness.org/
by Angela Todd, University Communications