In my last post (see Hii Achievers) I introduced my big digital idea – Hii Skills. Before I go into greater detail regarding the finer aspects and practicalities, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the reasons behind the creation of Hii Skills – the unfortunate reality that teacher aides trained specifically in HPE are few and far between. To be clear, I am not suggesting Hii Skills is 100% better for students with special needs than having regular access to teachers face to face. Instead this project allows for fully and specially trained teacher aides to be more widely distributed to more students in need by decreasing barriers such as travel time and limited resources. Put simply, Hii Skills is a tool used to address and combat personnel limitations in remote areas and understaffed metropolitan areas.

‘So what does it look like?’ you ask. Hii Skills can be imagined as a fusion of Skype and Wii Fit/Wii Sports presented in a school and student-friendly program. Let’s break it down into the projected student and tutor experiences.

Students would log onto Hii Skills and be met with a main home screen divided into two parts – one half providing a video link to their tutor (through their webcam, a cheap and common device found on most computers) and the other displaying the student’s personal goals, achievements and character (which they have personally designed and created). The tutor would then introduce the session, a typical establishment of objectives and task outlines to ground the lesson. At the tutors control, the screen would then transform into the activity for the day. Each activity would be controlled by the tutor, appropriate for the class objectives and student ability levels. As the activity is completed and requirements fulfilled using Wii controllers and balance board, students receive instant rewards and responses from the tutor icon on the side of the screen. Immediate verbal or non verbal feedback (in the form of audio or SMS type messaging) is provided in relation to their performance. As the student progress through their program, visible results of their own improvement can be seen through increases in their characters ability levels.

On the other end of the line, the tutor would receive a live video stream and concurrent data of the student’s participation and progress in the form of time on task, centre of balance or specific movement records. Based on this feedback tutors have the ability to manipulate the activities and goals depending on student achievement. This wide-reaching control over the program is incredibly important to maintain the individualized nature of each student’s learning experience (that can otherwise be lacking in distance education scenarios). Characteristics as small as the kinds of ‘rewards’ students receive (ie  gold stars as opposed to coins) to the types of activities incorporated (snowboarding as opposed to tightrope walking for balance) would further assist in the personalization of the program.  Tutors may also influence the types of graphics based on student understanding of personal movement awareness and reflection.

Now let’s talk cost. Let me guess, at this point you’re thinking ‘Surely this will cost some big bucks!’ That’s where I can happily tell you that this isn’t the case. To get started, schools simply need some form of internet connection in order to communicate with the tutor. A Wii Balance board costs $20 new ($10 pre-loved) and 2 wireless remotes for $35. For a grand total of $55 schools are able to implement the Hii Skills program, enhancing the education of numerous students with special needs.

This is the foundation of what I believe to be a strong idea, an idea that could help to address the issue of limited trained personnel and resources across schools. I’d love for you to put yourself in the shoes of the tutor and think about what controls and information would be most important to have access to. Please leave any comments or suggestions below!