Childhood obesity is a serious social problem in America. The effects of obesity in childhood are well documented in both the social science literature and medical journals. During the last 30 years, the percentage of obese children between the ages of 6 and 11 has risen 200% while the percentage of obese children between 12 and 19 has tripled (CDC, Preventing Childhood Obesity, 2010). Obesity in the United States has increased among all cohorts and ethnicities, spans across generations, and is not limited to income or educational levels. For the purposes of this paper, I have chosen to identify a video game-based learning model in the classroom to combat the effects of childhood obesity. Specifically, this proposal involves implementing a Nintendo motion-based video game, Dance Revolution that involves mimicking dance moves provided by onscreen commands.
This paper will first identify the significant issues of childhood obesity and will then provide a review of the scholarly literature concerning video game-based learning. In an effort to identify and research an appropriate school improvement program, this paper will detail the significance of incorporating a motion-sensitive video game-based physical education program designed to reduce the incidence of obesity in both elementary and secondary educational settings. Toward this endeavor, this paper will discuss the educational foundations of implementing such a program, the role and impact this proposed program has on student learning objectives, and will analyze the costs of the physical education program in terms of legal, financial, personal and institutional implementation and organizational policy considerations.
Childhood obesity statistics
The prevalence of obesity among children in America is now an epidemic. Even a cursory glance at the statistics concerning childhood obesity in the United States are disconcerting and disturbing. From a sociological perspective, obese children have a greater risk of social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem (CDC, Make a Difference, 2010). Obese children have a 70% chance of being overweight or obese as adults -- facing higher risks for many diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and several types of cancers (CDC, Make a Difference, 2010). From a financial perspective, the obesity epidemic in America is also dire; the combined effects of obesity among Americans cost taxpayers in excess of 147 billion dollars per year; a 50% increase in just 5 years (Reinberg, 2009). While obese children and adolescents are significantly more likely to remain overweight into adulthood, the effects of childhood obesity that lingers into adulthood are disastrous from a health and human services perspective; obesity in adults is associated with increased risks of premature death, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, varying forms of cancer and osteoarthritis (CDC, Role of Schools, 2010).
The Centers for Disease Control ranks obesity as the number one health risk in America and the direct cause of over 400,000 deaths a year. Obesity is strongly correlated with lower self-esteem, depression, discomfort in social situations and a lower quality of life in general (Healy, 2010). Clearly, the problems associated with being overweight and obese are significant social problems in the United States. While video games have traditionally been maligned in the academic literature, more recent research suggests that playing games involving motion-based technologies actually serve to improve coordination, reduce weight and improve overall self-esteem among children and young adults.
Video Games as educational tools
Gee (2004) writes that good video games incorporate sound learning principles that are supported by current research in cognitive science. Rice (2005) writes that the largest and most predominant educational conferences; the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), as well as the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC), offer multiple presentations on video gaming. While several researchers suggest that video games contribute to the rising incidence of obesity among children, more recent research suggests that, with the innovative technology of interactive physical games, such as the Nintendo Fit, have shown significant results toward reducing childhood obesity prevalence rates. The effects of video game-based learning curricula in both elementary and secondary educational settings are impressive.
Lee, Luchini, Michael, Norris, & Soloway (2004) investigated the effects of utilizing video games among second graders using an experimental research design to ascertain knowledge acquisition of math concepts in the classroom. The results of the Lee et al. (2004) study found that those students using a video game-based model improved three fold over the students using traditional paper worksheets. The positive consequences of playing video games are well documented in the social science literature. For example, Beck and Wade (2004) surveyed close to 2000 people in business, and discovered positive links toward work attitudes, willingness to take risks, and problem solving among professionals who grew up playing video games vs. those who did not. Johnson (1997) argues children who play video games score higher on IQ tests than their non-playing parents did at the same ages.
According to a report on obesity in America, The CDC identifies obesity as the result of a drastic increase in the availability and consumption of unhealthy foods in fast food restaurants, increased consumption per meal as well as a lack of physical activity among citizens in the United States (CDC, Obesity, 2010). Keeping in mind that obesity is generally the result of overeating and sedentary behaviors, the importance of implementing a workable curriculum designed to engage students and promote healthy activities in the classroom are key.
The role and impact on student learning
Today's children are technologically savvy individuals with lifelong exposure to electronic media. Prensky (2002) refers to the new generation as "digital natives" who are well equipped to engage in technology-based media. Motion-based games such as DDR are fun and interesting to children, with a broad appeal to both young and older students in the classroom. The incorporation of the proposed program also serves to involve weaker students, less athletically adept pupils into the curriculum to achieve state mandated goals and objectives. As important, video games engage all sensory modalities and, as such, cater to the broad spectrum of multiple intelligences: visual, auditory, musical, kinesthetic, and interpersonal intelligences are all engaged during game play. Of particular interest to educators is the ability to adjust difficult settings so that students of varying skill levels can not only play simultaneously, but also compete with one another.
One of the more popular motion-based video games that is ideal for the classroom setting is "Dance Revolution." This Nintendo game utilizes motion-sensitive "pads" that are designed for stepping on, similar to a yoga mat, or a stair stepper. Essentially, the Nintendo "Fit" pads gauge input from a player and represents the players movement as an avatar on a television screen. In this way, a player can view their digitally represented self as movements are dictated by Dance Revolution game. This motion-based game approach to physical activity in the classroom has been shown to drastically reduce obesity in school aged children.
Schiesel (2007) observes that incorporating D.D.R. into gym classes is the result of a general shift in physical education, with school districts de-emphasizing traditional sports in favor of less competitive activities. Kuroneko (2009) writes that motion-based games such as DDR appeals to school boards and educators as a non-competitive form of movement (compared to traditional sports).
Analysis of costs in terms of legal, financial, personal, or institutional implementation
Of course, implementing such a game-based physical education program will require some important considerations involving time, money, resources as well as the likelihood of resistance to such implementation. However, the positive consequences seem to significantly outweigh the negative consequences. For example, while video games are not designed and should not be implemented to usurp or replace a holistic physical education program, they can certainly provide a foundation upon which to further the aims of physical education, namely increased physical movement and instructional…