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When digital technology and the internet started emerging in the late 90s and early 2000s, there were many voices of concern that children were spending too much time on their computers or games consoles playing video games etc. and weren’t learning anything or enjoying life as they should. But the consensus has shifted, and it’s widely recognised now that exposure to digital technology in younger years – a healthy and appropriate amount of course – can actually help children develop new skills that will benefit them all throughout education and into their future.
Video games have tended to be viewed with scepticism and derision by more established media establishments and other commentators as being detrimental to a child’s social skills, intelligence and creativity. Of course, children shouldn’t be able to access violent or disturbing content in age-restricted games, but it has been found that video games can actually help children learn to solve problems in new ways.
But how do they do this exactly? Well, for one thing, you often fail in games at first and you have to learn from your mistakes – you have to think laterally to come up with a solution to this problem. As well as this, educational games can give students/players an extensive variety of problems to solve, pushing their limits of creative problem-solving far beyond the more limited paper-based activities. Also, whilst not necessarily educational, video games (educational or not) can teach children that it is OK to make mistakes and that you can learn and grow from these mistakes by trying again.
With special educational games, you get the best of both worlds – using the fun and engaging nature of a video game to transform a topic that could be dull when just read from a textbook or worksheet into an enjoyable challenge for the student. You could say it’s conceptually similar to swallowing a paracetamol tablet with a spoonful of jam, in so much as that the necessary but unappealing taste of the medicine is masked by the pleasurable sweetness of the jam.
Schoolchildren now are entering into a fully digital age, and instead of shying away from technology in the classroom, we should wholeheartedly embrace the many benefits it can have for children’s education and school experience. Because not only is educational technology effective and sophisticated – it’s also fun for the kids, which is never a bad thing.
If you wish to read into a study on how games can help problem solving, this study by K.R. Hamlem (2017) goes into more depth on the topic; http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0735633117729221