From the moment I picked up a Nintendo DS and started interacting with it, I was hooked. This portable, touch-screen device packs a multitude of powerful features, making it one of the most perfect tools for elementary and middle-school classrooms. To an uninformed observer, its purpose may be simply be a gaming device, but once you look deeper, you will realize it is so much more. Creative teachers are using the Nintendo DS in the classroom to collaborate, stimulate conversations, brainstorm, solve problems, and yes, to play.
We tend to look at children’s “play” as something not very serious or “educational,” but in reality, it is often during play that children engage in deeper levels of learning. In fact, Maria Montessori, through her detailed observations of children realized that play is the work of the child.
As a teacher, how can you justify the need for these devices in the classroom? What benefits might they provide and how can we obtain funding for them? These questions can be answered by providing concrete examples of their effectiveness in the classroom along with a plan for replacing other resources and actually SAVING MONEY with the Nintendo DS. Here are a few ideas:
Gaming: Explicit and Extended
First of all, the Nintendo DS is a powerful, hand-held WiFI device and gaming system. It is touch-screen, so it’s easy for younger children to use. Games can be played solo or with others.
Games such as ThinkSmart, the Brain Age series, My French Coach, and other problem solving games can enhance instruction and encourage higher order thinking.
Also, with just a pinch of creativity, many games can be adapted to align with an instructional unit:
- Mario Kart, for instance, a racing game, can be used to provide examples of median, mean, and mode, or measures of central tendency.
- Personal Trainer: Cooking could be used in a multi-cultural unit, where students could cook and identify recipes from various cultures and regions.
- Let’s Play: Garden can provide an introduction to gardening, plants, and seasons for younger children.
- And the hugely popular Professor Layton and the Curious Village can support literacy skills and language development
But the Nintendo DS offers more than gaming. Here are some other instructional strategies, using some of its features:
The DS can be set to other languages, providing helpful support for second language learners or as an enhancement for a foreign language class.
PictoChat is a communication application built in to every Nintendo DS. It allows you to write and transfer messages and images to friends via the wireless connection. So, a teacher might ask students to post questions during a class presentation. Or, a teacher could ask a question on the DS and students could write their answers. Students can easily change their profile name, too, so others would not know who answered a question, allowing anonymous polls.
The Nintendo 100 Classic Book Collection is a cartridge that stores 100 classic books. Hold the DS like a book and touch the screen to turn the pages. Since the page width is small, books might be easier to read for some readers. And almost guaranteed your students won’t forget to take their DS home with them, so no excuses about forgetting a book! How much would a collection of these books cost in your classroom library? Probably a lot more than the $36.50 it costs for this entire collection!
And how about audio books? The DS is also a portable mp3 player, so any audio file in this format can be installed on the SD memory card.
The ability to easily take, store, and view pictures is another great feature. And now you can upload photos directly to Facebook from your DS! This would be a great way to set up a community of learners in your classroom, with a Fb group. Students could easily take pictures throughout the year and post them to their Fb group, reflecting upon their progress and current status.
Included in the DS is an application called Flipnote Studio, a tool for making notes and animated flip books. This application alone could provide countless hours of creativity and sharing. Remember, when working with the DS, students are also interacting constantly with either text, sound, or both. It’s a hands-on experience that is unique, personal, and authentic.
Students can download and listen to music, dance and exercise. They could use the devices to listen to music recorded from a band practice and discuss improvements and changes needed. The options to use the multimedia functions on the Nintendo are almost limitless.
The DS won’t completely replace a computer, but it can do a lot. It includes a web browser that works quite well. It renders web pages in a readable format on the DS (try out http://coolteachers.org on a DS) and could be used to access and write emails, for instance.
Students could quickly search for content they want to know more about and save it as a favorite web page. They could visit their class blog, log in, and write a short post.
Again, once you start working with the DS and find out how much it can do, you will come up with all sorts of ideas. Following is how I suggest you proceed in your plan to obtain these devices:
- Instructional Strategies/Teaching Ideas: Come up with a list of instructional strategies for your classroom, using the Nintendo DS. Publish your ideas on your webpage or blog and notify the person in charge of making the financial decisions in your school.
- Costs: Compare the costs of buying individual DSs for your students, along with any applications to the costs of purchasing comparative items, such as 100 classic books, and the Nintendo DS should be a bargain!
- Advantages: Include in your rationale the advantages of the DS over traditional learning objects, such as books and desktop computers in the classroom. The mobility, size, and personal nature of the devices will appeal to children. The touch-screen is intuitive and durable. And many of the students are already using these devices, are comfortable with them, and most importantly ENJOY them.
Keep pushing the envelope for using technologies in new, creative, and fun ways. Then, conduct an active research study on student test scores, before and after using the devices. I’m guessing the scores will improve.
Finally, please let me know how you are using these devices in your classroom by commenting below.