Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nintendo DS Lite, Pictochat, Handheld Learning 2008

My current favourite m-toy is the Nintendo DS Lite. I received mine after signing up early for the 2008 Handheld Learning conference (what will they give away next year? PSP?), proceeded to buy a few games for it to get to know its functionality. Games like My Word Coach include opportunities for you to write the letters to fill in blanks, which is a great bit of interactivity. I also have My Chinese Word Coach so I can practice my Chinese handwriting and word recognition. It's great!

Apart from the touch screen, My Chinese Word Coach includes opportunities to listen to pronunciations and to record them and compare your recording with the original. This gets my thumbs up for a well-thought out programme.

The Pictochat function is another great feature of the DS. It's like having a chat room in your hands. So long as there is another DS or DS Lite nearby, you can go into a chat room and draw or type to your heart's content. Not only can you send your message to the other person, you can pull down a previous message, add to it or erase part of it and then send it back! See video below:

This has some potential for simple gap-fill using words or formulae. We used Pictochat to great effect at the Handheld Learning conference: the friendly banter meandered from what the speakers were saying to trying to find ways to communicate where we were in the big hall. I met some new people through this and it's certainly a great way to reduce isolation in a big conference such as HHL2008. (pix of Chat Room B)

At another session, storytelling came to the fore when I drew a hand coming out from one side of the screen. Someone else drew another hand coming out from the other side of the screen. I then drew a croissant being thrown by the new hand towards mine. A third person (mention no names - scroll down to see his entry about my presentation at the HHL2008) drew his hand coming up and stealing my croissant! The story continued but I won't bore you with the details. This was not only a great ice breaker but allowed us to be creative, inventive and to show our personalities with drawings as well as handwriting and text.

During my presentation at the HHL2008, I also mentioned the R4 card to people. This is a Flash cart with a micro-DS memory card preloaded with Moonshell (it's like an alternative operating system for the DS that will run from the memory card). Another similar card is the M3 but I haven't got that one.

I put jpegs, .txt files, mp3 files and ogg videos on to the micro-SD card. I put that into the R4 card and insert that into the DS. The DS turns on with Moonshell and I can then look at the photos, view the videos, read the txt files as an ebook. I can even play .nds games! I converted a video using the Moonshell tools ( which saved it as a .dpg file for the DS.

The R4 card retails for about £20 and comes with a 1Gb micro-SD card and preloaded with Moonshell, so all you need to do is to drop in your media files. Photos do have to be 256x192 pixels. Video screen size didn't seem to matter too much.

If you want to go on the Internet with your DS, or design your web site to be DS friendly, read this interesting review: Note that "Sites designed for greater accessibility will also tend to work better. " So maybe we can use the DS as a web accessibility diagnostic tool ;-)

So if you have Nintendo DS's in your institutions, why not stretch its use a little further. I look forward to hearing stories of how people have used Pictochat in classrooms, and how they have used the DS as a media player!

My slides from the HHL2008 can be downloaded from here:

Others can be found by going to

And congratulations to Chris Tansey of Wyke College for winning one of the awards at the HHL!