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This Veterinary School Professor Wants to Teach Canine Medicine Using Nintendogs for DS


Photo by Kevin Simpson / CC BY-SA 2.0

Professor Susan McMahon is what you might call a veteran veterinary professor: she is well-known for teaching canine medicine at Penn Veterinary School and has been a member of the faculty for over a decade. What most of her students don't know about her, however, is her passion for video games, particularly Nintendo DS games. 

But when she was named a Penn Innovates Knowledge fellow for the 2017-2018 academic year, McMahon fused her two passions. She joined a growing wave of teachers at Penn and elsewhere to use video games for learning.

In early January, McMahon revealed her new Penn Innovates Knowledge project: revamping her course, "Canine Medicine 101," by teaching it with Nintendogs.

"I wanted to give my students a taste of what working with canines is really like out in the field before they embark on their rotations," McMahon said. "And what better way to have students experience working with dogs than using the classic virtual reality experience that the original 2005 Nintendogs for DS provides?"

Although McMahon has nearly unlimited access to real, living dogs at the Vet School, not to mention her own four dogs located at her home just ten minutes away, she believes that using the high-tech Nintendogs approach will be a richer and more valuable way to engage with students.

"There's just no better option, learning-wise, than Nintendogs in terms of advanced technology," McMahon said. "Of course you can take a real dog on a walk down Baltimore Avenue," she explained, "but can you walk down a beige, nameless street in a beige, nameless town and find mysterious wrapped presents filled with dog toys along the way? Of course not. And with the DS, I hope to change that."

While Nintendogs is not geared specifically toward the medical care of dogs, McMahon believes the benefits of using the game can teach broader aspects of canine care. "Sometimes it's hard to tell when a dog is feeling 'parched' or 'famished' in real life," she said, "but with the Nintendogs VR experience, you'll learn to look out for that by tapping your stylus in the upper right corner."

"Plus," she added, "not for nothing, it's impossible to kill a Nintendog."