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#SWaNI -xGames – Using game controllers in education

March 23, 2011 by Robin Englebright   

When I was working on the Becta Interactive Whiteboard common file format [] I dallied briefly with a Wiimote controller as an alternative to the IWB hardware whilst testing our reference implementation.

Wiimotes track infrared signals from a a static base emitter, and with a bit of trigonometry provide a motion tracking system.

If you use the wiimote as a fixed point and build a simple Infrared emitting pen, you can create a somewhat clunky Interactive whiteboard setup for the price of a wiimote and an IR LED (about £35 all in) with cracking software to do all the hard work like

Things have got far more sophisticated in the wiimote realm since then, with commercial offerings providing rather swanky looking applications like

Wiimote Smoothboard:


X-box controllers offer other possibilities, and of course have the whole Microsoft empire behind them to build SDK’s and code libraries. That said there are a great number of open source projects out there using the controllers, though using the wireless controllers appears to be somewhat trickier due to the proprietary  RF technologies, so a USB receiver is required. However the fact that the Xbox 360 has been around for so long now means that in the controllers at least bugs and issues have been sorted out long ago.


The SWaNI LTIG x-games project is taking advantage of this robust and mature platform to investigate ways of improving attainment in some of the less popular topics. Certainly the ease of use should be a step up from other interactive systems. If I look at the instructions for my Turning Point response card it requires a fair amount of tiddling around, and luck, I can imagine the chaos using it with a group of truculent learners. 

What’s interesting to me is the sticking points the project may encounter, and how the very fact they are using ‘GAME” controllers might iron things out.

There are further details including the project stage 2 bid and the final  project plan on the JISC site: [] The project hopes to use their own site to keep the world informed of their progress.

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