Thursday, January 20, 2011

So, what have we been doing?

So here it is, the new calendar year and I haven't written anything in over 3 months. What in the world have we been doing in the classroom? Have Chris and I just been overwhelmed with other things and haven't gotten back to the Wii? Did we had a breakdown and were not able to get the console working again? Are we just siting around eating bon-bons? Well, thankfully the answer on to all three questions is NO! While we haven't been able to get to the Wii as often as initially anticipated, we have been keeping up on a fairly regualar basis. Much of what we did with the console at the beginning of the school year took some time to complete (more on that in a minute). We are still actively using the system in the classroom and I will be updating with greater frequency as we prepare to share findings, tricks, and best practices with fellow colleagues. The first game we used this school year is called Big Brain Academy. Basically, you can test each student in 5 categories - identify, memorize, analyze, computer, and visualize. The game has a series of 3 different games for each of the categories. As you complete each task the computer keeps score of your speed and accuracy with your answers. At the end you are presented with your brain size. Your brain size is shown as an overall score - all the points from each test added up to give you an "overall grade". The other visual you get (which is the one that I personally like) is one of your strengths and weaknesses. You can easily see which of the 5 activities you identify with the best (for example, while the person in this picture has the highest score in the analyze category you can also see that he/she is about the same in the 4 other categories). This can be helpful in learning about your students strengths and weaknesses in your classroom. It is just another tool that teachers can use.

Some more information about the 3 games in each of the categories:

1. Identify: Which are there more of - you are given a dark picture and a flashlight and you have to quickly choose which animal there are more of on the screen (pictured). What is this - You have a picture of something which becomes apparent small boxes or bars at a time. The quicker you can recognize what it is the more points you get, and Wack a Mole - you are presented with certain images at the top of the screen. You have to hit the mole that is holding up the same shape as the design at the top while not hitting the moles that have incorrect shapes.

2. Memorize: Follow the birdie - you have birds in a cage which get covered up and moved around. You have to follow the birds as they move and then choose where they end up. (pictured) Which appeared - you are shown a picture with different people (sometimes multiple people) and different facial expressions. After a few seconds the picture disappears and you have to choose which person and face was shown. Reverse pattern - you are shown a pattern of letters or pictures and you must recreate the pattern, in reverse order. The sound effects make this one even more fun!

3. Analyze: make same pattern - . Choose 1 of 4 pictures - Block Pattern (pictured) - In this game you are given blocks in a shape which spin around at the top of the screen. You have to try and find its match from the 4 choices given (which are also spinning at different rates and directions).

4. Compute: Balloon Pop - (pictured) there are balloons on the page each with different numbers on them (including negative numbers). You must pop the balloons in order from lowest to highest. Basket Catching - Red and blue balls enter the screen and get caught in baskets. You have to tell which basket has more balls in it. Sum Up - This game you have 3 or 4 numbers and are given a total to reach. You must remove the numbers that aren't necessary to hit the results.

5. Visualize: picture match - You have two pictures on the screen, identical except that there are things missing on one of them. You have to put the missing information in the correct place to match the pictures. Some of the pictures may be mirror images or backwards for an extra twist. Which is different - You have one picture that is moving and you must match which of the other 3 match the original one. Train Exit - (pictured)You are looking at an overhead view of a train track which is missing links to get to the finish. You must put in the correct direction on the track so the train gets to the finish without crashing. The train will start to move after a few seconds to make sure that you move along.

Some other options to play include:
Mental Marathon-you can choose your category, activity and level and try to get as many correct answers in a row. You can have students compete against each other or have each one answer a different question and see how far they can go.
Brain Quiz-you get 12 games to play at different levels. You have no choices here on the games. There is a time limit and the goal is to get as many as you can correct. If you get one wrong you are done.
Mind Sprint-You race against your best time or against another student's best time. You can choose category difficulty and activities.

Now, having given all this information there are a few points to consider. You can only have 8 Miis on the game at any one time. Any more than that and you have to remove somebody - so there is no way you could do a whole class and keep track of them all. You would have to use something else to track your scores and grades and show some progress (an assignment making graphs using Excel would fit nicely here). Also, there are options to play as both a single player or as a group so you can group them up and play as one team. We actually split the class up and have some up front working on the Wii while others are doing other assignments. We have also found cheaper options that you can download from the Wii site (Brain Train) that are similar in scope (but not as complete in usage) but that will be a post for another day.

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