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Video games teach children to share

BY STACI EISENBERG | MARCH 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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Eight-year-old Ellie Hirt finished her turn in Nintendo Wii golf. She sat back to wait for her next turn, but noticed her new friend hesitate. Quickly, she leaned over and patiently showed him how to use the remote and tee off the green.

The two were participating in the Iowa City Public Library’s Wii Gaming weekly program on Thursday, which aims to promote cooperative learning skills among local children.

“In the kids’ mind, it is a toy, but children learn from playing,” said Andrea Flemming, one of the children’s librarians.

Cooperative learning takes classroom lessons and applies them to a social atmosphere, and local and national experts said using tools such as the Wii seems to be an emerging trend.

“This could be a great way for kids to connect with others in an environment, through a modality that they have comfort and familiarity with already, and make friendships and attachments and learn skills they will take with them into their home and community,” said Lisa Kim, an Iowa City clinical social worker specializing in children, adolescents, and families.

The library’s program has been running for about two months this year, and it will end next week.
The librarians facilitate cooperative play by placing two Nintendo Wiis in the brightly colored and welcoming Story Room in front of approximately 15 children ages 6 to 13.



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On Thursday, the kids were unable to sit still because of their excitement about the games.

One of the Wiis was plugged into an average size television, and the other was projected onto a large screen. This setup only permitted a few children to participate at a time, allowing those playing to be in the spotlight.

“This enables children to develop sharing skills, and that can be difficult for young children to do,” said Christine Garrow, a children’s librarian intern.

The program forced the children to be patient and share the video games.

After a couple games of Super Smash Brothers, some children quickly got bored and debated which game to play next. One expert said this decision is more important than they realize, because not all games are as effective for cooperative learning. The goal is for the children to choose the game that allows the maximum number to play.

“It all depends on the software,” said Charles Smith, Kansas State University professor and author specializing in family studies. “A lot with Wii does involve cooperation. If they chose the right software, it could be great.”

They decided to keep Super Smash Brothers on for one more round.

Flemming said the library’s selection of Wii Sports, Super Smash Brothers, Just Dance for Kids, and Mario games encourage teamwork.

For some of the kids, playing the games has been the highlight of their week because they love the friendly environment of the library mixed with the excitement of other kids.

When asked about her favorite aspect of the program, Ellie said it’s “being here.” Despite having a Wii at home, she chose to play with her new friends at the library.

Ultimately, Smith said, the program focuses on interaction.

“Being together and having fun together is what it’s all about,” Smith said. “And that can be pretty important.”


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