The Technology Analysis Project

For the past few weeks our W210 class has been researching several technologies that could be incorporated into schools and classrooms. I explored the Wii (and you can check out my presentation or my blog here). There were of course many other technologies explored, such as the iPads and the Kinect which I blogged about earlier. There were some other interesting ones like Oculus Rift, Wacom Tablets, green screens, and Lego Robotics to name a few. There was a vast variety of technology including hardware and software, free programs and costly items, single-user and group focused technology. 

Completing this project took a lot of work. I had to first research the Wii and figure out what was available for it. I also needed to find blogs and real life experiences of teachers using this in their classroom. I also wanted to include video into my presentation so the audience could see how the Wii was being used and give an example of what the games looked like so I need to collect videos as well. Once I gathered all of my information, I needed to condense it into a 7 minute presentation, which was a lot harder than I anticipated. I felt like I had a lot of information to share. 

When we did our group meetings, I felt like they went really smoothly and everyone had something to contribute. I think it was great that most people were willing to compromise and see the perspectives of someone else. For example, I really thought the Wii was a great addition to the classroom and I definitely recommended it, but I ultimately thought the Kinect was a better purchase for a school because it doesn’t require the use of remotes.

I learned a lot during this experience. I learned all about blogs because I had to create several and find some to back up my argument. I also learned how to use prezi. I’ve never created my own before so learning how to do that was a challenge but I figured it out. As far as what I learned about other technologies, I found out that many different technologies, if not all of them, can be use in a classroom. It’s all about how you think about it and how you can adapt it. 

I will definitely be using technology in my classroom. I think it’s a great tool to expand student learning and get them involved with the material instead of just lecturing it at them. They can really immerse themselves in the learning process. Technology can be used to expand the lessons and take students to places they’ve never been and never even thought of going. 

Review of Kinect in Education

The Wii and Kinect for XBox are very similar technologies. Both use body movements to control the devices and both are very productive tools to use in the classroom. Learn about the Wii in the classroom in one of my earlier posts and read Danielle Sherman’s blog to get all the details about the Kinect.

kinect

Unlike the Wii the Kinect is controlled solely through motion sensors; there are no remotes. Danielle originally thought that would cause problems but she ended up being very impressed with it. She also couldn’t believe all the educational value it had. Reasons it should be used in the classroom are as follows:

  • versatile between grades and subjects
  • engages students and promotes participation
  • physical activity
  • incorporates all learners (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)
  •  multipurpose in and out of the classroom
  • cost effective
  • user friendly for teachers and students

As with anything it has its drawbacks:

  • only up to 4 kids can control the device
  • not good for controlling a desk top (mouse is more effective)

In my opinion, the Kinect would be a very beneficial addition to any classroom. All students in all subjects could benefit from these interactive games. Interacting with the information during the games helps reinforce student learning and they learn without realizing it because they’re having so much fun. But, would I recommend this technology over the Wii? Yes, the majority of benefits and drawbacks are the same, so why would I pick the Kinect over the Wii? Basically, it boils down to the remotes, or lack there of. Not having remotes is a benefit because it’s one less extra part. You don’t have to buy more remotes or replace them if they get broken. Plus it makes it easier to involve more students because nobody has a remote and everyone feels like they are involved in the game not just the privileged student, or students, who get to hold the remote.

(Photo Credit: Kinect Sensor at E3 2010 (front) by James Pfaff)

Review of iPads for Education

Many schools are starting to use iPads in the classrooms. Danielle Kowalewicz investigated this technology and gave her opinion on it. Check out her blog to form your own opinion!

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The use of technology is increasing at a fast rate and Apple is the most popular brand on the market. Schools should go with their products so students can stay current and use technology they already know how to use and are excited about. There are many benefits to using the iPad in schools and some of them are:

  • creativity
  • student engagement and participation
  • virtual field trips
  • presentations
  • special education and students with disabilities

And of course as with anything it has some drawbacks:

  • difficulty keeping students on task
  • single-user
  • security
  • updating
  • poor networks in schools

Of course iPads are also expensive and so are the accessories that go with them. This means that most school will not be able to afford to get them for every student.

I feel that purchasing at least one class set of iPads is beneficial for the students. This allows them to use the apps and get the benefits of the virtual field trips and interactive apps and it limits how off tasks the students get since they won’t have an iPad at all times. The iPads are considered assistive technology and students with disabilities should be able to get grants to have their own iPads.

(Photo Credit: http://files.softicons.com/download/computer-icons/ipad-2-icons-by-krdesign/png/512×512/iPad%202%20White.png )

Wii for the Classroom

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.

black wii

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)