Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Video Gaming in Education - Good for the Brain?

We came across new posts and discussion about video gaming and education. Where do you stand? Here are some first thoughts...

The Pros:
- highly motivating, it's fun (fun is very important - we don't underestimate it!)
- encourages risk taking and trial and error
- self-paced
- young-age friendly...young kids can begin to work with complex situations or ideas
- encourages analysis and looking for mistakes
- can incorporate or train different learning strategies- though at present visual-heavy (pictures, images, text)
- can hint without telling
- can be very patient
- solve by ideas, not strength or size (great for young gifted kids or 2E's)
- encourages perspective changing
- encourages some problem solving (though not as much as we'd like for K-12)
- allows incremental learning, close monitoring of improvement or training
- allows precisely targeted sensory / perceptual learning (auditory / visual processing)

The Cons:
- it's not real- may impact on how the information is generalized, taken seriously
- the process is immersive and usually fairly fast-paced (may not be as conducive to reflection compared to other learning formats such as reading)
- doesn't encourage as much critique about the information as maybe reading original documents, magazine, or book...after all, it's just a game
- game play doesn't directly examine reality
- players are directed to the programmer's teaching points or conclusions- whereas direct inspection of real experiments or phenomena may provide more individual learning points or conclusions.
- the games could be administered poorly...teacher leaves students to computer terminals, student doesn't learn anything, copies from neighbor, etc. (this can happen in labs too, of course)
-games are interactive, but not as interactive as conversation with a smart and perceptive teacher (remember the Turing test?)...some programs are completed by kids clicking a lot or cheating
-not hands-on learning (click or toggle rather than working with original materials)...miss making projects by hands, spatial learning and modeling

Some of the ideas about gaming in medicine - reminded us a bit of the 'Virtual Patient' programs that we tried out for the University of Pennsylvania years ago. These programs were decision-based flow programs, that drove you to a particular diagnosis or cluster of diagnoses...but very different from real patients. There are a million different ways people will tell you something (or not tell you something), and the computer model was nothing like taking a history from a real patient, sorting out facts from conflicting office notes or lab studies. Even the most complex games involve the abstraction of a great deal of information, and many decisions about what to include or exclude for a game. Now, selection and abstraction takes place in every lesson or learning plan we know, but what direct labs or experimentation? Which sort of format would you be more likely to have an unexpected result- a 4th grade science experiment or a video game teaching the same principle? Now some might prefer that you don't ever get an unexpected result - but which is more like life?

So where do we stand? Gaming has a wonderful potential in education and rehabilitation for that matter - but in our household, we like pairing computer-based learning with one-on-one old-fashioned Socratic thinking and hands-on study. We don't use games only for educational purposes (shouldn't life be fun?), but if our kids develop an insane delight in 'arcade games' over and over again, we have insisted they learn about what makes a good game, and try some simple programming themselves.

Games that make leaders: top researchers on the rise of play in business and education | WTN
Video Games Boost Visual Skills, Study Finds
Random Walk in E-Learning: Educational Games Don't Have to Stink!

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