Anyone who's ever lived in upstate New York can imagine the difficulty gym teachers face in winter, when kids simply can't go outside. Many schools, however, are using the Wii to get kids some exercise.

A story in the Post-Star of Glens Falls, N.Y. reports about the mushrooming uses of video games in local schools there. What began as a physical education effort to help children with special needs has expanded to a reward for good behavior, excellent grades or classroom performance, encourage kids to take physical fitness habits into their home, and now as an activity more engaging than spending winter days cooped up in a gym.

There's money behind it too, which confirms educators are approaching it as a serious resource. One school got $1,649 for a Dance Dance Revolution Group Fitness Bundle for the Wii. The same program has been rolled out at another high school and will be expanded there next semester. Wiis also are being used in other elementary schools.

"They're using it with great success as a motivator during winter months and on a day like today, when you can't go out. There are a lot of ways to burn calories while you're inside," said David Ashdown, an official with the educational services board serving Glens Falls and other schools in five counties. "What you're getting is student engagement and trying to harness what we call the 'wow factor.' You're trying to reach every student and creating opportunities to make students successful."


State officials also seem receptive to video games' value to education.

"I spent some time talking to the state Education Department and I think the issue is everyone wants to engage students in the classroom," Ashdown said. "That's the kind of magic in a bottle any administrator wants to capture."


Getting Schooled on Wii [Post-Star, Glens Falls, N.Y.]