Understanding Video Games text-book

Date posted: May 14, 2006
Updated: Jun 28, 2006

The relation between information technology and learning is a subject that has received a lot of attention in the last years. The heading for this research has typically been ‘edutainment’ or ‘play-and-learn’. The combination of play and learning is very fashionable. But rarely does the design and production of edutainment have roots in research that evaluates the potential for learning, which is after all the intended goal.

Even though today we have a large industry producing edutainment for children, commercial games seem to be ignored as a potential for learning.

It is a characteristic of games that they often don’t deliver knowledge in a form that is easily measured or evaluated by fixed standards.

It is more appropriate to speak of general skills like level-headedness, analysis and the ability to understand and interact with rapidly changing environments. Through interaction with a user interface the player (child, youngster or adult) explores the system, drawing upon a mixture of creativity, analysis and knowledge of other games.

Many children prefer to explore games with other children, and this social relation creates special dynamics around the learning process. The children may supplement the skills of others and correct mistakes.

Often, however, these social dynamics are worrying to outsiders. Quite often the dedication of the players is intense and far-reaching. At least as intense as the dedication parents and teachers themselves displayed in relation to other childhood activities.

There is no reason to believe that computer games should be less of a development resource than other play activities. Games can supplement and contribute to the development of kids just like playing with cars, dolls, and board games can.

It should however be common sense that by playing games children sacrifice physical movement associated with climbing trees or playing outside. On the other hand it is also clear that the reality, which children are preparing for today is very much one of mental demands. Today a wide range of cognitive skills are in demand.
And it should not be ignored that there is a connection between sound physical and cognitive development. Hence playing computer games should not be an all-encompassing activity just as reading books or playing soccer should not.

Is seems possible that much bewilderment about the computer game phenomenon and its relation to play is not really about children at all. Perhaps the explanation must be sought in adult skepticism as to the widespread use of modern technology in society.

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