“Wii!” ‐‐ The Nintendo Wii as Emerging Educational Technology Cathleen Coyle Randall T561: Emerging Educational Technologies Chris Dede January 11, 2009
Nintendo’s Wii is a gaming platform introduced on the market in November, 2006, to much
buzz. It’s unique feature is controls which use accelerometer technology to allow the user to make natural motions in real time (no frantic tapping on a keyboard) to control the digital reality portrayed on the user’s TV. As such, the system is “plug and play” and relatively easy to use. Since the Wii’s introduction it has grown in popularity and applications. The Wii has a strong market share and has sold many units since its introduction; it is usually sold out on primary markets and looks to be that way in time for the holiday season of 2008. Despite complaints by critics that the Wii is short on applications and power, the Wii’s popularity continues to be strong. Furthermore, in the two years that the Wii has been on the market, it has become the focus of applied research and a search for greater applications. Also, because the Wii is now so well‐known by the general public, other, similar applications of the technology and of the concept of using motion as an integral part of a digital simulation, as game or as learning device, have become part of the larger marketplace as well. The uses and the undergirding educational philosophy of the Wii make it a potential disruptor of current education, once adoption becomes widespread. Given that research on, applications for, and allied technology like the Wii are increasing in number, that disruption may be underway, but conflicts of educational philosophy (whether gaming is learning, if movement important to cognition and learning, whether learning is about content or process) could prove the ultimate barrier to adoption of the Wii throughout schools. WHAT IS THE WII?
History of development
The Nintendo Wii is a gaming appliance that allows users to play a variety of games and some
other applications. The Wii features a motion sensing remote controller that allows users to user
natural body motions to control items on the screen during applications. This freedom from constantly clicking the keyboard is the Wii’s comparative advantage over other systems. The motion sensing appeals to more users and provides greater application potential.
Nintendo released the Wii in December, 2006 to great fanfare. It was a hit for the holiday sales
season and was soon hard to find (Wii Wiki). In the two years since, the Wii has grown in games and applications. i Nintendo has taken steps to create greater programming for the Wii – they have released greater information on the project itself, including videos with the creators as well as provided source information to potential programmers. In December, 2007 a group announced that they had hacked the Wii system and made open source information, “wii‐ware”, open to any and all (Kuntz, 2007). As a result more programming applications are becoming available. ii At the same time, the lack of available consoles is reducing the system’s impact on the market (Morris, November 18, 2008). Nintendo seems to be dominating the market, however, as it sold in the U.S. 803,000 units of the controller while second‐place Xbox 360 sold only 371,000 (Schilling, November 14, 2008).
How it works
The Nintendo Wii is a game console that plugs into a user’s existing television. Discs for games
or other applications load into the console. The most famous component is the Wii remote – a handheld controller that looks a lot like a TV remote. It is commonly called the “Wiimote.” The remote has an infrared projection on the front, which sends data from the accelerometer and gyroscope on the inside of the remote. As explained by Marshall Brain (n.d.) the Wii remote has “The controller contains solid‐state accelerometers and gyroscopes that let it sense:
Tilting and rotation up and down
Tilting and rotation left and right
Rotation along the main axis (as with a screwdriver)
Acceleration up and down
Acceleration left and right
Acceleration toward the screen and away The surprising thing is that you can create an accurate and natural user interface this way.”
The accelerometer and gyroscope converts the motion of the remote into data, which is then
projected as algorithms to the system and then used to create code which is incorporated into the program being run. The remote also has a “rumble pack” which is activated by the interface and lets the user know when an item on the projection screen is “live.” The remote has function buttons, not unlike other traditional controllers. There is a button to activate the system; it also serves as “the trigger” to start or stop motion. There are arrow keys to move the avatar or other items on the screen. On the underside of the controller there is a trigger. Up to four separate controllers may be used at a time. There is also an additional controller, the Nunchuck, which can be plugged into the Wiimote. This allows for joystick‐like actions, and for two‐handed control by one player. Additional controllers of two different types can be used. There are adaptive devices, official and unofficial, for the controllers; for example, a holder to convert the remote into a “gun” (as known as the Wii Zapper). In addition to the Wiimote and Nunchuck, there is also the Wii Balance Board, used in the WiiFit package. Sensors in the board allow the user send additional signals to the system.
The Wii system is relatively easy to install and use, which accounts for some of its appeal. There
is a sensor strip to be placed at the top or the bottom of the television; it picks up the signals from the remote. The console connects to the input of the TV via color‐coded jacks on the cables. An
applications disk is put into the console; it initializes. The remote is then synchronized with the console and the application. It took less than fifteen minutes for this household to connect this system and play Wii bowling. There are additional downloadable applications as well ‐‐ news, weather, Miis (customized avatars for Wii). Nintendo plans to offer additional channels to the Wii network.
Actually playing Wii games is pretty simple to start, but takes a little time to improve. Anyone
who can hold a remote and read the on‐screen directions can play. The system itself takes a little time to “learn” the player’s motions (create an algorithm). The player and the Wii system have to adapt to each other (correlating human motion in a simulated world). In Wii bowling, for example, the player “throws” the remote in the same fashion as a real bowling ball (except for the wrist‐strap, which is vital in Wii if one prefers to keep one’s television screen intact), only releasing the B button in order to release the ball, but lateral motion (body placement) is controlled by using control arrows on the remote and the player has no control at all over front to back movement. The avatar does go forward and back, even jumps up and down for joy, but the full‐body movement from the player does not translate onto the screen. The timing of response is something of an issue in some programs as well. In Wii tennis, there are some unnatural lags between taking a stroke and seeing a hit, which are disconcerting to a player and affect the outcome of the game. Thus, there is motion sensing, but within the constraints of more typical video gaming.
WHY DOES THE WII APPEAL? Not hard‐core gamer market
The Nintendo Wii has surprising attraction to non‐traditional gamers: new to computer games,
younger and older players (including senior citizens), and females. Each of these subgroups are
important as greater appeal should leader to greater use, and greater use could lead to the critical shift of the Wii being a disruptive technology.
New to the computer game market players find the Wii attractive. Sources show that the Wii
attracts new players outside the usual group of 18 to 34 year‐old male hard‐core gamers (Acohido, 2007).
Players in a wide range of age groups are using the Wii. Significantly senior citizens are finding
the Wii easy to use and appealing. (See experiences of Sebastien Kuntz, December 16, 2006). A number of senior citizen centers have integrated the Wii into their programming as a low‐impact form of exercise that is entertaining (Snider, 2008). In the United States, with the growing number of Baby Boomer retirees, this market has the potential for tremendous growth, both for purchase and for additional application development. Marketing firm Zanthus estimates about 13% of children younger than age 12 are using the Wii (Davies, 2008). A Kaiser Family Foundation survey “found that half of all 4‐ to‐6‐year‐olds had played video games, and one in four played several times a weeks” (Parker‐Pope, 2007). Elementary students also are playing with the Wii – special games are being developed for them (Davies, 2008). As these children mature, they will bring their familiarity and expectation of use of the system with them, which in turn increases the growth potential of Wii use and, possibly, ultimate disruptive potential as the technology becomes ubiquitous.
The Wii seems to appeal to girls as well. Perhaps it is because of the ease of play but also
because Wii games allow for social interaction. A reporter in Nevada found that girls liked playing games like Guitar Hero or the Sims, which allowed them “to be competitive and spend time with others” (Houge, 2008). According to a 2004 study by Michigan State University’s Comm Tech Lab, girls preferred games that are simulations, allowed for role‐playing, and “emphasize hand‐eye coordination” rather than first‐person shooter games (Houge, 2008).iii Mark Bell, a researcher at Ball State University (Indiana) agrees, “’The biggest three complaints people have about video games are they are violent,
not communal and sedentary…And the Wii conflicts against all of those—most of the games are kid‐ oriented, and they have more E‐rated games than any other consoles. Those three major criticisms are superseded by the Wii instantaneously.’” (Lehman, 2007).
The Wii appeals to areas of the market not previously used – this bodes well for the
technology’s future. Ease of use
The Wii is simple to install and use; plus it has a variety of applications already easily available.
In the informal test of home installation, Spouse had the system up and running in under twelve minutes. Others have noted the ease of installation of the Wii system as well. As the New York Times reporter Seth Schiesel reported earlier in 2008, the simplicity of “plug and play” makes the Wii attractive to users, especially ones who are not “traditional” video game players: young men who intensively game. Instead, the Wii “has helped to forge a new audience for gaming among families, women and older people, who had been turned off by the complex, violent and solitary adventures that once dominated the market” (Schiesel, 2008). Making the Wii accessible and attractive to “all members of the family” was one of the design team’s goals (Nintendo, Part II, Part III, 2008). Researchers Pearson and Bailey (2007a, 2007b) explain it this way: “The Nintendo Wii is one of the latest generation of video games consoles and incorporates a number of innovative features designed to target a broader demographic of users than other gaming systems. The most distinguishing feature is its wireless controller, the Wii Remote; this contains a sensor which can detect motion and rotation in three dimensions. This is not based on the traditional gamepad controller design, but instead assumes a one‐handed remote control‐based design. This was done to make motion
sensitivity more intuitive, as a remote design is fitted perfectly for pointing and to make the device seem more familiar to the non‐gaming public. It allows players to control elements of the game, such as swords or tennis rackets, by pointing at their television and moving their arm and hands.”
The number of commercially available games is also part of the Wii’s appeal. The applications
available for the Wii are growing in number. The popularity of Wii Music, Guitar Hero, Wii Fit, Wii Sports, as well as games based on movies, show the diversification of the Wii system. The growth of application categories is another important way in which the Wii could become more ubitiquous.
Motion is different
Another way in which the Wii system is unique is its use of motion sensing. Motion is important
in several ways.
One, motion appeals to more basic parts of the brain. As such it is attention grabbing and
instinctive in its use. According to one gaming blogger, the motion of the Wii involves the emotions of the player and force the mind and body to interact (Jonah Lehrer, November 16, 2006). He cites brain research by famous neurocognitive scientist Antonio Damasio to support his claim, which does make it more convincing. iv Certainly, brain research points both to the importance of the motion centers in the brain (Banich, 2004) and the significance of motion capturing attention and playing a role in cognitive function (see Adzenato & Garbarini, 2004; Rizzolatti & Sinigaglia, 2008; Beilock et al., 2007).
Also, motion sensing has been an area of computing not much used in gaming or other
applications until the Wii. It is novel and an innovation. It frees the user from “gamer’s thumb.” It opens the possibility of new ways to interact with the technology.
Finally, the push for natural motion means that human‐computer interface becomes more
“natural” and easy. The end result could be an experience not in virtual reality, but a reality in which the computer adapts to the user, thus changing the nature of the technological interaction. One of the developers of Wii Sports Kezio Ota explains, “The fundamental factor giving the game [Wii Tennis] depth comes from the fact that there is such a huge level of variation in the controls. So much in fact, that you could probably say it's impossible to hit the same shot twice” (Nintendo, 2008, Wii Sports: Part 4).
Of course, there are limitations to ‘natural motion’ use of the Wii remote. Dr. Julio Bonis of the
Research Group in Biomedical Informatics (Barcelona, Spain) commented on repetitive use strain particular to the Wiimote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine (Kim, 2007). This would be in addition to letting go of the remote and “(getting) smacked in the face when the wrist strap held” (Kim, 2007). Reviews of the Wii Fit note that it inhibits the “natural” jumping activity of some games, like ski jumping or jogging, because the board is not designed for that (Gudmundsen, 2008) or that if those using it must be visually “distracted” then the system itself won’t inspire a commitment to exercise (Mann, 2008).
For all of these reasons, the Nintendo Wii system presents a novelty in technology. It opens
possible changes (disruptions) in the gaming market, but also educational applications. RESEARCH Research studies using the Wii system are not numerous; this researcher found mention of roughly twenty studies, some of which are still in progress. Of these, the majority examines the Wii as an exercise system, although a few have more interesting foci. Wii as exercise
Most studies look at the effectiveness of the Wii system as an exercise and weight‐loss tool. The
most cited are three studies reported by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) at their 55th Annual Meeting in May 2008 (Rice, 2008; Hendry, 2008). In the first, Gregory Brown at the University of Nebraska‐Kearney measured heart rate and oxygen consumption of seventeen children (average age of 11) (Laino, 2008). He found that “[t]he kids burned two to three times as many calories when playing Wii Boxing and Wii Tennis than when engaging in traditional handheld video games” but did not burn more calories when playing Dance Dance Revolution (Laino, 2008). In the next, Viki Penpraze at the University of Glasgow (Scotland) worked with thirteen children, averaging ten years of age. She found that children watching a DVD or playing hand‐controlled video games burned no more calories than reading, but when playing active video games (Dance Mat Mania and Eye Toy Boxing) “they burned two to three times as many calories as during the sedentary activities” (Laino, 2008). The third study had Sanne de Vries in the Netherlands studied six gaming systems; the greatest caloric burn came from Wii Tennis and Eye Toy Beach Volleyball (Laino, 2008). The general agreement of the studies is that some exercise is better than none, even if not all games/gaming systems are equal.
American Council on Exercise (ACE) followed these studies with additional research from the
University of Wisconsin‐La Crosse (ACE, 2008; Anders, 2008). Researchers John Porcari and Karel Schmidt worked with eight men and eight women, between 20 and 29 years, using Wii Sports to determine the system’s impact on their heart rate and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) (Anders, 2008). While all of the games elevated the measures, and resulted in caloric burn, only the Wii Boxing kept rates in the range recommended for cardio respiratory fitness. Furthermore, the Wii sports games, when compared to actual sports, were not as intense as exercises (where the whole body is used). The study gives extensive numeric data to support its conclusions. Thus, simulating actual sport movement when playing the Wii, or playing the actual sport, was recommended. However, playing the Wii was
greater exercise than playing traditional video games (Anders, 2008). ACE is also studying the effectiveness of Wii Fit (Anders, 2008).
A “small British studies” from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool
John Moores University investigated the exercise value of the Wii. This resulted in two papers: Graves, Stratton, Ridgers, and Cable’s “Comparison of energy expenditure in adolescents when playing new generation and sedentary computer games: cross sectional study” (2007) in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and Graves, Ridgers, and Stratton’s (2008) “The contribution of upper limb and total body movement to adolescents’ energy expenditure whilst playing Nintendo Wii” in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. The first studied five girls and six boys, aged 13 to 15, who were team athletes and video game players. The teens played XBOX 360, a sedentary game, and three active Wii sports games (bowling, boxing, tennis) for fifteen minutes each and had their “energy expenditure” amounts taken for each activity, as well as their resting rate. Sparring in Wii boxing was the most effective, burning 40.1 calories/minute, as compared to XBOX 360’s 7.5 calories/minute and resting rate of 5 calories/minute. Boys burned more calories at Wii play than did girls. “Active gaming was at least 51% greater during active gaming than during sedentary gaming” (Graves, Stratton, Ridgers, and Cable, 2007). The conclusion notes, “Activity promoting new generation active computer games significantly increased participants’ energy expenditure compared with sedentary games, but not to the same extent as the authentic sports” (Graves, Stratton, Ridgers, and Cable, 2007). The second study was designed to address the commentary in the first study: that arm movement was not measured but was part of energy expenditure. Six girls and seven boys aged 11 to 17, who had played video games before, played XBOX 360 Project Gotham Racing 3 (inactive gaming) and Wii sports bowling, boxing, and tennis (active gaming). Heart rate and oxygen consumption, as well movement of each hip and hand (via accelerometer), was measured. Results paralleled the first study: Wii boxing, through its use of all limbs, had the most active users, at levels higher than sedentary activity, however it “only just exceed the cut‐
off for moderate intensity PA [physical activity], and, participation in active games that require total body movement, and authentic versions of the active sports uses substantially more energy” (Graves, Ridgers, and Stratton, 2008). It should be noted, however, that the 2007 study was funded by Cake Research, the marketing arm of Nintendo in the U.K. (Bakalar, 2008). This funding, and the simplicity of the research, has been criticized (Rice, 2007). The second study was funded by Neighbourhood Renewal Fund of the Liverpool City Council and served to address the critiques (Graves, Ridgers, and Stratton, 2008).
Other studies of the Wii as an exercise system have found results similar to the ACSM, ACE, and
Liverpool John Moores results: that use of the Wii system is better than being a “couch potato” but is not quite as good as the “real thing” (although additional effort by the player helps to increase energy expenditure and the exercise’s effectiveness). Tania Taivassolo’s kinesiology lab at McGill University (Montreal, Canada) found that Wii Fit equates to “light physical activity with the potential to improve fitness among those new to exercise” but not the already fit (Barker, 2008). Cleveland State University (Ohio) student researchers compared Wii Boxing to actual punching bag boxing with thirty subjects, aged 18‐40 (CSU, 2008). Researchers were shocked that the punching bag workout burned only 28 calories more, a statistically‐insignificant amount (Benning, 2008). An actual boxer in Cleveland, who owns a Wii, believes that the difference is significant, and favors of the real thing (Cleveland.com, 2008). Other studies of “active video games” (which could include the Wii System but also DDR or EyeToy instead) have also shown that active gaming increases activity levels: a New Zealand study published in Pediatric Exercise Science, the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) in Pediatrics (American Academy of Pediatrics’ journal), the University of Texas at Austin in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (July, 2007 but data collected in 2002 and 2003, before the Wii) – the last focusing on the impact of video games on other activity—all found similar results (Parker‐Pope, 2007). It looks as though the Mayo Clinic will be running a study on the Wii Fit to examine its usefulness as an exercise
system (Parker‐Pope, 2007). At the University of Derby in the UK, the TANITA Healthy Weight Community Trust has funded a study “to see if young children can lose weight or improve their health by using the Nintendo Wii” (Maxconsole.net, 2008). v
The Wii’s application as an exercise system is the more fully documented in the research. There
are other researched applications, however. Wii as intervention
In addition, research has begun on the applications of the Wii to rehabilitation and other
medical goals. The first category of these studies is general physical therapy. A University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) case study on the “Use of a Low‐Cost, Commercially Available Gaming Console (Wii) for Rehabilitation of an Adolescent with Cerebral Palsy” showed “’improvements in visual‐ perceptual processing, postural control, and functional mobility…after training” (Newswise.com, 2008). vi The researchers “believe they are the first published report of using the Wii for rehabilitation” ((Newswise.com, 2008). There is a study of senior citizens and Wii exercise as a form of intervention to counteract the effects of aging. Longwood University (Virginia)’s Department of Health, Recreation and Kinesiology measured Wii Bowling’s “effects on the lower extremity endurance and shoulder range of motion of the nine people, all whom has been diagnosed with arthritis” (Longwood University, 2008). The senior citizens bowled for two hours every Friday for two and a half months to show the effectiveness of Wii as rehabilitation and are being compared to a control group. The initial results look promising. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently has funded a twelve research projects though the University of California‐Santa Barbara’s Health Games Research Center, including one at the University of South Carolina to study “exactly how well the Wii and other games can help stroke victims
recover motor skills and overcome a fear of falling after their trauma” (Olsen, 2008). (They will compare the Wii to EyeToy.) The U.S. Department of Education has funded a study by Dr. Bruce Battles in Louisville, Kentucky to see the rehab potential of the Wii for brain injuries to see if the Wii can “improve their range of motion, social skills, and improve short term memory” (Rice, 2008b). The Medical College of Georgia has a study to see if Wii use can help Parkinson’s patients improve their motor skills (Medical College of Georgia, 2008; Snider, 2008).
The other major focus on the Wii as “intervention” is on shaping learners. Thus the
“intervention” is a novel way to achieve the desired results. For doctors in training Arizona State University famously has studied the impact of Wii gaming on surgical training (for sixteen residents) and found that the “Wii game players showed 48 percent more improvement in their surgical techniques than the non‐players” (Kullman, 2008). Mark Smith, director of the Simulation Education and Training unit at the Banner Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, site of the ASU study, “believes the Wii system allows physicians to improve these skills [hand‐to‐eye coordination and dexterity] even faster, because the console’s motion‐sensitive controller allows some games to require very precise hand movements, similar to those executed during surgery” (Vinas, 2008). Smith, and Kanav Kohol, are now designing Wii software to expand on surgical technique training (Reilly, 2008). vii
Or the “learners” can be younger groups of students who might not respond to traditional
“treatments” of educational curriculum. Research on the potential of the Wii to support disabled learners has been the focus of University of Teesside (UK) researchers Christopher Bailey and Elaine Pearson. Bailey and Pearson (2007a, 2007b) plan to look at Wii commercial game applicability for a variety of disabled students (and non‐disabled as a control) particularly autistic students through three types of activity: simulation of real life activities (Cooking Mama, Wii Play), online team games (Mario Strikers: Charged Football, Wii Sports), and adventure games (Wing Island). Their goal will be to look at the accessibility of the Wii console (as it does not require fine motor skills and is more naturalistic in its
movement, it has potential to be more accessible to students who rely more on gross motor skills), the ways the games can promote transferrable skills (communication, collaboration, and decision‐making) and physical skills, and to suggest further investigation as well as potential gaming design to educational/assistive contexts, especially through Wiiware online development. They expect to find that the “accessibility and engagement as well as the social aspects of gaming” hold great potential, especially for disabled students (Bailey and Pearson, 2007a, 2007b).
In these studies the Wii becomes a unique way to deliver content and process skills.
Wii as psychological tool
Finally, there are two studies that link the mind and the body, via the Wii. In these, the Wii’s
technology is a necessary component of what is studied, but not necessarily the focus of the research.
In the first use of the Wii as a psychological research tool, University of Memphis (TN)
psychologist Rick Dale has presented a study of 21 participants which show how the “interaction between cognition and action” can be understood through use of the Wii to gather data via the use of DarwiinRemote to have the Wiimote to interface with the computer (Dale, Roche, Snyder, McCall, 2008). viii As Dale explains, “The Wiimote is in fact the perfect interface to perform these kinds of experiments. As the game itself is already designed to absorbed a person’s body into the videogame experience, we just have to hook the Wiimote into a lab computer, and we can enjoy the rich streaming data that videogames typically use, but this time track them in experiments” (Gamer Blog, 2008). The results of Dale et al.’s (2008) research showed that “the dynamic characteristics of action reflect ongoing learning in a cognitive task.” The length of time it took for the arm to move, the time length of the motion, and the amount of motion of the Wiimote all pointed to the conclusion that the body expressed what the mind was doing (in this case, most people went to the “true” position before
choosing “false”, even when the correct answer was “false”). This study presents a model of how the Wii can be used as a research tool. An additional study presented by three graduate students at the 2007 International Workshop for the International Society for Presence Research ix showed “how the feeling of presence and self‐ presence while playing the Nintendo Wii affects the ability to perform on various multitasking tasks”; in particular, “Mii similarity and self‐awareness were found to significantly affect the participants’ feeling of self‐presence or presence, respectively” (Ratan, Cruz, & Vorderer, 2007). The Mii is a self‐created avatar in the Wii system; usually the player makes the Mii look like her/himself, hence the Mii creates self‐presence in the game where the player has presence via the game’s coordination of the player’s movement with the screen action. x Because, as the authors note, gaming often occurs during multitasking [and none so true for teenagers], presence becomes an issue of gaming design as well as psychological understanding (2). Thirty‐two females and thirty‐two males participated in the study at the University of Southern California. The study looked at avatar similarity/dissimilarity and subject self‐ awareness (real or virtual). Avatar similarity had a positive correlation with presence, while self‐ presence location affected ability to multitask (but inconsistently). The authors point to the need for further research and well as the potential usefulness of such study to future game design. By extension, I think, there could be applications for determining, and perhaps altering, the player’s psychological state, as well as training for multitasking (as opposed to sequential cognitive shifting, if that is possible‐‐ cognitive scientists argue against the concept of “multitasking” and instead explain that the popular concept is actually “rapid attention‐focus switching”).
Thus, research with the Wii is just beginning. At the same time, to have any studies completed
on a technology that is less than two years old is fairly amazing, and speaks to the accessibility, availability, and potential market saturation – and thus, disruptive potential—of that technology.
APPLICATIONS OF THE WII CURRENT
Currently the Wii System is best known for the games/applications that Nintendo itself
produces. However, there are ways in which the Wii System, especially the Wii Remote, is being taken into new applications. Exercise/Fitness/Weight Loss
The Wii is best known for its exercise/fitness/weight loss applications, especially with the Wii
Sports and Wii Fit packages, which are designed for just that. While the Wii isn’t the first system to attempt “exergaming” (Miller, 2008) it seems to be the most successful (Morris, 2008). And a home workout offers the benefits of being inexpensive, easy to get to, and private, despite its solitary nature (from friends and trainers) and the need to move the couch around the living room (Aubrey, 2008). Researcher Alasdair Thin (really his name!) at Heriot Watt University (Scotland) has found that hula hooping on WiiFit is aerobic exercise (Thin, 2008). An informal, study pool of one, by Mickey DeLorenzo showed the use of WiiSports over six weeks of a self‐imposed regime lead to 9 pounds of weight loss (Musgrove, 2007). Others have done the same, despite Nintendo’s initial conceptualization of the Wii as “entertainment, not exercise” (Musgrove, 2007). Using the Wii as exercise has been used at retirement centers across the nation, although the number is small it is growing (Batson Jr., 2007; Snider, 2008). As Nintendo is currently bringing out new exercise and active game applications for the Wii system, this area of the Wii’s use should continue to grow.
Video gaming is being used as an aid in medical therapy overall, including as way to help distract
patients during treatment. The Wii is being selected for its active application in the rehabilitation process. The use of the Wii seems to increase patient participation and self‐esteem, which bolster rehab success (Coyne, 2008). The social and fun aspects of the Wii seem to be key factors, as well as ease of use.
A variety of types of rehab are the focus of Wii application (Coyne, 2008, for an overview of the
Wii for PT). Groups for whom Wii uses have been developed are Parkinson’s Disease (Snider, 2008; Medical College of Georgia, 2008), cystic fibrosis (MGH; Coyne, 2008), cerebral palsy (newswise.com, 2008; Coyne, 2008; Schmidt, 2007), burn patients (Solomont, 2008; Weill Cornell Medical College, 2008), brain‐injury/wheelchair‐bound patients (Glen D., 2007a), spinal injury (Glen D., 2007b). “The movements necessary to manipulate the game were challenging yet not stressful,” explains one article (Glen D., 2007a). As one cancer patient explained, “What this game did for me was encourage me that I could still do these kinds of things…. I can see where people could really benefit from being able to interact without having [to] do to [sic] much physical interaction” (Schmidt, 2007).
Physical therapists, usually after seeing or using the Wii themselves, then develop applications
for the Wii for their client group. Although the Wii’s is being adopted for physical therapy and occupational rehabilitation without extensive research first, its potential is being more formally studied as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s recent grant attests. Why do this? According to occupational therapist Hector Romero at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, “The Wii has kind of sparked a nerve in the therapy world. It has set off a new age of electronic treatment” (Snider, 2008). The nickname given to this use of the Wii is “Wii‐hab.”
Autism is a special category of Wii use because its use combines physical and social skills, both
of which are concerns for those working with autistic students. At Patterson Mill Middle/H.S. in Baltimore (Maryland), teachers are using the Wii for physical education (“hand‐eye coordination and physical skills”) but also for social game playing (Fortin, 2008). As an advisor to the Autism Society of America argues, the Wii is an educational tool (a “reinforcer”) and helps with motor skill development, in part because of its ease of use and predictability (Fortin, 2008). Although students could suffer from overstimulation and/or becoming obsessed with the Wii, it is seen as generally a good thing for autistic students (Fortin, 2008). This sentiment is echoed in a number of public blogs by parents of autistic children. As one parent writes, “I’m a believer in Wii Therapy!!!!“(sic) because her child has learned to modulate his social interaction and sensory response by playing Wii Bowling, and seeing changes during gaming‐playing, classroom, and the actual bowling alley (Wurmser, 2008). xi If work continues in this area, the Wii could be extended into a classroom aid, and break into the educational market through this wedge, much like charter schools and other reforms have entered the educational market through meeting the needs of “non‐traditional” and underserved populations (Christensen, 2008).
Training in general (non‐sport fields)
Applications of the Wii, especially the remote, are being developed as training
applications/simulators. The use of Marble Mania as a means of training surgeons in fine motor skills has already been remarked (McNamara, 2008) and additional games may find additional application. There are other ways in which the “natural motion” of the Wiimote seems to be a ‘natural fit’ for other context simulation. David E. Stone, of WorldWired, a consultancy, and MIT is using Second Life and the Wiimote to design training simulators for Orkin pest control, power plant training, and other business applications (Mollman, 2007). The low cost, real‐life design, and display capabilities of Second Life seem
to lend themselves well to simulation. Users easily understand the Wiimote and they can make the motions they would use in the real‐life situation in the simulation (Mollman, 2007). Here is another instance in which the Wii system would grow its market share by appealing to those not already served by existing applications.
As one blog asks, “Where is the Wii for Education?” (Wilson, 2007).
The answer is, “Here and there, but the results are mixed.” There seem to be two main areas of application of the Wii in schools: physical education (PE)
classes and technology hacks (i.e., uses of Johnny Lee’s virtual whiteboard; see section below for additional discussion). Considering the Wii’s low‐cost and ease of use, as well as the “naturalness” of the physical movement, the Wii could have greater use in educational contexts than it does now. However, as the console itself has not been on the market for a short time, and as they are not yet many actual educational games (and educational games have a rocky history in classrooms), it’s not surprising that the Wii has seem small use in the past two years. Educators, for many reasons, are conservative, and budgets are tight.
That said, general use of the Wii is growing. Nintendo itself has its own “educational” game: Big
Brain Academy. xii This game, however, is more like a trivia contest and not truly “educational” in the sense of teaching people how to do things that are new to them. While it could be helpful in the rehabilitation context, such as with brain‐injured or Alzheimer’s patients, this Wii game is not educational in the traditional sense. However, as with other applications listed above, the ability of the Wii technology to serve groups not already in the educational gaming/education market, and the potential growth of the need for these applications as the large population of Baby Boomers age, hint that the Wii could increase its market share through these means.
The best single overview of the Wii’s educational potential is an Educause Learning Initiative
(ELI) white paper “7 things you should know about Wii” (ELI, 2008). The paper, although it contains no references or links to sources, is useful because it considers the significance of the Wii as well as its “implications for teaching and learning”; it also has a general overview of what the system is and the research/uses of it. As ELI argues, “the significance of the Wii lies more in the potential it offers for creation new devices and applications based on the location‐ and movement‐sensing ideas embodied in the system” (ELI, 2008). Not the games. Unfortunately, “(m)uch of the potential benefit, however, lies in creating application and devices that use Wii technology in novel ways, and these endeavors require the ways the Wii works and write new software for it. Although the hardware and materials for these projects are typically inexpensive, the other aspects of this kind of development are prohibitive for many users” (ELI, 2008). ELI sees fours potential uses of “the Wii and its underlying technology”: a teaching aid that lets physicality and motion be studied, a method of using learning situation‐specific authentic‐ movement, a way to incorporate additional learning styles into the classroom, and, a means (via the Mii) to have students emotionally invest in their own learning and make it richer (ELI, 2008). Each of these areas have been touched on by some of the few applications that exist, but none with consistent focus, and none with supporting educational research for use at the pre‐college level.
The Wii is being used in classrooms in a few ways. PE classes are beginning to adopt the Wii in
greater numbers, as in the Belmore South Primary School (Sydney, Australia) (Bruder, 2008). This includes special education classes (Lent, 2008). In other academic subjects, Wii games and technology are being adapted. At the Cumberland Elementary School (West Lafayette, Indiana) teachers are using Wii systems for weather and geography (via the Wii Internet channels), PE and math (Wii Bowling), logic and math (Big Brain Academy) (Weiris, 2008). These are more “plug and play” applications using the already existing capabilities of the Wii system. As such, this ease of use would encourage other teachers to build the Wii system into their curricula.
Two academic subject areas seem to be the most “natural” fit for the Wii system’s use of motion
sensing/accelerometer and already have some currently existing educational applications: physics, and music.
The “motion sensing capabilities of the Wii Remote would be ideal for a topic such as force,
including acceleration and parabolic motion due to their actions…The physical involvement with concepts that can be difficult for some students to grasp using pencil and paper or static images could really bring physics to life, “ writes one thoughtful graduate student. xiii Physics‐principle‐ based games such as “World of Goo” seem to be available for the Wii xiv but accounts of its classroom use are missing. A seventh‐grade science teacher Michael A. Breslow at Belhaven Middle School (Linwood, NJ) uses the Wii system “to teach physics concepts using real world situations” (NJEA, 2008). Breslow uses word problems based on Wii Play games examples (which the students write and send to each other to solve, via their Palm Pilots) and analysis of baseball pitches (first simulated on the Wii and then taken to the local minor league ballpark). He also uses the system as a “motivational tool” for his students.
Music applications are more plentiful, and probably will grow. Wii Music allows a student to
play a variety of instruments, as well as conduct an orchestra. Guitar Hero is the more active, and social, version of the game, albeit with more “specialization”. Training of the ear (pitch), rhythm, and basic conducting (tempo) can be easily taught, according to one music educator (Criswell 2008). At the same time, Wii Music can be overly simplistic in its approach to presenting music: while greater music appreciation and basic skills can be gained, those requiring more specialization, training, or fingers— such as actually playing instruments‐‐ will not (Brownstein, 2008, Naia, 2008). xv Wiimotes themselves can be used as musical instruments xvi – which means greater creativity in music creation and use of digital devices, if not musical skills training (Chen, 2007), although those of us who lived through the 1970s remember other technology as well as Laurie Anderson producing the same electronic music.
There is some incidental use of Wii games as a primary school mathematics activity as well
(NJEA, 2008; Barrett, 2008). The Wii system does have some ways in which the package, including games, is being used in the classroom. And the Wii system itself is being used as an incentive to bring in more users into educational settings: as a motivator within the classroom (a reward for doing other work) (NJEA, 2008) and to come to the public library (Gonzales, 2007). xvii The Wii system seems to be a good match for a number of educational subjects. Actual educational computer programs for the system have yet to be developed.
The more exciting uses of the Wii, however, come from the creative applications of the
technology itself and how these could be transformational in education and other pursuits.
Johnny Chung Lee of Carnegie Mellon University has posted on YouTube a series of videos of
how to use the Wiimote for a series of items that would be useful to use in the classroom‐‐ whiteboard, finger tracking, head tracking (virtual VR)—at a much lower cost than the progenitor technology (Business Week, 2008; Templeton, 2008). These ideas, especially the virtual whiteboard, have been adopted by teachers. As they comment in educational technology blogs, including Classroom 2.0, the word‐of‐mouth recognition and use of the Wii grows.
Additional uses for the Wiimote and the accelerometer/sensor technology could point the way
to new uses for the Wii, including classroom applications for the creative educator. There are applications for remote haptic control of computers and software applications, for example (Chen, 2007b; Mason, 2008). Additional remote control applications now include the Roomba (Chen, 2007b) and military robots (Marks, 2008). MIT’s Gambit Game Lab have developed a game that allows visions
impaired people to DJ music tracks in their AudiOdyssey via the Wiimote (Terdiman, 2008). Most interestingly, music composer Tom Tlalim has created an eight Wiimote body suit that allows him to become his own musical instrument (Rosenblum, 2008). These non‐classroom uses may or may not find their way into schools.
POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS OF THE WII
Because the Wii has only been on the market for two years, it is not surprising that there are
few educational applications for the system. However, as the sections on research and applications show, uses of the Wii are growing. Additional applications could be developed in the following areas. Sport‐specific training
The Wii Play games and sport‐specific games offer elementary training in a number of sports
and games. Furthermore, as the University of Arizona research on hand‐eye coordination training of surgeons demonstrates, Wii games could be used to cross‐train specific abilities useful in certain sports. As it currently stands, however, playing Wii games is not the same as training at high levels of sport‐ specific competition. Social relationship training
One of the goals of school is to build social awareness and cooperative learning skills in future
members of society. Many of the users of the Wii remark that the social/interactive nature of the games developed for the system is a beneficial feature, which distinguishes the Wii from other single‐ player systems. Nintendo has recently begun to capitalize even more on the social‐relational features of
the system, with “Wii Sound” where players can communicate through speakers while playing together at a distance (see television ads for Animal Crossing: City Folk). Wii Music and Guitar Hero feature group interaction. Because multiple controllers (up to four) and multiple Miis can be used at the same time, and because a number of the games demand cooperation rather than competition, the Wii is seen as a useful venue to teach social skills (Bruder, 2008). The same argument has been made for gaming in general (Yusuf, 2008). As Peter Moore, the president of EA Sports, says, “It’s a new digital playground that’s more social and authentic” (Irwin, 2008). 3‐D Academic Discipline Training
The motion and sensor technology employed in the Wii system, especially as the Wiimote is
being improved to provide more “3D” capability, seems a natural as a platform for learning. “Digital sculpting and surgical simulation” seem likely areas, according to one commentator (Walczak, n.d., 3). Academic disciplines that use motion, spatial dynamics, and tactical experience as “the stuff of learning” would be good fits for the Wii. These would include the arts (both performing and fine), math (geometry especially), science (physics in particular, but virtual chemistry experiments and virtual biology dissections), history (virtual fieldtrips), and archeology/anthropology (virtual digs, bioanthro reconstructions, fieldtrips to sites not otherwise accessible). Immersive, multisensory digital learning would enhance spatial learning, which in turn would increase comprehension and retention of knowledge connected to places and movement, such as an Egyptian temple (Jacobson, 2007, 250). Motion‐sensing as part of the simulation would be a great fit for all of these disciplines, although the Wiimote itself may not be the best tool to achieve these results (being not “natural” enough) its use in a simulation program could be a good intermediate step toward virtual reality (VR) educational simulations.
EXTENSIONS OF THE WII
The Wii system, especially the Wiimote, could be part of a growing market for motion‐sensing
technology. There are two ways in which the expansion – and therefore awareness of and demand for—the Wii and technology like it is occurring. The net result could be a disruption of the market (computer games and other technology). Same Technology, Other Applications The thing that gives the Wii its uniqueness is the use of the accelerometer (along with gyroscope, “rumble pack” and BlueTooth communication). The accelerometer has been around for a while, but the Wii system’s remote has given it a new popularity and market. The current problem with the Wiimote’s use of the accelerometer is the “lag time” between motion with the remote and its recognition by the system, especially as “natural motion” involves moving the remote in places other than directly in front of the sensor bar. This is remarked by a number of users, both on blogs and in this author’s personal experience. Fixing this lag is a major issue for future extensions of the system’s use. Use of Kalman Filter mathematics to estimate the position of the input data has been one proposed solution (Rasco, 2007). And it seems that such solutions have been found, if AiLive’s programming for the forthcoming Wii MotionPlus presents such a case (see below). xviii
Accelerometer chip production has increased since 2006 and the demand for the device and its
application is expected to grow as people come to expect a variety of devices that respond to natural movement (Johnson, 2007). If the MotionPlus add‐on becomes popular, that in itself will increase demand for the component parts (InvenSense, 2008). Additional applications for accelerometers, including cell phones (Johnson, 2007) or concussion‐sensing football helmets (Johnson, 2007b), are growing, but the cost factor (accelerometers average $1.50 per unit, but cost effectiveness occurs at
$1.00 per unit, which may not occur until 2010) still may be prohibitive for wide‐scale use, despite greater consumer recognition and/or demand (McGrath, 2008). Nonetheless, Apple’s iPhone use of the accelerometer (from the same Micro Electro‐Mechanical Systems (MEMS) supplier as for the Wii system) is helping to accustom the general public to the device (Roos, 2008). Overall group use of MEMS accelerometers may “show a compound annual growth rate of 27% to 2012” (ABI Research, 2007). Thus, the Wii system, along with other devices that capitalize on motion sensing, are shaping consumer expectations and creating disruptive potential of the key component of the Wiimote: the accelerometer and accompanying technology. Similar Applications with Other Technology There are a variety of games and devices recently on the market that use the motion‐ sensing/physical‐digital interaction aspects of the Wii, without the Wii per se. Most of these current competitors are in the active game/exercise market. The main competitors are Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution (in which a player dances on a floor pad in response to screen instructions) and Sony PlayStation’s EyeToy Kinetic (where a camera aimed at the player integrates the player’s body image on the screen along with the digitized activity). EA’s Sports Active (cardiovascular exercise for the stay‐at‐ home mom) uses the Wii platform but has leg straps for the Nunchuk and can give more body readings. EA is attempting to use the Wii to crack the active gaming market (Irwin, 2008; Noah, 2008). Other variations on the theme are VTech’s V‐Motion Active Learning System (in which the controller responds to the toddler’s movement as the child plays a video game on the television: Buckleitner, 2008; Bulik, 2008), Xergame’s Sportwall Sensory Integration Training (gym class now has a computerized wall to whack: Xergame, 2008), Kinetic Branding’s FootPOWR pad (use a DDR‐like floor pad to control the computer mouse: Shasek, 2008), and University of Houston’s Computational Physiology Lab’s NEAT‐o game (waist‐attached accelerometer linked via Bluetooth to PDAs to monitor physical activity and
compete against computer or other player: Lupercio, 2007), and Fischer Price’s Smart Cycle (where the toddler cycles to get action happening on an attached monitor). The furthest extensions of the Wii’s appeal (motion and force sensing/sensation) are VR simulations. Getting the body to use its senses fully is the ultimate goal of virtual reality (VR) gaming. For example, see the blog response to the game Mirror’s Edge, where the game seems to stimulate prorioception, the body’s sense of surrounding motion (Kuntz, 2008). There is a growing set of virtual reality sports training applications, including indoor cycling and handball (Dassault Systemes, 2008; Regenold, 2008) which are attempting to coordinate the user’s physical activity with what is happening on the screen. All of these are non‐Wii attempts to crack the Wii’s user appeal.
There has been a little bit of actual research done on these competitors – Konami’s Dance Dance
Revolution (DDR) and Sony PlayStation’s EyeToy Kinetic in particular. The most notable is the oft‐cited Mayo Clinic study of active gaming, which concluded that active gaming with DDR and EyeToy games had more “energy expenditure” than seated game play or merely sitting and watching television, and thus could be a useful tool in the fight against childhood obesity (Lanningham‐Foster et al., 2006).xix The authors also suggested that shifting “seat time” to activity time would be a benefit for children. Similar findings resulted from a study of EyeToy Kinetic (Thin, 2007). The University of South Florida created an “exergaming lab” XRKade in 2007 and more studies may result.
In addition, there are some extensions of the “revolutionary” aspects of the Wii, especially the
Wiimote. These additional technologies could create a disruption in the market, and in educational applications, where the Wii has not – or they could drive a wedge along with the Wii system.
These new technologies center on the use of the accelerometer and other devices to give a
three‐dimensional, motion‐sensitive, tactile sense to the digital world. Nintendo itself will be introducing Wii MotionPlus, an extension of the Wiimote, with an add‐on device that will “more quickly and accurately reflect motions in 3‐D space” (Nintendo, 2008, July 14). AiLive has developed LiveMove2,
software which allows for the application of the Wii’s MotionPlus motion tracking on a variety of axes, with much less (they say zero) lag time. xx Philips’ recent “throwable monitor” patent where the ball can be thrown /hit as its motion is incorporated and displayed on the monitor is seen as the start of a “new generation of ‘whole body’ games (Mullins, 2008; Wilson, 2008). Researchers in Oxford, England are developing ways to monitor upper body movement using 3D accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers in order help stroke victims recover: “This new approach has been made possible, at least in part, by the boom in cheap motion sensing technology for videogames consoles such as Nintendo’s Wii” (Wilton, 2008). A “tactile wand” for the blind has been envisioned in Japan – its features look a lot like a Wiimote—it is supposed to rumble when the user is near objects, much like the Wiimote does (McKenna, 2008). Professors at University of Illinois and the University of California have collaborated on Tele‐immersive Environments for EVErybody (TEEVE) a virtual dance space, inspired by the Wii’s “wireless technology and 3‐D software to render live movements on video” and help create long‐distance virtual interaction (Dawson, 2007). MIT’s Media Lab’s “sociometer” – a name‐badge ‐ sized device that helps the user detect nonverbal signals—uses “a microphone for recording voices and accelerometers a measure a person’s movements” for an object that hangs from the user’s neck (Chandler, 2008). Intel’s Pittsburgh Research Lab has recently demonstrated an interactive, whole‐body gesture, natural motion version of Tetris‐‐ “Gestris” (Leonard, 2008). The inventors claim that this system solves the latency problem, as well as eliminates the need to have special sensors attached to the body. Other, similar applications of motion‐sensing, “natural motion” include a variety of tactile sensing gloves (for one example see Rabon et al., 2007). This push for expanded VR mirrors the changes in augmented reality to incorporate additional sensors and motion (Ashley, 2008), even to the point to having subtle emotional cues (Ho, 2008) or brain waves controlling the system (NeuroSky’s Mindset; Hughes, 2008), although that seems far removed from bodily motion itself. In all of these cases, the idea of having the human body interact with the computer, by using “natural” motion in a
three‐dimensional system, seems to be a wave of the future. xxi And, as one video game technology developer (Emotiv) explained, “Nintendo has opened up the doors for other gaming leaders to create innovative gaming interfaces” (Ho, 2008). DISRUPTIVE POTENTIAL OF THE WII
“Disruption” according to Christensen, Horn & Johnson (2008) “is the process by which an
innovation transforms a market whose services or products are complicated and expensive into one where simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability characterize the industry” (11). The Wii could be deemed such. It seems to be taking “nonconsumers” (ibid.) of computer gaming systems and making them consumers, thus changing the market.
“Scalability” indices (Dede, in press) have the Wii system showing potential on three areas:
spread, shift, and evolution. The Wii is spreading into more hands, users are finding ways to make the Wii work for them even in the classroom, and modifications to the system are being made and adopted, especially as the Johnny Lee videos are viral in their own way. But for depth and sustainability, the Wii may not make the grade. The Wii system certainly has the potential to accomplish a lot, especially with the Motion Plus upgrade, but it is not yet doing so (to be fair, it has been on the market for only two years) and its ability to be easily used in a variety of environments is just not being tested. Because both of these factors rely on the ingenuity of software programmers (and even hardware creators) in this case, the Wii may not spread like wildfire, unless someone comes up with an underserved need in a broad market that this device can fulfill.
That underserved need could be in education.
Appeal of the Wii in Education The Wii has the ability to appeal to a non‐traditional learning style – Gardner’s bodily‐
kinesthetic—and allow for interactive, multimodal computer learning (Christensen, Horn & Johnson, 2008). It could also allow for greater personalization of the learning material for the student. These types of learning are “underserved” markets in schools. Thus, the Wii has disruptive potential. The Wii fits into the ways that training/education is being reconceptualized. Training ideally would be “immersive” so that students would learn to do by doing. This is the goal of some project‐ based schools (such as the Met school (RI)) and some visions of how technology would aid education and training as touching and feeling would increase student’s presence (Neumann & Kyriakakis, n.d.; see also Bajcsy, n.d.; Higgins, n.d. ; Walczak, n.d. ; Dede, n.d. ) Simulations using computer “haptics” are part of the vision, and motion‐sensation/gesture‐control also are part. Immersive VR also would use components‐‐of which the Wii would be one‐‐ in order to provide more sensory depth to an experience. These ways would enrich the learning experience, through “multisensory cues” and “3‐D immersion” (Salzman, Dede, Loftin, & Chen, n.d., 4‐5). If we could go beyond the use of joysticks and button controllers, and use the gestures to interface as well as a sensory glove (beyond what was pioneered in MaxwellWorld), the physical demonstrations would be more realistic and probably better learned (for example, students using modalities in addition to visual input found the physics simulation Newton Wolrd easier to use, (Salzman, Dede, Loftin, & Chen, n.d., 25). A 3‐D display would be more “intuitive” and allow for manipulation of items on display (Sullivan, 2005). Indeed, there is a push toward 3‐D computing, so much so that the 2008 Horizon Report deemed it a metatrend for 2004‐2010 (New Media Consortium, 2008, 8). Similar applications exist with multitouch displays, like those demonstrated by Jeffery Han, or those in the visions of the MIT Media Labs’ Tangible Bits project.xxii The trick is to have the technology that the learner can manipulate the display, or feel like they are. These are ways to involve the user more directly and increase the learning potential.
As the previous sections discuss (above), the Wii has existing and newly‐created applications
that appeal to educators.
Possible Limits There are factors that could limit the appeal and disruptive potential of the Wii. One is the technology itself: there are not a lot of currently existing educational applications for
the Wii. There are a few, as discussed above. Many of these applications, however, are the result of the clever hacks and new software development. If it were not for YouTube, blogs, and other ways in which open source information were being made available, the average educator would not be able to begin to try these additional applications. For example, there is a site called “wiigee” which is “an open‐ source gesture recognition library for accelerometer‐based gestures specifically developed for the NintendoR Wii™ remote controller.” xxiii It is based in Java. This means, however, that a teacher has the desire and the know‐how to use the open source code; most teachers are not in this position. As for actual educational games, even though Nintendo has opened up the possibility for more games (educational included) by third‐party developers (via Wiiware), this is not occurring quickly (Buck, 2008). The other factor is educators themselves. A resistance on the part of users who define their world in more “traditional,” text‐centered ways (see how even the NEH Digital Humanities recipients define their work – it is primarily digitizing text) would limit the Wii’s use and therefore disruptive potential. xxiv Teachers, for a variety of reasons including lack of time, generally do not use new technology to overhaul their curriculum. Sometimes they do not even use the new technology when available. Teachers tend to be “traditional.”
Furthermore, for teachers, they would need professional development that actually centers on
how to use the Wii in the classroom, and on how to be creative with its uses. While the New Jersey
Teachers Association seems to be promoting this approach, it seems to be unusual by doing so. Typically teachers teach as they were taught – and studies confirm this (see Carrigg, Honey, & Thorpe, N.d.) xxv – and the Wii is a recent invention, which no adults grew up using. Also, as most teachers would note, the mere presence of additional sensory input does not guarantee additional learning, especially if this sensory experience has no “functional support for the learning activity” (Jacobson, 2007, 243).
Finally, many teachers are not into the habit of allowing their students to lead in bringing new
teaching applications into the classroom nor are they in the habit of collaborative teaching. See the December, 2008 issue of Edutopia Magazine on “The Collaboration Age” for many examples and useful discussion about how teacher practice can limit teacher learning. xxvi But perhaps it is time for the student to lead, at least in the area of technological application. For today’s student, the “digital natives,” their “neomillnennial learning styles” (i.e., their experience with technology in their daily life) have led them to experience learning not only as collaborative but also personalized and active (Dieterle, 2008). xxvii Students are playing a variety of computer games, including the Wii, for an average of 13 hours a week, more than ever before (St. George, 2008, citing the Pew Charitable Trust study). They use other appliances with motion‐sensing, especially the very popular cell phone. Gesture interface, with “natural motion sensing” is on the horizon. Perhaps these “digital natives” can push the classroom to transform from within. xxviii CONCLUSION: THE EVOLUTION OF THE WII AS EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
The Wii, in particular the Wiimote, has disruptive potential. The “modularity” of the Wiimote, as
it is adapted and adopted for uses additional to game play (psychological sensor, white board unit, art
instrument), provide the user with opportunities to take this piece and apply it in additional ways as well as allow for “competition for performance improvement and cost reduction for each module” (Christensen, Horn & Johnson, 2008, 31). The Wii’s uses, and research on it, are spreading. The Wii may be more of a “disruptive innovation” for the gaming industry and other applications, including education, because it is bringing in “nonconsumers” (Christensen, Horn & Johnson, 2008, 47). The Wii’s ability to appeal to a non‐traditional learning style and allowance for interactive, multimodal computer learning adds to its disruptive potential. All of these fit Christensen, Horn & Johnson’s (2008) concepts of disruption and fit three of the four factors that will speed up the process (100‐101). It seems early to tell but gesture interface is part of the new direction in computing. The Wii system pushes people along. Its market share growth, wide name‐brand recognition, and popularity indicate that the Wii is becoming a new fixture in technology. The growth of research on and applications for the Wii demonstrate that is an emerging technology that will be increasingly applied to education. In its current state educational applications for the Wii, however, are few and far between, and not likely to revolutionize education without accompanying shifts in teacher worldview and increased technology availability. In a recessionary economy, a relatively inexpensive system like the Wii has its appeal. More data could yield the information to show if a disruption is occurring. i
A current list of offerings and supporting information can be found at the official Nintendo Wii website: http://www.nintendo.com/wii ii As it turns out, the Wii is based on an earlier platform (the GameCube) which had already been hacked, so this helped make the Wii “hack‐able.” http://cb.nowan.net/blog/tag/wii/ iii I searched for a 2004 study by MSU’s Comm Tech Lab and did not find it. I did find, however, a 2003 paper that studied responses to commercial and educational games about outer space. This paper did find that a gender difference existed but I’m not sure about the reliability of the research as the data is based on one male and one
female graduate student coder (!). Heeter, C., Chu, K., Maniar, A., Mishra, P., and Egidio, R. Comparing 14 Forms of Fun In Commercial Versus Educational Space Exploration Digital Games, DIGRA, Netherlands, November, 2003. http://commtechlab.msu.edu/publications/files/forms_of_fun.pdf iv Damasio is a good source, and well known to anyone in Harvard’s Mind, Brain and Education program. A good general overview of his work would be Damasio, A. (1999). The feeling of what happens: Body and emotion in the making of consciousness. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co. v In addition, I believe, through personal communication with a graduate student in the exercise physiology department, that Cornell University has recently (summer 2008) received grant monies to use the Wii in research. vi Published in the October, 2008 issue of Physical Therapy. http://www.ptjournal.org/cgi/content/abstract/88/10/1196 vii Also note that the surgeons found Marble Mania to be more useful than Wii Tennis for the nature of the movements required. “They tracked participants’ hand motions while playing Wii and during virtual surgery, using a glove laced with motion sensors, and showed that the motions were very similar” (Reilly, 2008). The researchers were presenters at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference in 2007. The 2009 MMVR conference program lists Banner Good Samaritan’s occupational therapist Kimberly Briggs presenting "Scientific framework for selecting simulation games for rehabilitation and assistance: a case study with the Wii (r)" http://www.nextmed.com/mmvr_program.html viii They “present 2 experiments showing the modulation of action dynamics across learning. Experiment 1 was conducted to demonstrate that latency, motion time, motion fluctuation, acceleration, and button‐induced perturbation of a Nintendo Wiimote pointing device all change across learning of random symbol pairs. They also to some extent index correct and incorrect trials, showing that an individual's knowledge may be marked by the dynamics of their arm movement. A more direct evaluation of novel learning was conducted in Experiment 2, demonstrating that action dynamic measures reflect novel scenarios in learning, robustly indexing lack of knowledge in participants” (2). ix The authors define “Presence” as “level of engagement with the virtual environment” while “self‐presence” is “level of connection to one’s virtual representation” (1). x Truly the Mii is a form of self‐expression. Spouse’s own delight in creating his and hers Miis, as well as a recent Time Magazine piece on Saturday Night Live actors creating Miis for the Emmy Awards, show the power of the avatar. See http://www.gamingnexus.com/Default.aspx?Section=FullNews&I=10055. xi There is at least one term paper written about “Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Wii” (2008), but as this was on sale for $48.95 at a term paper mill, I declined to access it. http://www.academon.com/lib/essay/autism‐ spectrum‐disorders‐wii.html xii Link to a demo at their site: http://www.bigbrainacademy.com/ xiii Abigail Evans, personal communication, October 29, 2008. xiv See the official site: http://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/k55jkIxQ696XDKH6mO2rX‐atLHoV3fVh xv Also, Merriman Pianos argues the same thing, but this is a commercial site and so is not going into the bibliography. http://www.merriammusic.com/blog/wii‐music‐cant‐hold‐a‐candle‐to‐real‐music‐lessons.htm xvi See hack instructions on http://jordanbalagot.com/blog/2008/06/29/turn‐wii‐rock‐band‐instruments‐into‐real‐ instruments‐with‐junxion/ xvii Libraries in general seem to being using the Wii as a lure. Look at library educator blogs for examples; Library Journal posted a story on February 21, 2008 which cites Nintendo donating Wiis to libraries to increase users. xviii Here’s a link to their demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acND4sO3pJs xix N.B. Walking on the treadmill and watching television fell between the expenditure levels of EyeToy and DDR: 138 ± 40%, vs. 108 ± 40% vs. 172 ± 68% over resting values, respectively. The amounts were greater for overweight children. xx See their website and demonstrations videos at AiLive’s homepage http://www.ailive.net/lm2.html xxi It is part of the papers of the Tangible and Embedded Interaction 2009 conference, according to the WiiLi blog. http://www.wiili.org/index.php/Motion_analysis Past conference information as well as future can be found at http://www.tei‐conf.org/ xxii See his demonstration video at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jeff_han_demos_his_breakthrough_touchscreen.html (February, 2006).
This approach obviates the need for a Wiimote, however. For Tangible Bits, see http://tangible.media.mit.edu/projects/, especially the 1997 paper. xxiii From Wiigee home page: http://www.wiigee.org/ xxiv http://www.neh.gov/ODH/ODHUpdate/tabid/108/EntryId/96/NEH‐Announces‐Digital‐Humanities‐Challenge‐ Grants‐and‐Others.aspx Thanks to Ed Dieterle for his presentation to T561 on October 20, 2008 for this idea. xxv Fred Carrigg, Margaret Honey, Ronald Thorpe (n.d.) “Putting local schools behind the wheel of change: the challenge of moving from successful practice to effective policy” to appear in conference volume – not supposed to cite !! see page 5 – talks about professional development studies from Cohen & Hill (2001), Little (1981, 1993), Miller, Lord & Doney (1994), Spillane (2002). xxvi http://www.edutopia.org/collaboration‐age xxvii Ed Dieterle, “Neomillineal learning styles and River City” prepared especially for T561. [how to cite as permissions retained‐‐?] xxviii See John Palfrey and Urs Gasser (2008) Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives , NY: Basic Books.