By Allison Espinosa
Videogames have been under attack by some educators and parents since they were first introduced to the world yet videogames are an excellent resource for parents and educators to utilize in order to supplement academics. The current generation of students that are within our classrooms today have never had the chance the experience life without the Internet and computers. Their brains are already hotwired for technology long before they enter Kindergarten. Playing outside, running around with your friends and enjoying the great outdoors has been replaced with video games and social media. While videogames can become addicting if the player isn’t taught how to self-control their playtime, it is important for us to allow our students to play the games they want to play.
In 2002, Dr. Mark Griffiths, a professor at Nottingham Trent University, conducted research on the educational benefits of using videogames in an educational setting. He found students who played video games improved their hand-eye co-ordination, experience reductions in reaction times and raised their self-esteem. Reading and math skills increased due to the constant use of reading and math skills within the games.
In most video games, such as World of Warcraft, players have to read what an NPC (non-player character) tells them to do then make inferences on how to achieve the goal that has been set. Video games teach students to use their problem solving skills in order to strategically solve whatever puzzling scenario they are faced with. This encourages their higher order thinking skills. The result of which is that our students become excellent problem solvers and strategic thinkers if they are encouraged to use the skills they have developed in video games to real life situations. Some reading comprehension may be complex depending upon the type of game. Students who play role-playing games have an easier time understanding character traits because they have literally placed themselves in another character’s life while playing video games.
Students also learn map-reading skills from using the maps within the game. These maps are vital to any quest the gamer is on and if they are misread the questers will soon find themselves lost and unable to complete the quest. Students can also learn history and science from computer games. The popular Age of Empires series allows students to become the leader of a known culture then work their way through the evolution of that culture from stone to modern age.
Mathematical skills can also be enhanced through video games. Players of World of Warcraft have to understand the number line, statistics and basic math in order to properly equip their toons (the characters) with armor and weapons the toon needs in order to be the most efficient at their level. Minecraft teaches users to think about geometry as they build their world with mainly cubed objects.
Dr. Mark Griffiths found in his 2002 study that video games help students who have ADHD learn how to modify their brain waves so they can concentrate better outside the game. The effects of which are increased grades, improved organizational skills and better social skills.
Some educators are taking notice of the importance of video games within our students’ lives and have implemented instructional time using video games within the classroom. Educators who have implemented game time within their curriculum have noticed higher level critical thinking skills, increased reading skills, more engagement with the material being taught, better social skills, and a more positive classroom experience.