Last week, I heard about an after school program in northern California that had purchased a Wii system. Now, the context in which I heard about the purchase was interesting. It was shared with me that some school administrators were questioning the value of such a purchase. I can almost hear the conversation...
'At a time when budgets have been cut and funds are low, and everyone is being asked to be a bit more frugal than usual, can we really justify spending money on a video game system? Don't we need books and other real instructional materials?'
But the second I heard about the purchase, I knew it was genius. In fact, I can't think of any other school-related expenditure that would guarantee a better return on investment (ROI).
- It's hard enough to motivate junior high and high school students to attend after school programs. Since Wii is all the rage right now, it seems like it would be a great motivator for attendance...and for participation in general ('If you get your homework done, there may be some time for Wii...').
- At a time when childhood obesity is at an all time high, and experts are searching for ways to combat it, an activity that kids like that also gets them moving can't be a bad thing, right? And the youth attending the after school program are the ones who most need the additional motivation for physical activity. The athletes are already in sports. The teenagers who are not in organized sports get little physical activity. Wii could really make a difference for some of them.
- We know from research that some kids learn best when they can be physically involved in their learning. Wii, and the huge assortment of Wii games, can provide a unique opportunity in that area.
Video games have typically been a stationary, and often solitary, activity. Yes, I know all about online games and even the hybrid of video system/online games, but most kids don't have access to those, and those youth who need additional academic support and participate in state and federally-funded after school programs are typically the ones who do not have the resources to afford those systems.
So, the news about this school's purchase got me thinking. . .
and I bought a Wii.
For five hours this afternoon, my 16-year-old, my 4-year-old, and I played video games. We laughed, we sweated, we moaned when it was time to stop. In what other world (other than this virtual Wii world) could the 4-year-old take on the 16-year-old in a boxing match - and have a chance to win? We all burned a few calories and had a great time together.
I have never been a big supporter of video games, but this was different.
We spend a lot of time in education trying to get young people to come into our world of print and mathematics, and we usually do it in ways that are not very engaging.
Maybe we should all spend a little more time in their world. We may all learn more.