Teaching tolerance, understanding and mutual respect in the classroom can be difficult, especially when it comes to disability awareness training. While educating students using videos and textbooks may help them grasp the idea of what it’s like to be blind, deaf, or physically impaired, they won’t fully understand the disability unless they can experience it first-hand.
Simulating blindness with a blindfold, or deafness with earplugs, is something many of us have experienced. But using these tools in the classroom can be disruptive and can distract students from the overall objective of learning about disability. However, the ever-innovative sphere of game-based learning has once again come up with a solution for teachers.
BlindSide is a PC, Mac and iPad based game designed to give both seeing and blind users the same gaming experience. Users are guided through the game with sounds and commands alone, using the screen only to move the characters. Character movements are also dictated through the user actually moving left or right, by standing or sitting in a swivel chair, and tapping the forward and backward buttons. The game has over 1000 sound effects and pieces of dialogue, creating a rich storyline all in players’ minds. Blindside puts students in the dark, leaving them to experience a world inside their imagination with only their sense of hearing to guide them. Interestingly, the game was inspired by a temporary experience with blindness that one of the two co-creators faced in high school.
The game’s plot begins in the apartment of Assistant Professor Case and his girlfriend Dawn, both of whom woke up blind that morning. They not only have to navigate their world without sight, but also have to survive attacks from monsters in the neighborhood. This scenario will help educate students on how it feels to experience blindness because the characters and the player all become blind simultaneously. The student navigates the characters through the game, but feels just as blind as they do, as if they are part of the characters’ scenario.
One of the most beneficial aspects of this game is that it can be applied to a classroom more effectively than students wandering around aimlessly with a blindfold and hands outstretched in front of them. By using an iPad, iPhone, PC or Mac, students wear noise-cancelling headphones and ideally sit in a swiveling chair to avoid wandering through the room. The student playing remains quiet and follows commands, experiencing the game in their own mind. The application of the game would require students to be mature enough to handle the material. The game is classified as a survival based horror game, and does include several words that could be considered swearwords. It also features monsters that attack the characters, creating a somewhat disturbing image in the mind’s eye. We would recommend that teachers play the game for themselves to check that it is suitable for their students.
Teachers may implement this game anywhere within a tolerance or disability training unit. It may be helpful for students to experience blindness before learning about it, as if they too woke up one morning blind. The game could also be used as a reward after they’ve demonstrated a clear understanding of the disability.
Teaching tolerance in the classroom is difficult because each student only experiences the disability for a fraction of the time someone with a disability would. Many times simulating blindness or deafness requires either a half day of classroom time or some very creative thinking, but most often requires both. It would be ideal to have the students experience blindness or deafness and continue through the lecture as if they’ve always been impaired, but often the easiest way is to send students through the school with a partner and hope they remember the objective throughout the entire day. Blindside helps students understand how it feels to be blind while attempting to complete tasks and continue through the game. The game is self-contained, keeps students in the classroom, and helps them gain better insight into blindness than a blindfold ever could. It takes learning a step further by reinforcing ideas and topics discussed as a class through game based learning.
Using an innovative, award-winning game like Blindside will truly make students focus on the task at hand, not only teaching them how to enhance their listening skills and ability to follow direction, but will also dial them in on what it’s like to experience blindness.
Blindside is available for PC and Mac, and is on the App store for the iPhone and iPad.
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