Exergaming: Pedagogy, Play, or Pointless? (Part 1)

Student participating in exergameExergaming or Exertainment has been defined as technology-driven activities that require participants to use their bodies in order to play the game.

What was once a popular fad ten years ago when DanceDance Revolution hit the market is now a common activity in schools all over the world. Video game bikes, motion sensor games, touch walls, dance games, etc. are just a few of the many exergames that can now be found in schools, community centers, arcades, and homes.

Children in this generation are drawn to the technology and video game aspect. The opportunity to receive immediate feedback and gratification while exercising is rewarding. Many say children do not realize they are exercising because the activities are fun and different from traditional activities.

How does a teacher choose exergaming activities for his or her physical education classroom?

This is actually a complicated question and one that is often overlooked.  Some teachers choose what the kids “like or want”.  This is certainly not how quality physical education programs need to select exergames for their program. In a nutshell, we should think of exergaming as a modern jump rope. An exergaming activity is simply another piece of equipment that is going to be used to accomplish objectives by assisting the development of technical and tactical skills. Teachers need to think about the scope and sequence of their program and then determine which exergaming activities, if any, would be appropriate.

Another common misunderstanding is what the role of the teacher becomes when exergaming is implemented.  Pedagogy strategies may change to fit the activity but the concept of pedagogy should not.  Often, teachers become more of a cheerleader providing feedback on the score of the game instead of specific feedback related to the objectives of the lesson. For example, it is easy to see the excitement on a child’s face after winning a level in a game. Teachers naturally want to congratulate them with comments such as, “Good job!”, “That was great!”, or “Did you beat your score?” While this is not completely wrong, the idea of the activity should be for the teacher to continue to teach the objectives of the lesson providing positive, specific feedback related to the cues or main purpose of the lesson.  There may be an on/off button to the game, but teachers should take this opportunity to provide extensions, refinements and challenges when applicable.

Things to consider before purchasing exergaming activities for physical education:

Dedicated Space

Many exergames need a dedicated space in order to play. Some need to be mounted to a wall while others need outlets to plug and play. Teachers should first consider if there is appropriate space for the need of the activity.

Financial Strain

Exergames can be very expensive. Some exergames are affordable and cost as little as $50.00 while others can cost as much as $20,000.  Teachers need to investigate the cost of activity and make sure to include all accessories that will be needed.

Technological Difficulties

Technology of any kind (cell phones, televisions, computers, etc.) will typically face technological difficulties. Cracked screens, lost cords, and broken sensors are common and should be prepared for before purchasing an exergame.  In addition, teachers should make sure to ask about warranty and service options depending on the durability of the activity.

Incorporating exergaming into a physical education program can be fun and effective. Teachers need to make sure they continue to focus on teaching objectives, providing specific feedback, and assessing the students.  If pedagogy while teaching exergaming is replaced by children simply playing games, then exergaming in physical education has become pointless!

Check out these great Exergaming Options for your PE class!

 

Lisa is a former Assistant Professor at The University of South Florida's Department of Teaching and Learning. She is also the former Director of the USF Active Gaming Research Laboratories.

Lisa is a former Assistant Professor at The University of South Florida's Department of Teaching and Learning. She is also the former Director of the USF Active Gaming Research Laboratories.

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