We spent New Years Eve at my house exhausting ourselves mostly at tennis and boxing, although there was bowling and blowing up bad guys, too. We were using the Wii, the game console from Nintendo. This is a significant media technology for several reasons. I spent a lot time awhile back talking about one of the things to be careful about when using computers for education–the lack of physical movement. This was not just about inactivity, it was about the way our brains evolved to learn. It learns with movement. We are a uniquely "handed" species (right handed or left handed). Why? Because our brains built in specialized channels. Movement adds data to concepts, so just as we hear better when there is a little background noise and decode better visually within context, more data is better for our brains. For ELL teachers, this is nothing new. When I was teaching in the ESL department of a middle school, total physical response (TPR) was a successful strategy for teaching language, math, and science.
So, enter the Wii. Suddenly, there is TPR for formerly thumb-driven games. There were always Donkey Konga and DDR, but because of the gyroscopic controller, Wii can be concept driven. What does this ultimately mean to teaching? Maybe the great brain games in COSMEO will include TPR, where students physically pluck adjectives from an incoming sky of words, or that Leon’s Math Dojo with have an TPR interactive boxing component for math. The learning would go deeper and faster, I predict. For the present, maybe the DEN experiment with tablet PCs and the Academy 123 authoring software will build in physical components. Who knows? Exciting to think about what this will mean for the classroom.
Observations over the weekend: Wii works for all ages. Girls seem much more drawn to it than they were to traditional consoles. Again, interesting to think about what this means for spacial intelligence kicking in. Although the Wii is Japanese, I wonder if it is not a pun on the Taoist tenet Wei, which means action. I can tell you this: John Dewey would have had one.
Last image: In the old days, I tried to find hardware that could show how mathematical concepts could be physical. I bought one of these coin changers. Experienced vendors could tell sums by weight and feel. But the Wii is more fun!
Next post: More useful things to do in a classroom with your video iPod, or ways to write-off a gadget…
Thanks to the wikipedia for links and image of Dewey.
Final holiday note: At a birthday party at Gary Stager’s house,Sylvia Martinez held up a blanket that author/artist Pete Reynolds made from a cellphone photo Gary had sent him. Pretty amazing, fun, and yet another thing to do with cell phone photography. Do a Google on "photo to blanket" if you want a killer present next year. Stager. Reynolds.