Dance Dance Revolution Hijacked

| May 18, 2010

As I was searching for information on Adaptive Learning Technologies I found an article about a professor at the University of North Carolina who is doing some innovative work, taking existing programs- like games- and adapting them for disabled children. Specifically computer science professor Gary Bishop headed up a team of software engineering students and revamped the video game Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). They hijacked the DDR software and reinvented the dance pad to create a “Braille twister” game for children who are visually impaired or blind. This new game helps the children not only learn Braille but also improve their upper body strength. They are able to distinguish between the squares they press because each square plays a different animal sound -ie a cow or horse. Also holding true to DDR’s nature of getting a bit of a workout while using the game the braille version buttons have to be pressed pretty hard to hear the sound. So, their upper body is put to the test.

The idea for the renovation came from the fact that when some students in N.C schools go to computer class each week there was nothing for the blind students to do. This started Bishop and his team on a development course to create programs and activities for this population of children. More of Bishop’s work can be found here.

During the development process Bishop and his students test their software in schools and by hosting an event called ‘Maze Day’. This day basically is a forum for visually impaired and blind students in grades K-12 and their parents and teachers visit the computer science department to test the latest games. This also allows the undergraduates who program the software have the chance to meet children who use the games they’ve created. I think this is a great example of two way learning- it creates an environment where both the designers and the children are learning, which according to the students who have participated has a positive impact on what they are accomplishing. One of Bishop’s software students said- “This is the first thing I’ve done in school that’s mattered”.

This article also reiterates the role of adaptive tools using technology as a powerful way to reach students with different needs.
If anyone knows of other resources that are similar I would love to hear about them!