Can video games really be educational?
I believe the short answer is “Yes, video games CAN be educational”. Parents around the globe all have the same concerns about the addictive nature of video games and the number of hours that their kids want to spend playing them (me included!). My sons have been telling me for years that they are learning strategy, collaboration and communication skills but I was skeptical. I decided to get out of my own head and take a deep dive into the topic and here are my findings:
- It is true, some of the games kids play do involve thoughtful strategy, foresight, teamwork and most of them offer goals to work toward. And I agree with them that these are all good skills to develop.
- There are many games on the market that offer core learning in a gamified format. I am actually seeing more and more of these programs entering the classroom as well. In this instance, digital games are just the delivery model for the core content and this can be an extremely effective way to teach.
- There have been numerous studies that recognize the more a child engages with their learning, the more learning they retain. It harkens back to the days of science experiments in class. The hands-on and interactive nature of learning helps kids to visualize the theory.
- Repetition is key to memory recall. Video games and digital learning are designed in a way that encourages repetition or continual practice. They do this by making the experience fun and enjoyable. When a kid is having fun, they play more. This equals more skill practice and development. This may not necessarily be a bad thing. I remember having to repeat the timetables with flashcards over and over again. This forced me to remember through sheer repetition, but it was hardly enjoyable.
With all of the above being said, I do believe that everything can be good in moderation. We don’t want our kids to be so focused on games that they forget there is real life out there. In my mind, although I can see the benefits to games, the digital world will never replace the need for developing interpersonal face-to-face skills.
Kids of this generation really do need to be comfortable and confident with both types of interactions. In a landscape that is becoming more and more technical, kids will need to know how to navigate both the physical world and the online one. So, my message today is simple… Believe your kids when they say video games can be good, just encourage them to learn and participate in the real world too.