Nintendo DS and Technology in Education in Japan

July 2, 2008

Today’s commentary is inspired by an article about use of Nintendo DS in eSchool News. The article talks about a Nintendo DS tie in to a textbook being used at Tokyo’s Joshi Gakuen (sic). Here is the story as presented by Reuters.

Tokyo Joshi Gakuen
should be commended for trying some new things, but the part that troubles me most is that they are doing the drills with Nintendo in the classroom.

I love the idea of using new and fun technologies in the classroom. However, it needs to be balanced with real teaching, and a human touch. I think the best thing teachers can do with technologies such as Nintendo DS is use them to get students using English outside of the classroom. If all the kids have a Nintendo, and enjoy using the technology, what better way could there be to get them studying at home?

One of the great dangers presented by technology in the classroom is for teachers to rely on the software to be the teacher. Japanese education is way too textbook reliant as it is. Now the teacher can stand at the front of class and say, do Level 2 and I’ll give you a sticker.

Because the start up screen will show what levels a student has accomplished, the Nintendo work can be given at home as a supplement to the actual classroom teaching. When students come in, they can show their teacher the levels they’ve accomplished in just a minute or two. Allowing the teacher to interact with them and actually TEACH for a while.

There are also some really great Nintendo DS programs for pre-schoolers looking to learn English or improve their Hiragana skills like the Anpanman Hiragana Classroom or the Thomas the Tank Engine Japanese, Math, and English.

The point is that I worry that the technology being used here is just going to be another way to keep kids busy while not teaching them.

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