Two of the projects I’m working on at the moment are wholeheartedly embracing the notion that physiotherapy, movement and brain plasticity are deeply connected. Gaming could be ideal for exploiting this learning, especially now so many games are using big body movements for motion control. Most of my interest has been in early years, looking at how the treatment of children with cerebral palsy can create new connections. Norman Doidge has made this even more interesting by looking at how older brains can be changed through physical exercise. He cites the case of the 50-year old surgeon after a stroke left his arm ‘useless’. The surgeon regained excellent use after agreeing to master tasks using his affected hand. He recovered well enough to practice surgery again.
An indoor bike that could offer the motivation to use both sides of the body. Cycling is highly recommended for hemiplegia as it requires reasonably even use of both sides of the body, on both arms and legs, and improves balance as well as muscular strength. Something like the TricksterXDream could offer a very good introduction for the nervous hemiplegic. Although with a £6,000 price tag we need a more mass-produced approach to get it down to anything affordable
The physical learning aspects of Guitar Hero, Eye Toy and Wii Fit type games also point the way to more physical ways of learning abstract ideas. Could we see games develop that help children to calculate using very large spaces and movements, rather than sitting in one spot and tapping a keyboard or wielding a pen? Given big enough screens and classroom, learners could be put into situations that require whole body movements to generate data, so they interact physically with the academic curriculum. A mathematical series, or the periodic table could become part of the world that must be physically navigated for a successful outcome. It’s been happening for a while for fun on the streets of Akihabara and on entertainment venue screens, as players compete on Dance Mats and virtual instruments. Does it have something we can exploit in the classroom?