One of the most useful aspects of the Wii board for us is the ability to measure balance, how you’re distributing your weight. If you’re placing your weight too much on one side this provides excellent onscreen feedback, useful to a hemiplegic who will tend to favour one side excessively. As far as I can see, there’s no way to call up this feature at will. It kicks in as part of the ‘Body Test’ feedback and lasts for a few seconds. Ideally, this should be a separate feature, a mini game on its own, allowing the user to focus on the feeling of being in balance for longer. This allows for deeper learning.
The balance tool is also useful when doing a downward-facing dog pose in yoga, where the weight should be distributed evenly between arms and legs. But it’s impossible to look at the screen when in the position. There is some aural feedback, a small ‘bing’ when you hit the spot, but not enough to allow you to feel how near or far you are from being correctly posed. A possible solution would be a gentle rising and falling tone to allow the user to understand when they’re getting closer and further away from it. A nice rising and falling ‘om’ might help.
Yesterday I visited Norfolk Community Primary School in Sheffield, where whiteboards are fully integrated into the school’s daily practice. This is an inspiring school in many ways, both for its use of technology to foster creativity and for its general ethos. It’s an eco-school with a grass roof for insulation, recycling of rainwater and integration of activities like gardening, composting and growing food into the children’s curriculum.
Most inspiring are the teachers and pupils who have really got into writing stories and retelling stories with group presentations, using a wide range of techniques to scaffold, model and collaborate. Year 4 interrupted their PE lesson to give me an impromptu performance of a story they’d created, which fizzed along with great brio.
It’s a wonderful example of a very new school, only four years old, that seems to have been designed for learning, with wide corridors, great spaces, small and large, and a sense of warmth and welcome. And it feels like every inch of space is used, with words and maps and vivid art at every turn, creating a sense of an exciting learning community.
The value of stillness is often overlooked in exercise, education and life in general. Iyengar yoga addicts know it well and it’s good to find an immersive game that encourages it in the Zazen feature of the Wii Fit. This is the last balance game to be unlocked and is a fantastic treat after so much movement. Sitting on the board and trying to achieve stillness works surprisingly well. If I could improve it I would like it to be longer than the three minutes it offers, but even in that, you can experience a sense of stillness and calm. The flickering candle, the moth and the creaking footsteps add to the sense of timelessness.
It offers an important counterpoint to the high energy activity of the other games, but it could be an excellent means of encouraging stillness and meditation in the classroom. Bizarrely, making stillness a slightly competitive game, although counter-intuitive, feels quite attractive. This is pitched well to encourage all to participate, to be a bit of fun, but ultimately to give a genuine taste of the value of stillness.