Digital Doors was created as a place for me to blog and share resources that I think would be helpful for teachers integrating technology in meaningful ways in their classroom. My goal would be to write a blog post a week, but with my busy schedule, that doesn't happen. I write when I can and rely on nifty tools to help me share what I am finding when I don't have time to write.

Friday, September 19, 2008

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Lessons Learned from Wii Fit

42 days ago, we purchased a Wii Fit. I know the exact number of days since I have not missed a day of exercising on the Fit since we got it. If you are not aware of what a Wii Fit is. It is a series of exercises to be done using a balance board as a part of the Nintendo Wii video game system. Well, I have never been into video games, but I kept hearing people talk about how much they love playing games such as Bowling and Tennis on the Wii and then when the Fit came out, I started hearing great success stories about motivation to exercise. So, I would have never dreamed that I would be the one in the family that we would by a video game system for, but there we were, searching all over for the elusive Wii. Aparently, I wasn't the only one who wanted to give it a try.

Exercise is not really my thing. Not because I mind the hard work, but because I am a clumsy doofus. I don't want to make a fool of myself in front of other people. Walking is about the biggest adventure I would take in exercising in the public. So the Wii Fit seemed like a great deal for me. I could exercise in the privacy of my own living room, practice new skills and and improve my coordination. Then maybe I wouldn't feel like such a doofus, exercising in public.

So... I set out on this adventure. Each day, I do a body test to measure my progress. I spend at least 30 minutes doing aerobic exercises like boxing, step aerobics, jogging and hula hoop. I then do either strength training or yoga with a virtual trainer. I'm not very good at balance, and should spend more time in that area, but I save balance for a treat and motivation because it seems more like a game instead of work. For me, it is all about getting fit and working on coordination. For my husband Erik, it is about beating records, either mine or his own. He is already fit, so he doesn't have to think about the other.

One day, as I was doing either Yoga poses or strength exercises with the virtual trainer. I realized that there were teaching lessons to be learned here. Some things that the Wii does are great and others..... not so great. So here are my thoughts.
1. Goal setting and monitoring is extremely important.

At the beginning, I was asked to set a goal. I set a goal to lose a certain amount of weight over a certain period of time. Each day, when I step on the Wii Fit, I check my progress toward that goal. I have a visual reminder of how I am progressing. The Wii graphs changes in weight and body mass, changes in my fitness age and the amount of time doing different exercises each day. This is really motivating to me. I want to make sure that I am on the Wii exercising each day, because it shows if I don't. I also know that my weight will be recorded each day. This helps me to make wise choices about what I eat and how much activity I do.

As learners, it is important to have a clear picture of where we are going and see the progress at each step. Another thing that the Wii does is it ask you to reflect when things are going well or not so well. Do we know why? Regular monitoring of learning is important too. Along with a chance to reflect on what is working well and what isn't working so well. How else can we make positive changes.
2. Positive feedback is good, but only when sincere.

Sometimes the Wii is brutally honest telling me that I am unbalanced or a couch potato. This stings a bit, but actually helps motivate me to get better so that I don't have to hear comments like that. Other times, when I am really struggling and I know I am not doing well, the Wii will say "Great Job" or "You have amazing ab strength". As I am trying to catch my breath and my balance I argue back that I know that it wasn't a great job. I know we want and need motivation, but when you get praise and you don't deserve it, it is pretty empty. Praise and encouragement are different. When we are struggling, we do need to hear cheers to help us keep going, but "great job" when it wasn't, doesn't really help.

As learners, I don't think we need to be showered with what we are doing wrong all the time. I think being aware of our weaknesses and our strengths is very important. Encouraging words without empty praise are very valuable.

3. It is great to mix it up and try new things.

As I mentioned earlier, I try balance games like walking the tight rope of slalom skiing when I get bored with other things. Most Wii Fit activities are only a few minutes long. This gives you the opportunity to really mix it up and keep things interesting.

Reading Brain Rules this summer, I learned that our brains attend best to one thing for about 10 minutes and then we need new stimulus. Keeping activities and information dump short and intentional leads to greater success. We are not doing less, we are just doing everything more efficiently.

4. New and harder challenges make great rewards.

The Wii Fit rewards progress by unlocking more challenging activities.

What a great way to reward learners. Keeping learners challenged, keeps them engaged and not bored. Perhaps instead of rewarding good work with free time, we should reward good work with greater and more engaging challenges.
5. Multitasking does not lead to success.

John Medina says that our brain functions in a linear way. We can not multitask. I always thought that I was pretty good at it until I started trying to activities in the Wii Fit. If I am not thinking about what I am doing when I am boxing or doing the step aerobics, I most surely will mess up. It really is quite amazing to me. I really can't walk and chew gum at the same time...:) I think that the more automatic the activities are, the more you are able to multitask. But if something is new and challenging, it really does take all of your attention as a learner.

Life and learning lessons from the Wii Fit. Pin It Now!

1 comment:

Sharon Elin said...

You make some thought-provoking parallels between the WiiFit and teaching, a creative perspective! I especially took note of your message about empty praise vs. supportive encouragment. It's too easy to get into a habit of saying things such as, "Good job!" when it would be more helpful to say, "I like the way you ..." and giving more specific feedback, whether positive or negative.