|Nintendo Labo (Nintendo, 2018)|
As a supporter of technology in the classroom, I am always looking for new tools and devices to experiment with. Also being a digital gaming enthusiast, I was excited to see Nintendo's announcement of the Labo. Not only does it provide a unique blend of construction and digital gaming, but Nintendo took the liberty of displaying how everything functions. Once I used it in the learning environment, I immediately witnessed its potential for inquiry-based learning and collaboration; students worked together to build the cardboard models, and then brainstormed in what ways they could manipulate this new technology. However, like all emerging technologies, it is important to reflect on its functionality and contribution to the learning environment.
What is Labo?
Labo is a software developed for the Nintendo Switch, their newest console. It is paired alongside cardboard models, which will vary depending on what kit you purchase. The two current available kits for purchase are the Variety Kit #1 and the Robot Kit, which feature building components and the game cartridge. The video below highlights the two kits and what features are available for each model.
Beyond the functionality of the provided models, the software also includes the Toy-Con Garage, an open-ended tool for users to program their own projects. The Switch console itself offers a digital touchscreen, and the Joy-Con controllers feature vibration, a gyroscope, and an IR sensor. In the Garage, users can make use of all of these functions using conditional coding sequences (if you do this, then that will occur). IGN's Wiki contains an in-depth explanation of the programmable functions. The following video provides an overview of the Garage feature, alongside some examples of what it is capable of creating.
Functionality in the Classroom
By adjusting how we teach, we can aim to develop new practices that support a desire to learn. Fostering positive emotions, internal motivation and favorable perceptions of work itself are the secrets to better change (Fullan, 2013). We should always consider ways to modify our teaching practice to support these qualities. As we progress as a society, expectations may differ. Requiring different skill sets from the developing generations. It is important that we prepare today’s youth as best as possible for what will be expected of them in the future. Dickey (2013), claims that the interaction of material, information and digital tools as well as through collaboration is a critical part of the classroom today. Labo not only supports the interaction of material with digital tools, but can be used for a variety of activities: teaching coding, collaborative projects, discovering how and in what ways tools can be used.
Though the Labo shows potential for classroom use, it is not without its limitations. Its requirement of the Switch console, makes it an expensive addition. Additionally, through personal experience, it is recommended that multiple Switch's are available; when students wanted to work on something other than their classmates, engagement seemed to suffer. It is also important that we facilitate lesson plans involving emerging technologies, in a way that is valuable to the learner. The skills need to be developed, portrayed and taught in a way that proves useful and similar to how students would perform them in the working world (Davies & West, 2013). Despite personal positive experiences with Labo in the classroom, not everyone may share the same experience. One's experience with emerging technology may be dependent on their proficiency with the technology, and how it's facilitated. As a closing thought, if a tool shows potential for benefiting the learning environment, is it the responsibility of the educator to make the effort to learn how it works?
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