Continuing my case for greater use of technology to assist schools, I interestingly picked up on this article from the PhysOrg.com blog that notes how schools in Tokyo are successfully using portable game consoles assist children in learning.
In a growing number of cities, teachers hoping to engage children born in the fast-moving digital age are using game machines such as the Nintendo DS, the hugely popular double-screen handheld console, to draw in and hold students.
The strategy seems to be working in one Tokyo classroom, where students come for extra-curricular maths lessons each Saturday morning.
“With the game console, you can feel the fast speed and tempo. I think it matches today’s children,” he said, adding the board had received no complaints from parents.
At just one-fifteenth of the cost of a personal computer — around 17,000 yen (150 dollars) each — the DS is an economical teaching tool, he said, adding that results in an initial trial showed the English vocabulary of junior high school students using the DS had soared by 40 percent.
The private Otemon Gakuin Elementary School in the western metropolis of Osaka used Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) from last September to March this year in a class of 38 fourth-graders, aged nine or 10.
Teacher Toyokazu Takeuchi did not need to print out or check tests. Instead, his own console received real-time data showing which students were making mistakes and what mistakes they were making.
“This is e-learning made in Japan — traditional efforts in reading, writing and calculating coupled with the power of information technology and game machines,” he said.
People around the world are dealing with the same issues we do here. What we need to do is start thinking out of the box by looking around the world to see what kind of solutions are out there that we can adopt to solve our similar problems.
The education review board and government should be getting in contact with these individuals in Japanese schools to gain insights from this study and launch a similar program here.
With the pilot programme wrapped up, Takeuchi plans to expand the use of PSPs to second graders from April next year. If the project is extended, it would cover some 800 students in Osaka.
Kenichi Fukunaga, vice president for external relations at Sony Computer Entertainment, said he believed the educational uses would spread further, as game consoles were easy-to-use, high-performance machines.
There was still some tough opposition to game machines, he said, but added: “In every era parents have worried over a new medium they cannot understand but their children are absorbed in.”
“This is a revolution in education”
Indeed, a revolution in education is exactly what we need.