It all started when Ewan Macintosh came to Moose Jaw last summer. One of the things he shared was the tremendous improvement in problem solving skills of young children who were regularly using gaming in their classroom, specifically using the game Nintendogs. I was intrigued, and fortunately my principal, who holds the purse strings, was too.
I checked out a couple of links from Ewan and did some hands-on research of my own since up until that point (I confess!) I had no idea what a Nintendo DS actually looked like. I should have just asked my students. When I checked with them, I discovered that despite the fact that many of the families at my school are not what I would call “well-to-do”, all but two of them owned a DS. Since improving students’ problem-solving skills is a motherhood issue, it seemed like an obvious thing to do.
Nintendogs is a video simulation of owning a pet. Players can use the stylus to pet their dog, call their dog with a built-in microphone and buy things for their pet. I did consider using a different game, since the dogs in this game appear to be hard of hearing and not overly bright, but it was hard to argue with the curriculum match and track record of this game.
Our class now owns six DS machines and each dog has been adopted by a group of four students. We’re being helped out with the reading portion of the games by six students from our reading buddy classroom who eagerly leave their classroom to come to ours. After an initial 45-minute session to get started, we are now trying 10 – 15 minutes each day.
The game is, of course, providing incredible engagement and motivation for the students, and we will be incorporating lots of dog themed activities into other subject areas. I want to know whether it really does improve the children’s problem solving skills though, so after doing a fair amount of checking and finding nothing that suited my needs, I prepared a set of five problems (leaning heavily on a Problem Solver binder I have) that each require different kinds of thinking. I gave these problems to the students before we began and will give them to the children again later to see if there has been a change.
Will using these engaging little boxes help to improve the problem solving skills of my six year olds? Stay tuned.