Walsall College of Continuing Education: Breaking down barriers - using a games console for learners with disabilities
An Excellence Gateway case study
This case study was produced by JISC RSC (Regional Support Centres) West Midlands on behalf of the Excellence Gateway
Sector relevance: Further education colleges
Keywords: Improving teaching and learning, improving responsiveness, Support for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, learner support, asssited learning, risk assessment, health and safety
Walsall College of Continuing Education purchased a Nintendo Wii games console for the Learning for Living and Work department, using an E-Guides grant, to improve skills, encourage participation and light exercise to promote wellbeing amongst learners with varying degrees of disabilities and learning difficulties.
About Walsall College of Continuing Education
Walsall College of Continuing Education manages adult and community learning for Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council. The College caters for school leavers and adults, and offers a variety of courses including Basic Skills.
As part of Learning for Living and Work, the college offers the Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN) ‘Towards Independence’ programme. This is for learners aged over 16 with severe and profound learning difficulties and disabilities.
Towards Independence consists of 30-40 modules which can be taken separately or built up to form a record of personal achievements. The aim is for learners to develop personal, social and independent living skills through units such as Coping with People, Meal Preparation and Cooking, Performing Arts and Popular Culture.
The Photography module and OCR pre-entry learners have either a physical disability and/or learning difficulties ranging from visual impairments and autistic spectrum disorders to mobility difficulties. Due to their disabilities, the learners often find it difficult to transfer some of the ideas and concepts developed at college to their everyday lives. For example, their diets are sometimes poor and they get very little exercise, yet motivating the learners to try new tasks can be difficult. The college is unable to offer physical exercise due to potential health risks and limited facilities, but wanted a way of promoting gentle exercise and wellbeing, and encouraging social interaction.
Helen Beeston, Associate Lecturer (Learning for Living), who teaches on the Towards Independence Photography module and the OCR pre-entry ICT award, secured an E-Guides grant to purchase a Nintendo Wii games console.
“I am keen to improve learning opportunities and promote the use of modern resources which learners can use and transfer their skills into everyday life. The aim of the Wii is to encourage participation in a fun way whilst improving co-ordination, social skills and basic skills such as numeracy.”
The console comes with remote controls for users to operate the games and activities, and a game called ‘Wii Sports’ which allows users to take part in ten pin bowling, boxing, baseball, golf and tennis. The Wii includes pre-loaded ‘channels’ available via the interactive menu screen. These channels include ‘Mii’, which allows users to create a 3D ‘avatar’ of themselves, and the ‘Photo Channel’ for editing and viewing photos.
Helen introduced her learners to ten-pin bowling initially as part of a lunchtime club and afternoon choice activities sessions to encourage participation and teamworking. All learners have been able to participate either through assisted support or independently. Using the remote control, many learners have learnt how to effectively bowl the ball to achieve a score. They enjoy the anticipation of waiting for their turn, cheering for their peers and seeing how many pins they have knocked down. This has encouraged development of social skills and interaction from learners who are normally more reserved and less willing to participate in activities.
OCR ICT learners have created their own ‘Mii’s’ which has re-inforced equal opportunities through the use of, for example, skin colour options. It has also given the learners, who often find decision making difficult, more confidence to choose from different options (ie. eye colour and hair) and have control of their individual Mii.
The Photo Gallery function has been extremely useful for the ASDAN Photography learners. The jigsaw feature has enabled them to fit together the parts of a camera which in turn has re-inforced the learners’ knowledge. The slide show feature and ability to display and edit the photos taken as part of the Photography module (via an SD card slot on the Wii console) has also been useful. This enables learners to see the results of their work straight away and for those with visual impairments, they can see the photos on a SmartBoard hooked up to the console.
At the time of writing, the Wii had only been used for a few months yet had already proved really popular with the learners. It has had an excellent impact with learners who have developed numeracy skills (through the bowling activity), co-ordination, social skills and built up their confidence. They have also made significant progress in their use of the Wii remote – some learners who could previously only use the remote with the aid of a tutor can now use it to full effect, and can also use the arrow keys to line the ball up on the bowling lane before releasing it. Learners have adapted to the Wii very quickly and by following on screen instructions have developed their problem solving skills.
“The Wii has exceeded my expectations and I’m really impressed with its versatility. I was only aware of the sports games when I bought the console so to have the other functions such as the Mii and Photo channels is a real bonus. It is great to see the learners developing new skills, engaging in activities and taking part in gentle exercise. I am now really keen for other staff at the college to try the Wii.”
The College is planning to purchase more consoles for use on other courses.
“I would advise other learning providers, particularly those who engage with learners with disabilities and learning difficulties, to get a Wii console. As well as being a fun way to engage learners, the console is a modern resource which is really popular in today’s society. By using the Wii, the learners are engaging with something that is relevant and perhaps used by their families and friends – it’s something they could potentially use outside the learning environment.”
“I look forward to seeing the learners build on and transfer their confidence and newly developed skills to their everyday lives.”
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- Visit the Walsall College of Continuing Education’s website: http://www.wcoce.com
- Find out more about the Nintendo Wii: http://www.nintendo.co.uk/NOE/en_GB/wii_54.html
- For more information about this case study, please email the West Midlands JISC Regional Support Centre.
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Disclaimer: The Regional Support Centres (RSC) and the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) support the development of educational e-learning. We may refer to specific products, processes or services. Such references are examples and are not endorsements or recommendations and should not be used for product endorsement purposes.