Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tech Wednesday: Wii Fit

This tech Wednesday is about an interesting new (ok relatively new) piece of hardware, the Nintendo Wii. I have read on other blogs and podcasts about the Nintendo Wii as any of you may have in the past and its possible applications in education. The possibilities are numerous from music education to physical education, and many others in-between. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first but now that I have played it for awhile and also worked with the Wii Fit I am starting to see many applications in the educational arena.

The two curricular areas that I see the Wii fitting into easily are music education/appreciation and physical fitness. Both would require up front purchases of additional hardware to use but I think would be sound investments in grabbing students' attention and keeping it. In the music arena you have the various Rock Band games that are a huge rage with most kids. Now I know that some of you music purists may say it is not the same as playing the real thing and I would agree, but what if… I am no music expert but if you had it at the younger ages or maybe the middle ages as a way to get kids to be interested in music or help to build an appreciation for music? Other thoughts I had were using it to have contests to see who is better at said instruments, a person who plays the actual instrument or one who plays just the Wii instrument? What about using it as your reward for practicing the real instruments? For each hour practiced at home the student gets x amount of time on the Wii at school. Or how about working with Nintendo or software companies to develop "games" that are more realistic and using them to help students gauge their interest in instruments?

On another side is the Wii fit and physical education. I have been personally using the Wii fit since getting one for my wife and I for Christmas. I have found that it is more motivating with the data tracking and little tidbits of advice that any fitness magazine or trainer has ever been for me. But then again that is the generation I belong to, the video game generation (or so I like to think). The Wii fit uses weight and height to figure out your BMI, not very accurate but accurate enough for fitness armature like myself. It then goes one to use that info and some basic balance tests to determine your Wii Fit age. This age can be older or younger depending on how coordinated and how much body control you have. Now I know that both of these are unscientific but hey it is a video game, and that is where I think the power of it comes in it is a game that can be motivating to kids.

Included in the Wii Fit package is the balance board and basic software. The software has all the data collection tools as well as some basic yoga and strength exercise in addition to balance and aerobic games. At first site these games may seem childish or easy but from the first time you play them you find that it requires some bit skill to master them. I have found that some tend to be a bit off of the actual activity, for example the downhill skiing. Being a downhill skier I know there is more to skiing than just using your hips to turn and leaning forward or back to control speed (which are the only controls you have in the game). What I am saying is that if you think you can be an expert downhill skier after mastering it on the Wii fit you are in for a big shock, but it will help you learn and tweak your balance. How I see this being used in schools is mainly as either a motivation tool to get kids up and active who are not normally active or interested in PE or as an introduction to fitness goal setting and tracking.

I welcome your comments on this issue and would love to hear of ways you may be using the Wii in your school and/or classroom.

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