Since the recent data published on the amount of time American students spend on video games—most estimates outpace school work by more than twenty hours a week—educators, parents and psychologists are asking why we can’t captivate young minds with real problems that need to be solved in class as well as at home?
In the U.K., Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, is pushing for the nation’s classrooms to incorporate more video games in math and science classrooms. He is using developer Marcus Du Sautoy’s games as an example of the work he would like to see, as Sautoy’s games have proven to help students master math problems assumed to be too advanced for them, according to Gove. “When children need to solve equations in order to get more ammo to shoot the aliens, it is amazing how quickly they can learn,” said Gove in the article, U.K.’s Secretary of State for Education: video games will save the classroom.
In my blog article last week, Can Games with a Social Impact Replace Games with a Violent Appeal?, I commented on a New York Times article that showed the week’s top played games on the popular gaming site addictinggames.com, which included titles like Bloody Day, Beat Me Up, and Bow Man 2. The company Viacom, who owns addictinggames.com, engages their audience with blood, violence, and sex to keep users coming back. However, neurologist and teacher, Judy Willis has done research that shows the nature of gaming is addictive in itself. She found games tap into the dopamine reward system: every time the player wins something, whether it’s points, coins, etc., they get a rush of dopamine that they enjoy at the moment and will keep coming back for after the feeling dulls.
The research by Willis says there is a possibility that it isn’t just violence that sells, but rather the feeling of winning, being advanced, and always knowing you can come back for more. In short, the brain loves to be challenged and the adolescent brain is no different than the adult brain. By exposing children to educational games that give them the same satisfaction neurologically that violent games give, we open the possibility of them being engaged with something that could give them an edge in academics and into their professional lives. We can stop boredom with the same tool that captivates their attention if we can be creative ourselves about how we approach this. If, like Gove believes, video games have the power to advance students in science and math at an accelerated rate, rather than chastising the plugged in gamer for the daily hours of screen-time on their phone, tablet, and TV screen, we could be both engaging students in the short run and preparing them for a rigorous, rewarding and inspiring future in the long run.
“U.K.’s Secretary of State for Education: video games will save the classroom,” http://www.techspot.com/news/44557-uks-secretary-of-state-for-education-video-games-will-save-the-classroom.html