Gaming and Education; Are Video Games Helping or Hindering Our Academic Performance?

I am a lover of all things that encapsulate the audience in a story; be it a book, a movie, or even a short story with a solid story line. Just as we study things such as these, I feel that games should be no exception. In this digital age, where books are somewhat going out of style in the eyes of some (not that I agree with this) games are a place where the creativity of children and adults alike is being influenced by the stories based within these mediums causing their creativity to grow in new ways. While this creativity is different to that of what you may develop from reading books, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is influences from a broad range of stimuli that cause children to develop a well-balanced, creative psyche. I am not saying that children should not read any books outside of academic ones and only play video games but preventing children from accessing these digital masterpieces and tying them only to books is not the way to go either. I believe that a mix between the two is key for developing children of this age as it is exposure to all types of information that broadens the mind.

In my opinion, gaming does not hinder a child’s academic performance – in fact, I believe it’s quite the opposite and I feel that the use of video games can be incorporated into the curriculum to help students learn. This would be especially beneficial for students who learn better through visuals instead of large blocks of text. There are people who also share the same opinions as me such as Gabe Zichermann who gave a TED Talk (Zichermann, 2011) based around kids and their learning influences through the playing of games such as World of Warcraft. He found that children who are playing video games are constantly learning as with any good video game it adapts as you move through it and the player must learn to change and develop new skills to progress further. He believes that this link between games and learning is an explanation for the Flynn Effect which is “the pattern that human intelligence is rising overtime” and he presents a compelling argument as he states that there has been a rise in fluid intelligence and the rate at which this rises since the 1990s – the introduction of video games into homes showing that there may be a link between people becoming smarter and problem solving through video games. While this is not proven, it does make you think and it has some fairly substantial evidence to back it up making it highly plausible that he is correct. Although this is not proven, a study by Simone Kühn has shown the benefits of video games. Kühn said “[W]hile previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers, the present study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase. This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games,” (Bergland, 2013) showing that playing of video games increases intelligence. Kühn has done several studies on this topic and found that the playing of video games for adolescents is beneficial for them such as in her study entitled “Positive Association of Video Game Playing with Left Frontal Cortical Thickness in Adolescents(Kühn et al., 2014) where she and her team found that “a positive correlation between self-reported hours of video gaming per week and cortical thickness in the left DLPFC and left FEF”  and also that “[R]eductions in cortical thickness associated with video gaming frequency were not observed” showing that the playing of video games is beneficial and not detrimental as some people are lead to believe.

While I feel that gaming is a great thing for children to have in their lives, I don’t believe that children should be in schools playing Xbox in the attempt to teach them, however, it is possible to introduce gaming into schools in a non traditional sense of the word that will increase interest and performance in children in schools throughout the world. This can be seen through websites such as Class Dojo (ClassDojo, 2015) in which the teacher sets up his/her class online and makes up rewards that are customisable and whenever a student does something good they earn a reward (a point) for completing a pre-assigned task e.g. helping another student, and the teacher supplies these points through their computer, tablet or smartphone. This acts as an incentive booster for the students to do well in a way they all understand – through games. You can see how it works further here (sschuhteach, 2012). Another platform where gaming is used to influence learning is in Duolingo (Duolingo.com, 2015). This is a web based site and mobile application that helps people learn several new languages and as you complete each task you are rewarded by being able to move onto the next task just like in a video game. This coupled with bright, colourful graphics makes it attractive to adults and children alike. It is examples such as these that show that gaming and education can be intertwined to create fantastic outcomes.

Overall, I feel that gaming should be introduced more into academics as we move further into this digital age and that the use of games does help with people’s academic performance instead of the common misconception that it impedes them.

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