Kids love summer vacation, and many of them turn to video games for entertainment during the months apart from school. But one professor from Purdue University argues that the leisure activity may be a great brain workout, too.
“One reason I support video games is because I think they’re an excellent model for learning,” Bill Watson, the director of the Purdue Center for Serious Games and Learning in Virtual Environments in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said in a press release. “When you play a game, you are going to learn. If the game is designed with educational content in mind, you have to learn that content in order to win the game.”
While the games don’t have to be inherently educational in nature, Watson said, the best options are games that involve strategy, thinking, and reflection rather than twitch reflexes—although studies have shown high-action games offer learning benefits, too, including language skills and working memory.
“This may be something never considered by the game designer, but by putting a lens on it you can use this as a tool to promote different sorts of learning,” Watson said.
One useful approach to mining educational value from games is to encourage discussion about the experience, including the decisions they made in the game and how they played.
“You’ve got to talk about it,” he said. “Just get them to reflect and consider the different strategies and processes they bring to it. You’re doing problem solving when you’re learning how the game system works and how to win it.”
And games, as it happens, fit in well with the Maker Movement that empowers learning by doing.
“Kids today have more accessibility to be able to create their own games,” Watson said. “And if you’re designing your own games, you have to understand what you’re going to teach through it.”
He added, “If you’re giving them screen time, it would be highly, highly engaging to create something. So why not have the screen time devoted to educational purposes?”
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