A few educators have contacted me in the past and said that they would really like to use Nintendo Wii and other gaming consoles in their classrooms but didn’t know how to get started with it. Here is the approach I used to introduce GBL using consoles and commercial off the shelf games to the students and the school community. I hope that this will assist teachers in introducing GBL into their classrooms.
A good place to start is to get permission forms from all your students’ parents to cover the use of PG Rated games at school. This covers you for when you want to try games like Buzz of Oz on PS2, which is great for units on Australia but is PG rated. Also Guitar Hero for Wii is PG Rated, as are a number of the Mario games. In three years of using consoles in the classroom I have not experienced any issues with gaining parental permission for the use of PG rated games.
Next, I would start incorporating general knowledge games such as TV Show King Party (Wii)
as one of your literacy rotation activities. This does several things:
1. Gives the students a chance to get over the “OMG we’re playing Wii at school” feelings (much excitement in the beginning).
2. Gets students used to working on other activities and not being distracted while others play on the Wii – this may take some time, but I told them I would take the Wii home if it detracted from their learning instead of assisting it (and I did take it home once!) and the students just got used to it.
3. Enables you to see and hear very clearly how students interact within team settings – I was astounded with how clear that was to me after only one session. Great for writing their reports!
From there, when the students get used to the Wii as part of their routine and are able to identify their learning across several learning foci when playing the game (eg. learning a random fact and linking it to prior knowledge, Venn Diagrams comparing characters, approaching a game as a text (which it is), researching unknown terminology in a game etc) and can articulate their learning during share time, then I would move into more in-depth units such as the Mario Kart writing unit
I have found that if it is clear to students that they are playing to learn, and that they are expected to articulate their learning, then students approach a game with learning in mind and that they can come up with some pretty amazing discoveries about content, themselves and others.