The Nintendo DS has been selling at an incredible rate since its release in 2004, reaching nearly 65 million units worldwide at the end of 2007. Indeed, there are two in my own household. and my niece and nephew are never quieter than when playing a round or two of Mario Kart with each other over WiFi.
More recently, educational titles such as Brain Training, Sight Training, Big Brain Academy and even My Word Coach have started to become viable prospects in the UK market. Games of this type have long been available in Japan, and it’s great to see educational games that reach the same standards of presentation and gameplay as other genres. No disrespect to Granny’s Garden, of which more in upcoming post, but it’s popularity mainly arose because it was one of the few times you got to use the computer at school, rather than being the game of choice. That 5 1/4 floppy containing a copy of Chuckie Egg was never far from hand when the teacher wasn’t looking!
While it’s great to see mainstream educational titles out there, there’s still a cost attached to collect a decent library of them, and the competition is strong from the more established genres, I’m looking at you Zelda. With a flashcart such as the M3 or R4, you can open up your DS to a world of what are known as Homebrew applications, which are programs written by enthusiasts. Many moons ago you probably would’ve found these as listings in a copy of Your Spectrum, but these days they’re available to download and use for free. The M3 and R4 can also of course be used for video game piracy, but we don’t condone that use of the device at all, so don’t copy that floppy.
So, let’s take a look at a few examples. and consider how what learning could take place therein that could transfer across to achievement in school…
Treasures of Gaia – http://stravingo.over-blog.fr/article-11878935.html
Essentially a Google Maps browser for the DS available in English and French. Unfortunately I couldn’t get this one working due to the DS needing a WEP or unencrypted WLAN, but the screenshots certainly look promising. Geography would get an obvious boost from this, and then there are the multilingual possibilities too.
DSLiveWeather – http://www.dev-scene.com/NDS/DSLiveWeather
This turns your DS into a client for weather.com. Great for moving on from the web query unit in KS3 ICT, as well as obvious Geography applications.
Both excellent drawing tools that save to PC compatible formats. Colors has the exciting planned feature of WiFi collaborative painting. Great for Art homework?
Animanatee – http://forum.gbadev.org/viewtopic.php?t=14116
Animation programs, with the option to export again in PC compatible formats. Has possible applications in English by enabling the user to tell simple stories using pictures, Maths for geometry work?
Although the page looks scary at first for non-Japanese readers, there is some English there. This is a dictionary interpreter for StarDict dictionaries with voice capabilities. Great for learning and pronouncing new words in English, but also other languages too?
TxtWriter – http://ds.spacemonkeymafia.com/txtwriter.php
Simply a text editor for the DS. Write your story or essay on the go!
NitroTracker – http://nitrotracker.tobw.net/
I wouldn’t be making music today without TCB Tracker, and this program looks very exciting. It’s a tracker composition tool for the DS, with MIDI support. You can export in WAV, which means you can then convert to MP3 on a PC. I’d love to hear your compositions if you get working with this tool.
A general purpose computer algebra system.
So there we are, lots to get working with, and more programs are being released all of the time. Have fun!