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Wii Games Will Get American Heart Association Seal of Approval


The American Heart Association has teamed up with Nintendo of America to promote physically active play as part of a healthy lifestyle. They believe that  active-play video games are a great option for the entire family to incorporate more exercise into their day and spend quality time together.  I have to agree that active play is great for getting the blood pumping, but let’s get serious about which games are going to get the heart really pumping!

At least it will get people together, maybe get them to stand up like many of the advertisements show — I am sorry to be so cynical here, but hey, I was part of a research program that gave away 30 X Boxes with DDR pads and software,  only to find that the kids were happy to play Halo and other games that had nothing to do with the high impact activities like jumping to increase bone density and reduce their teen obesity, in fact exacerbating the problem.

Yes, there are an abundance of obese tweens, ages 8-14 years, and during this time,  it is a special period of growth where bone density growth is exponential. Read Dance Dance Education to learn more about this– or just consider 8-10 minutes of jumping a day.

What happened in the bone density study was that many of the kids really wanted to have the reputation of being gamers, but did not follow through.

Most kids say they are gamers, but they are not.

Read the article Reading Comprehension as a Submedial Trait, and you may find like I did, that most kids are not very good at games. They can learn on the fly, like we all can with casual games like the Wii and easy stuff like party games, but most could not figure out a complex game–only one student in 12 was able to get in the airlock in the game Metroid Prime in an after school games club, even though these kids said they were avid gamers (Dubbels, 2008).

That whole idea of kids are natural gamers and digital natives is hooey. Without a support network, interest, and reinforcement, which is pointed out in the Dance Dance Education article, most kids just use the social capital of knowledge to make friendships and cool groups, and hardly ever have to prove anything but a desire and enjoyment of playing– few ever really get their immigration papers to digital nation.

But I digress, the Wii is just the sort of system that allows for the kind of casual video game play that does not place high cognitive demand on decision making or knowledge seeking behaviors. It might get people out of their chairs and at least interacting with a thing like virtual tennis or bowling (which is quite fun) and maybe even Snow Boarding — which is a blast.

This would be a great step forward as compared to flipping and settling on a rerun of Law and Order. I know, I know, cynical again, but after teaching with games in the classroom for 7 years, you might be too. Games just do not do much teaching beyond the simple mechanics that move the player forward in the game unless the individual is playing a great variety of games and is participating in the secondary knowledge market of games like guides, play groups, fan fiction, and franchised narratives and accessories with lots of modeling from more experienced problem solvers. We have always known this about learning, that is why kids learn from what they see us do, not from what we tell them to do.

And please don’t think games don’t have potential. They have lot’s of potential–much more than books in many  respects, but books will not and should not be replaced by games in the classroom, and teachers will not be either (obvious subtext). I know everyone wants to get on the games bandwagon and proclaim them the great potential classroom tools they are, just like they did the radio in the 20’s, the film in the 50’s, etc. (Cuban, 1994).

Challenging complex games create challenge and opportunity for complex thinking.

But without the correct pedagogy, games are just entertainment that may inspire learning, but may not create any meaningful transfer to skills and decision making that improve the quality of life.

I have used many simple games to do this, but the game will not do it alone — parents need to model behavior, just like I had to create inquiry frameworks to create cognitive growth when we studied games at school. It is the same with this endorsement of the Wii by the American Heart Association. Do not expect to get a work out playing Mario Galaxy, as great a game as it is.

The American Heart Association recommends that all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more per day of aerobic physical activity. Nearly 70 percent of Americans are not reaching these goals. Buying a video game will not change poor lifestyle choices like deep fried pork rinds washed down with a coke for a pre-dinner snack and an evening of couch coma kung fu with a Wii a nun chuk.

I’m just sayin’

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