Using a Wii in the classroom.

wii-teachI’m not a skeptical sort. I’m up for most things in life and as an educator I believe in the same guideline, otherwise I’d be still doing everything on my blackboard. That’s not to say it isn’t useful but with the technology we have today and some literally at our fingertips i.e. samrt table we would be foolish not to embrace it.

So, I decided a while back to try out a Wii as a possible teaching/learning tool in the classroom and you can judge for yourselves if it’s of educational value or not.

(The first point for example is quite debatable but must be mentioned)

Fine Motor Skills such as hand-eye coordination and manipulative finger skills.

The Wii controller isn’t difficult to use but it is difficult to master. Slight variations in its movement can result in wayward golf swings and poor bowling techniques resulting in poor results in a game. So you want to do better and that improves the control. Children as young as 3 use Wiis at home without much trouble; the younger sister of a student I gave private classes to constantly amazed me at her skill at using the Wii controller. She was 4 at the time and had no prior training apart from her older brother showing her how to use it, yet she was always better at bowling than I was.

Cognitive skills.

The Wii’s is first and foremost a games console and there are many, many games. But are any of an educational value? Do any help learning or provide a teaching resource? Enter ‘World of Goo‘.

Okay. I know I might be going out on a limb a little by applying World of Goo to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive skills but playing computer games does have its merits and I for one will not sit idly by and listen to scaremongering advising against them.

Applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to ‘World of Goo’

  • will it fall  or will it hold? This is the entire essence of World of Goo and using Gooballs to advance through the game all of which is based on prior gameplay (learning) Evaluation
  • players need to combine, rearrange and create gooball structure in order to proceed through the game  Synthesis
  • identification of similar problems and use of previous solutions to solve new games and levels  Analysis
  • solve games to advance to the next level  Application
  • understand the levels difficulties through reading of signs, describe to others what they need to do  Comprehension
  • recall of levels and high scores achieved, ability to list and identify top players in class, label and name levels and identify problems contained within each  Knowledge

The World of Goo game is one that encourages learning as it requires thinking skills to overcome its problems. It is also a great game for collaborative team work. Throughout the game players are presented with various levels that increase in difficulty through solving the puzzles presented and the careful use of the controller to achieve this.

I have used prediction, explanation, description and evaluation activities with my class when playing the game.

What do you think will happen when..?

When you did that what happened?

What is your favourite level so far and why?

If you could design a level what would it involve?

The children also collected data for use in spreadsheet work, designed new levels by drawing and labeling, wrote descriptions about the game and even put gooballs into stories.

Geographical Understanding

The Wii comes with a Weather channel that allows the user to control the Earth by using the wii remote to search for world wide city weather reports. It’s instant and fun and provided the children in my class with a very visual and stimulating resource. It still does.

Current affairs

News is presented quite similarly to that of the weather channel and involves using the Wii remote to manipulate the Earth to find news in countries you choose.

My Opinion

After using a Wii in my class as a teaching and learning tool I have found that its uses are limited to certain functions. Some of the games are a lot of fun but you need to plan activities yourself if you wish to gain anything more than that.

The weather reports are excellent and I have yet to see anything that encourages my class to find out about the weather as much as using the Wii has. Yes there’s the BBC Weather Beta page but come on, spinning the Earth with your hand (albeit with a Wii remote) leaves that in the dust.

A Wii remote has other uses if you wish to try them out. I’d be particularly interested in hearing about anyone who has set up a low cost interactive whiteboard.

Kevin is still using his Wii in class and at home.