Gaming in Education w/Xbox: NatGeo TV

This year, we are exploring ways that gaming can be used in education.  I’ve previously mentioned that a group of 14 boys are exploring the xbox, Nintendo DS, and Minecraft during an enrichment cluster.  This week, a 5th grader used our xbox 360 with Kinect to research wolverines for his animal research project.

One of the games that we purchased for our xbox is Kinect NatGeo TV.  This 2-disc set includes multiple NatGeo 30-minute episodes on a variety of animals and places.  As you watch the episode there are sidetracks where you can take pictures of the animals, discover hidden facts, take short quizzes, and play games that help demonstrate an animal behavior.

Henry is a 5th grader who did not find a book in our library about his topic, wolverines.  He has been relying on digital resources, databases, and encyclopedias to get his information.  I was so excited when I looked at the table of contents on the NatGeo TV game and saw wolverines as a topic.  Mrs. Mullins, a spectrum teacher, worked out arrangements for Henry to come to the library during language arts to do his research on the xbox.  I setup the machine, dimmed the lights, and helped Henry get setup with his notecards and floor space to interact.  As he watched the episode, he added several notes to his notecards.  When a sidetrack popped up, he put everything down to interact.  I was impressed by how the facts in the episode were reinforced through the games.  When Henry learned that wolverines dig through snow to locate dead carcasses, he was able to practice digging by becoming a virtual wolverine and digging through snow to find meat.  When he left, this was a fact that stood out to him.  It made me wonder about how we can bring facts to life for students when they discover them in books, websites, videos, or other resources.  The active game element seemed to reinforce the facts and help Henry retain them.  I know that the amount of NatGeo content on these discs is limited and will only support specific students and projects, but the concept makes me think beyond the xbox and how it might inform future lessons.

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