Gaming Devices

Various types of electronic devices typically used for entertainment purposes can be utilized in a carefully-planned and controlled learning environment. Modern gaming consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's Playstation are nearly ubiquitous throughout American households and many teens (especially boys) are accustomed to their use and operation. Recent computer telecommunication advances have allowed these machines to connect via the Internet to other users playing simultaneously throughout the world. Players can compete and collaborate with users across the street and across the globe with virtual ease.

Some researchers wonder if it is possible to harness this popular and user-friendly gaming technology and translate it to classroom learning. This issue presents a large challenge for educators and administrators, as the vast majority of software titles created for game consoles are intended for entertainment and/or recreation only. However, some titles allow simulations and interactivity. One program allows a user to connect a virtual guitar and hone his or her playing skills while being simultaneously scored by the gaming system. The key to bringing gaming device technology to the classroom successfully will be finding a relevant software title, perfecting the delivery method, and integrating that lesson as part of the larger class curriculum.

external image three-sixty-1.jpg
Xbox 360 game console and controller. From

Emphasis on Educational Uses

Researchers, since the time that video games have become popular, have been examining the effects that game playing has had on the development of the children that play them. Research has focused on questions such as does playing violent video games have an effect on the aggressiveness of the children playing them? or Can a person's eye-hand coordination be affected by video game play? Through the years the research has uncovered both positive and negative results of prolonged game play in our youth. What researchers could not deny was the fact that gaming devices where becoming increasingly more popular and common in children's lives. In 2005 the Federation of American Scientists and Entertainment Software Association held a Summit on Educational Games in which findings and recommendations were presented on the strengths and possible uses of video games in the educational environment. They point to the following as the strengths of the gaming medium in educational uses:
  • Clear Learning Objectives
  • Broad Experiences and Practice Opportunities
    • Fly through the environment, manipulate virtual equipment and manipulatives
    • Try over and over until mastery level obtained
  • Monitor Progress, provide continual feedback
  • Move to higher levels until mastery levels are obtained
  • Encourage Inquiry and questions
  • Contextual Bridging
    • Closes gaps between what is learned and its use
  • Time on Task
  • Motivation / Strong Goal Orientation
  • Scaffolding
    • Provids Cues and Hints to keep learner progressing
  • Personalization
  • An Infinitely patient medium
In addition the summit also identified learning that is amenable to educational games as follows:
  • Higher Order Skills
  • Practical Skills
  • Practice for high performance situations
  • Rarely used skills
  • Developing expertise
  • Team building
One of the recommendations of the summit was to provide funding for further exploration of gaming's use within educational confines. The summit outlined some of the areas that research and development could look at to increase games effectiveness for educational uses. The agenda for research and development into gaming that the summit pointed to included but was not limited to the role of games in learning, design and development of pedagogy for game-based learning, best features of games to apply to learning, features of challenges for motivation and learning, as well as stories and scenarios for motivation and learning, effect of immersion and engagement on learning, degree of authenticity, design of simulation, educational scoffolding, and assessment and learner modeling data.

Peripherals and Software

Of important note in regards to the educational use of gaming devices is the Dance Dance Revolution game. This game, which utilizes a floormat for controls, allows players to dance along with colored patterns on screen. Wikipedia had this to say about DDR in schools:
"At the start of 2006, Konami announced that the DDR games would be used as part of a fitness program to be phased into West Virginia's 756 state schools, starting with its 103 middle schools, over the next two years.[6] The program was conceived by a researcher at West Virginia University's Motor Development Center. Caltech allows its students to use DDR to fulfill its physical education requirements, as students may design their own fitness program. [7]
Brandeis University also has a physical education class based on DDR. Some schools, like Churchville-Chili High School located in Churchville, New York, as well as Hollidaysburg High School in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, have also added DDR as a choice in physical education for the students, although other schools, while initially offering the program, abandoned it due to lack of interest."

Another possibility on the horizon for using gaming systems in physical education is the Nintendo Wii. This gaming system has a new controller type compared to those of previous systems. This controller is wireless and requires more activity on the part of the player than previous gaming systems. The problem of software development with educational value will still exist, but the Wii could be used for interactive simulations and gaming that would develop gross motor skills and increase cardiovascular activity.