More and more schools are adding technology to their classrooms, technology such as SMARTBoards and iPads, but should schools be considering the addition of the Wii? The answer is absolutely yes. Kids are already familiar with it because many of them have played it at home or at friend’s house. They promote activity, are very interactive, and have a wide variety of uses.
But what are these uses? Aside from having a game for almost every subject, they can also be used across every grade level, just make sure the age level on the games is appropriate. It has been very successfully used in science and geography classes. Many other teachers have used their blogs to share their success using Wii Golf, other Wii Sports games, and Big Brain Academy to practice math. They also talk about the Wii’s success teaching English and English Second Language (ESL). Nintendo Wii developed several games that could be used in elective classes, such as Wii Music, Wii Fit, and Wii Sports. These games are interactive, promote teamwork, and practice problem solving.
If the Wii is based on movement and interaction, does that limit who can use it? Not necessarily, in fact, many special education teachers and aides have found that the Wii allows students with physical disabilities to participate in sports in ways they may not have been able to before and it is considered an assistive technology. With certain adapters, such as wrist braces that hold the controllers, these students can participate in virtual sports that would have been nearly impossible for them to participate in otherwise. These games can help them develop their balance, concentration, and hand/eye coordination. It can also help them develop their problem solving, communication, and reasoning skills.
As with anything else, the Wii has its pros and cons. Its drawbacks are the limited number of players, up to four remotes, but the Wii can be used in small groups or with the whole class in teams. Some of the games can create a winner/loser atmosphere, but, if I’m being honest, kids need to learn how to be gracious winners and loser so that may actually help their social skills. Some of the games can be expensive, but not every classroom needs its own copy of the game. A few copies can be kept in a central location and checked out by teachers for a class period.
And what are the benefits of using the Wii? It’s very interactive, it gets kids moving and active and out of their seats. This is especially good for students who may have an issue sitting still or staying focused for long periods of time. Students are already familiar with the Wii gaming system and, therefore, it will not take too long to teach them how to use it and they will already be excited about it. It will also promote other social skills, such as taking turns, interactive responses, and language. Finally, the Wii can expand lessons. It allows students to go on virtual field trips to places that would be impossible to go to otherwise, such as with the Endless Ocean game or the Wild Earth game.
Aside from these pros, the Wii also has educational value. The interaction and student-led challenges allows students to discover and learn on their own. Teachers can use it to inspire student learning and creativity. Teachers can also use some of the challenges and games as formative assessments without the students even realizing they are being assessed.
But, of course, this wonderful technology is not free. Its monetary costs can be found on the Nintendo website. It’s relatively cost effective. The starter kit contains the console, one remote, one Nunchuk, two games, sensor bar, and connecting cables and costs $129.99, extra remotes cost $39.99, and extra Nunchuks cost $19.99. Obviously there are most costs other than monetary costs. Teacher training will be minimal since most are already familiar with it and it’s a fairly simple system to learn. Set-up includes installing the consoles and syncing the remotes to the consoles and up-keep is installing the free updates Nintendo creates every so often and replacing broken equipment.
Having given all this information one of the most important questions left unanswered, is it user friendly? Incorporating new technology is not effective or productive if it’s difficult to use. No one will know how to use it and, therefore, it will go unused and all the money and time will be wasted. And the answer is yes, the Wii is very user friendly. It’s user friendly for teachers, students of all ages, and students with disabilities. It can be hooked up to any TV or other device with AV outlets. It also has a short prep time, which it very important. All teachers would need to do is turn on the console and remotes, switch the input on the TV or projector (if necessary), insert the game and press play.
If a school decides to purchase the Wii, it needs to last, right? Well the Wii is the most reliable gaming console on the market according to Edge and it has a lifespan longer than four years and it’s still improving.
But what are teachers saying about it?
“They are giddy with excitement when they walk into the room and see the Wii set up. Their aural skills are improving with every lesson, and they have developed rhythmic and improvisational skills as well.”
– Eileen Jahn, music teacher at St. Philip’s Academy in Newark, N.J. “Teachers invite ‘Wii Music’ into the classroom” by Kristin Kalning
“Children spend a lot of their classroom time following specific directions — what to read, what to do — and very little time … actually expressing themselves in the arts. Some can be shy to come forward and actually sort of jump in and try something, but if anything is presented to a child in the form of a game, it’s going to be much more student-friendly or kid-friendly. For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be a fear there.”
– Helen Krofchick, music teacher at Doby’s Mill Elementary School in Lugoff, S.C. “Teachers invite ‘Wii Music’ into the classroom” by Kristin Kalning
“I think that every classroom should have a console. … The children become excited, engaged and wrapped up in their learning. They want to do well, they want to find out more, sometimes they don’t even realise the learning that is taking place because they are so immersed in the places we can take them. They invest in the learning that is going on because the return is something they understand and appreciate.”
-Tom Barrett, teacher “Consoles for Classrooms” from blog edte.ch by tombarrett
“As well as helping with their problem solving and mental maths skills, I think [Big Brain Academy] is very good for schools because of the group/collaborative skills it engenders.”
-Teacher, “Big Brain Academy Cathkin Learning Community…” from blog Mimanifesto – Jaye’s weblog
I am strongly in favor of schools incorporating Wii consoles into their classrooms and teachers incorporating them into their lessons. They are user friendly, cost effective, interactive, and inspire independent student discovery and learning.
(Photo Credit: http://www.blogcdn.com/www.engadget.com/media/2009/06/black-kuro-wii-juni-4,-2009.jpg)