More of Nintendo DS in Literacy

5/6B have continued to explore the use of Nintendo DS in Literacy for the duration of this term, with really interesting results. Students have continued to bring in their own Nintendo DSs and games to use in class, and have been happy to lend their DS to others when needed. There has been no damage to DSs or games, and no property has gone missing, as students have always taken the greatest care with the property of others.

We have been able to work with certain learning foci when using the DSs with different games all at once, because we don’t have a class set of games and there is no game that all of the students have. I have found this to be a challenge and feel limited in the depth of learning that can occur for students without the same game for each student. At this stage we have done a lot of work with comparing and contrasting characters (with links to books, movies, websites) and vocabulary.

When we began the trial I found that student responses when looking at characters were a bit shallow, and students spent time describing what characters wore and who they talked to. Students were not thinking about why a character behaved a certain way within the games they were playing. My thought is perhaps this is because the character is controlled by the player. I encouraged students to make links with characters who appeared in multiple media formats, such as Harry Potter, and use previous knowledge to enhance the depth of the characters in the game. I also found that students were not aware of the back stories of well-known characters such as Mario and Luigi (did you know that their names are Mario Mario and Luigi Mario? I felt I should’ve known that, given they are the Mario Brothers, but I’d never made that connection). I showed students the official Nintendo website and some interesting details came from that. Students really loved sharing this new-found information with the grade and it led to some “OMG really?” moments as well as increased depth of character analysis from students.

Another focus that developed through the limitation of not having a class set of games was comprehension of the text within games. Students were presented with a number of unknown words within an unfamiliar context (eg wizarding world) but were able to play the game without fully understanding the text. One exception to this was when one student played Nintendogs but did not give the dogs food or water because she did not know the meaning of famished or parched. Another student suggested that famished meant hungry, making a link to the word famine, which had generated discussion during another literacy activity last term. There have been many links like this during the use of DSs in class, and students have become adept at making these links in all areas of their learning, something they could not do at the beginning of the year.

Students have developed the ability to think laterally when seeking information about a text. Students move around the classroom when seeking word definitions and details about characters; they grab dictionaries, ask someone if they have dictionary apps on their iPod Touch, ask to borrow my iPad, use a school netbook or desktop, ask someone in the grade. Rarely, and usually as a last resort, they will ask me and I will direct them to some other source of the information they need.

So far I have learned that the use of DS in Literacy is inherently engaging and exciting for the students, and has enabled them to develop skills in research, lateral thinking, character analysis, looking beyond the surface, making text-to-text links and more. Fears held by some staff and parents that property would be damaged or stolen have not been realised, and students have shown that they are responsible with the DSs.

The problem for me is where to go next with this? I have self-funded all of the gaming consoles in the classroom (Wii, PS2, xbox360 plus a DSi and 3Ds with several games) and I cannot afford to purchase class sets of games. My students are not the only ones developing their skills in thinking laterally!

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