Nintendo, never content to create gaming products that are simply for gaming, is taking its portable DS system to school. Partnering with program developer Sharp System Products, the company that turned the Wii into a home gym is debuting Nintendo DS Classroom, a program that will help educators in Japan communicate with students through Nintendo's DS, DS Lite and DSi portable gaming devices.
Using a PC, teachers can interact with students via Wi-Fi, beaming questions, visual aids, and other information to a special DS Classroom cartridge in the students' handheld devices. The teacher can then receive responses from students in real time, and can even chart data and create graphical representations of responses. If a teacher asks a general question of the class, rather than one sharp pupil carrying the rest of the class toward enlightenment, the entire class can answer individually. The teacher instantly knows how many, and which, students answered correctly, making it easier to monitor progress and spot those falling behind. Students can answer free response questions using a stylus that beams a written answer to the teacher's PC screen. Even testing is more efficient, as the computer can help grade as a test is happening, allowing students to see their performance immediately upon finishing a test.
The service will kick off next year in Japan, with 60 programs covering everything from civics to physics for elementary, junior high and high school students. Of course, bringing this kind of technology into the classroom raises concerns as well. Will the devices facilitate cheating? Can tech savvy students manipulate the programs? Will children ever go outside and play ever again? Japanese educators are willing to give DS Classroom a shot, and why shouldn’t they? Nintendo taught a generation the physics of bowling and golf, why not the physics of the cosmos as well?