Video Games and PE Classes

A lot of what we’ve been talking about in class has dealt with using video games to teach core subjects such as math and science, or even more complex skills such as teamwork.  What we haven’t talked much about however, is how we can use video games to enhance physical education, which is becoming an even more important part of K-12 education because of the growing problem of obesity in the US.  Here’s an article about a school that’s using Wii Fitness to enhance their physical education program (scroll down to the “Wii Fitness” heading):

Here’s a great quote that I thought summed up their philosophy behind using the Wii, addressed why it was effective, and how it was supplemental:

Students at Dallastown participate in 45-minute gym classes every other day, which is quite a leap from one-day-per-week gym classes many of the students had at their elementary schools last year, said Harvey.

That’s why it’s important to mix things up in gym classes to keep the students from getting bored, he said.

And a favored gym-class activity among students of all physical conditions and fitness levels is the Wii Fitness room, he said. Students have the opportunity to box, bowl and run by using the Wii fitness games, he said.

“Sometimes the students don’t realize they’re sweating and getting a great workout because they’re thinking they’re playing a video game,” said Harvey.

A major advantage of the Wii Fitness room is that all students are able to be involved and put “on an equal playing field,” said Harvey.

“It’s great because you can take a great athlete up against a student with no athletic experience and the non-athletic person can still come out on top,” he said.

The biggest misconception of the Wii Fitness is that it’s taking over traditional gym classes, said Harvey.

At most, students might participate in the Wii Fitness room about five times a year because of all the learning units the students must go through, he said.

It seems that the Wii, in this school, is being integrated in a way similar to other games we’ve seen in schools. It’s not “taking over” traditional physical education, but it is helping to motivate kids. Perhaps in the future, the grading system could incorporate scores from kid’s Wii Fitness games, either as bonus points or a subset of points for their grade.  Although, schools may not want to invest too much in Wiis right now, as there may be something new on the horizon for Nintendo… Something I’ll address in my next post.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anthony
    Apr 16, 2011 @ 19:16:45

    I’m not sold – what does it mean that “It’s great because you can take a great athlete up against a student with no athletic experience and the non-athletic person can still come out on top”? I would be concerned that
    1.) the less fit individual essentially wins by “cheating,” ie, not actually doing the excercise (and therefore not actually getting any of the benifits), but making the system think that they are. For example, in Wii Tennis, you can play by flicking your wrist. Where’s the excercise in that?
    2.) the technique that is required for the real life activity will be degraded by learning a Wii Fit version. For example, Wii boxing would teach a sorry excuse for real boxing technique, and running in place often involves a large up and down component, but efficient real world running has as little of this bounce as possible.

    I mean, I think it’s a comment on the school or the gym teacher, not gym class in general, if it’s boring. I can think of lots of better ways to “gamify” gym class… I’d rather see the money spent on heart rate moniters, to allow the gym teacher to track that, and instead of the silly artificial targets of running distance/times that often winds up just pushing people into dangerous physical exertion levels. Gamifying this could allow them to focus on personal improvement with healthy heart rates, and the competition is to see who can imporve the most, or earn the most improvement points, bonuses for miles stones, etc.


  2. Joyce Tseng
    Apr 18, 2011 @ 12:29:43

    Agreeing with the comment above, gaming and PE would only work if the console could detect points in space and not the offsetting of motion. At most, the graphics would help a person learn visually (how fast a ball is travelling, timing, placement).

    At the 3D Lab in the Duderstadt, they have some equipment which allows you to create a 3D file and walk through your created world. Something similar to that would be more effective (for jumping over hurdles possibly).


  3. mikealcala
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 00:28:28

    You have both brought up some good points. I love the ideas that I am hearing, but can the Wii even support something like this? Maybe it could be something for the Wii 2? Perhaps it would be more fitting to develop something like this with the Kinect?

    Either way, any kind of game that involves heavy physical interaction from the gamer is something that the gaming market needs. And I think market is heading in that direction. If PE class doesn’t sound right, I wonder what other kind of classes or skill sets that the console could teach the gamer, just by telling them if their movement is right or wrong?


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