Xbox and Road Safety in the classroom

Last week, I had the opportunity to share with 15-20 PDHPE teachers about the way that an Xbox could be used in PDHPE lessons. I must thank Microsoft being generous enough to lend us 2 Xbox 360’s and some mates who lent me the other stuff I needed. While we spent most of the 1 1/2 hr session exploring a range of games – particulalry using Kinect, I was really keen to try an idea for using Xbox for teaching Road Safety. During a discussion with @benpaddlejones  about ways that an Xbox could be used for teaching road safety. The plan we devised was actually quite simple but should be quite effective, and a whole lot more fun and interesting than the way we normally teach it.

So, what will I need and how will it work?

Xbox and Steering Wheel

Obviously, you need an Xbox 360, but you’ll also need a steering wheel with foot pedals (like the one above). Without this, the activity won’t really work. These are a little hard come by at the moment (I have been lucky enough to dig up 2 older ones from friends), however, word on the street is that later in the year Forza 4 (a racing game) will be released with a new steering wheel included, which will be a great bundle to get (now to find the funds!!). You’ll also need to choose a car game – and unless you want a lot of negative parental feedback – make sure you get one that doesn’t have violence or the like in it. I chose to use Project Gotham Racing 4 which is a straight up car racing game.

A lot of people who’ve played racing car games might straight away be thinking that racing car games are all about speed and that’s correct, but for this unit we’ll be using a few restrictions on our the way we play. So, how will it work?

Step 1: Choose a driver. Let them drive two laps of a race track and time how long it takes. Choose a track that isn’t too easy, but at the same time, don’t choose a really hard one because most people in your class probably won’t be too experienced at driving. While they are driving, have one student time them, one to count the number of times they break the speed limit (which I set at 80 m/hr) and a third student who will count the number of crashes they have.

Step 2: Using the same driver, drive another 2 laps of the same course and have the same people gathering the same statistics. The difference this time, is that the driver has to send 1 text/SMS message from their mobile phone per lap.

Step 3: Using the same driver, follow the same procedure as the first two steps. This time, you might like to add different variables such as having passengers sitting “in” their car with them who will provide distraction and/or you could add a stereo and require them to change radio stations/or songs on each lap (if you use speakers you could have them change tracks on their ipods while driving).

When I trialled this, it was clear to everyone that during step 2 and 3, there were more crashes and also a lower speed as they were trying hard to be safe while distracted.

This opens up loads of opportunities for discussion with students over the next few lessons. What I think would be particularly useful, would be to gather statistics in a google form similar to this one HERE. This would allow you to gather all the statistics together from your class and then graph it and analyse it. You could even compare it to statistics gathered by the Road and Traffic Authority.

One of the barriers to overcome, depending on your school’s policy, will be the use of a mobile phone to send SMS/text message and how you will check they sent it. I’m hoping that I can use a school number, otherwise I might just have to get them to type a message into a note on an ipod touch and check it at the end.

Another barrier may be that you will only have one person driving at a time. Thankfully, I had access to 2 steering wheels which made it easier, but with 2 laps per step and 2-3 minutes per lap, it will take a bit of time. Having two consoles makes that a lot easier, but you could also do step 1 over a few lessons leading in. That may help to connect the students with the topic before introducing the other factors.

Anyway, for around $600-700 you could have a really good tool for teaching Road Safety. And while that seems a little expensive, it actually does provide a very realistic view at the dangers of driving while distracted. I think a lot of parents would be happy with a program that keeps their children safer on the roads. I know I would.