We’ve talked a lot recently about the ascendency in educational gaming of the Nintendo DS, the descendant of the once ubiquitous GameBoy Advance handheld gaming system. New research is showing positive results for appropriate DS games to increase test scores, and gaming companies are porting over titles for studying the SAT to the platform. Now Nintendo is releasing an update to the system, called the DSi. It has generated quite a stir. Here are some ways the DSi may prove useful for educational gaming.
Screens for the DSi are slightly bigger than the older DS. I’ve joked about the GBA and DS being designed for young people, as folks over 20 often complain about the size of the displays. But larger screens set in thinner cases will help players see more of the action. For the sake of education, larger screens means more text on the screen, either in quantity or quality (size of font). Admittedly the increase is small (3.25 inches up from 3.0 inches), but the increase will most certainly be worth it. Especially for old(er) people.
Cameras Outside and In
The DSi will have two cameras built in: one facing out and one facing in toward the player. I see this as benefiting ARGs, where players use devices to electronically enhance surrounding reality for the sake of the game. We’ve seen increased ARG use in lessons at historical sites thanks to the potent new crop of cell phones lately, but with two cameras added to the mix on the DSi, possibilities suddenly blossom. Students armed with Nintendo’s device could easily take pictures of objects on scavenger hunts, for instance, and share them with other teams. Pictures of players from the inward pointing camera provide proof of presence, and one imagines an easier way for teachers to remotely track students roaming about a site.
Built-in Web Browsing
Web support brings the DSi into Sony PSP territory. The nice thing is the price of the DSi is expected to fall somewhere south of $200. Imagine handing a fifth grader the equivalent power of an iPhone for a fraction of the cost and with no long-term contract. Downloading games might provide developers an inexpensive means of distribution for educational titles which may not otherwise be carried in traditional gaming venues.
SD Memory Card Support
Portable memory is a key issue for educators, as it eases dissemination of lessons and collection of data. SD memory cards are the de facto standard for portable data on a lot of devices, and many laptops and desktops have SD ports built in. A backwards compatible GBA slot is eliminated in this newest model, perhaps helping to keep the case slim. But with the SD slot, might the possibilities for home-made programming help up-and-coming educational game makers, ala the R4 Revolution, aka Majicon?
MP3 Support – sort of
The music-playing capabilities of the DSi will help with audio books, and flash cards that read words back to students. It’s not true MP3 support; users will have to use the AAC format. At least, that’s the current specs. But, folks adroit at gaming and such will have few problems converting MP3s to AAC.
Alas, American players will probably have to wait until fourth quarter, 2009 to buy one. But for players, and educators, it looks to be worth the wait.