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Super Mario Galaxy as a Model for Learning

mario.jpgI’ve been playing Super Mario Galaxy a lot on the Wii and thinking how it’s quite enjoyable and that I’m also learning a lot (in the context of a universe filled with various gravities, worlds, stars and princesses). In spending time in that world, it’s fascinating to see how you explore and develop the skills that are needed to complete the challenges that you face as Mario in the game. What are the implications for teaching and learning? Could Mario show us better ways to construct environments where learning can happen?

The Nintendo Wii is a beautifully-designed gaming system and Super Mario Galaxy brings Nintendo’s core character to the platform with a complex and richly-detailed world that is fun and filled with learning. To get through the game you have to collect 120 stars (twice!), which means that you must go through 240 different levels each with rules and powers that change. When my daughter completed the game, she said it was the first video game that she had finished all the way through. The game kept her challenged and encouraged enough so she stuck with it to complete things. That’s the perfect balance we need to strike with learners as they expand their skills and apply them.

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