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Computer enhanced brains?

Nice article in Wired on how playing video games is helping youngsters to think better, therby overcoming the obstacles put in their way by our dumbed-down education system. Hmm. Food for thought. Any, this screed by James Paul Gee perhaps suggests that homeschooling parents should ensure their children play certain types of game as a key element of the learning process. I must say I never thought that Doom or Grand Theft Auto as agents of learning, but the world is a strange place.

I liked this paragraph:

We don’t often think about videogames as relevant to education reform, but maybe we should. Game designers don’t often think of themselves as learning theorists. Maybe they should. Kids often say it doesn’t feel like learning when they’re gaming – they’re much too focused on playing. If kids were to say that about a science lesson, our country’s education problems would be solved.

In other words, all those kids out playing computer games are no cause for concern. They are our next Edisons, Feynmans and Bill Gateses.

14 comments to Computer enhanced brains?

  • Tom Cruise’s screen character, the young, bratty pool-player in the late-80s film ‘Colour of Money’, makes a remark about how being good at video games will get him into officer class at West Point, because future war will be all about virtual-reality-reflex prowess.

  • Russ Goble

    So, I guess game guides and walkthroughs are our Cliff Notes of the future?

  • Tom Robinson

    >Kids often say it doesn’t feel like learning

    One way of ensuring that science lessons have this desirable property is to not *force* people to take science lessons in the first place.

    The idea that learning is necessarily painful is a product of compulsory schooling.

  • Trim

    This is old stuff, and at the forefront of every “progressive” educator’s mind, I suspect. Trouble is, in gta, the point is to win (plus club some innocent bystanders to death whilst winning), in gea (grand engineer’s auto) the point is to learn facts about combustion. How to make gea as good as gta? Just square circle. They have been at it for years and they will be at it for years to come.

  • John J. Coupal

    From watching my kids become experts at Atari and other stone-age games, I’m convinced they do increase eye-hand coordination abilities, that may make them adept for jet fighter piloting. or computer keyboard ballet.

    But the lack of communicative skills by players of the games indicates that explaining oneself coherently to another person is not part of the game experience.

    Scrabble, Monopoly, and Trivial Pursuit do a much better job at developing that ability.

  • Rowena


    Gaming is not what it used to be, and Atari is not Counter Strike on line in real time. I’m convinced that it’s much more important to help kids play Counter Strike than help them play Scrabble.

    I could be wrong.

  • Dishman

    Massively multiplayer games end up being heavily about interaction and group coordination. A couple examples of this are:
    Battlefield 1942 ‘league play’. The top clans are those with strong communications and teamwork. Individual prowess is useful, but secondary.
    Everquest ‘raids’. Groups of 6 to 30 (or more) with very different abilities work together towards a common goal.

  • Clio

    I can affirm the Wired study using my own small children as examples. My five year old must be dragged kicking and screaming from “Civilization III”, from which he has learned much about how to move your society from stone age to high-tech, how to placate your restive people, outwit your warmongering neighbors, and rule the world as either a benevolent despot or (no joke) president of the UN (Kofi Annan was right!).

    My 3 year old, who has speech delays that prevent him communicating well with others, can navigate the mouse around quite complex games, solving new problems and recognizing repeating patterns to a remarkable extent.

    They are not the magic bullet we were promised in the 90s, but computers have an important and growing place in our children’s education.

  • John J. Coupal

    The Ataris I was talking about were the ones from the early 1980s.

    It’s good to know they have gotten better!

  • Ghaleon

    Civilisation 3 is maybe the coolest game you could imagine to developt intelligence and to learn some things about history… but on the other hand Everquest was send to us from hell to slowly steal our soul while were playing 8+hours per day (my personnal imaged opinion as and ancient addict… don’t forget that before doing one of those raid Dishman speak about, you need to play for hundreds of hours….my suggestion… don’t let your kid play Eq too much=)) another advantage that don’t really concern you is that since most games are in english, it help to learn it, or at least to read it. Who though games could be used as an hegemonic instrument, but it’s true=)

  • Disclosure:

    I was the UK Atari Asteroids Champion circa 1983 (am very proud owner of medal and T-shirt).

    I came 9th in the World Championships in Washington.

    I now trade derivatives online for a living. Aim, Firel, BUY/SELL. Same game different scoring system.

    Incidentally I am looking to hire someone. Proof of Elite Video Gaming skills will be sought on the resume.

  • cj

    I have two girls and a boy (7, 5, and 3, respectively) and we have totally avoided the computer game craze. I used to think that was a good thing, but as I read more and more, it seems I might be short-changing them in certain skills that will be highly desired. I’m thinking specifically of the tech advances in surgery, wherein doctors are using “remotely manipulated” (extremely small) instruments to perform operations.

    Guess I’ll have to break down and let the little buggers game away!

  • I agree with Tom. I well remember in highschool loving the mathematics I was doing on my own and hating math class. Compulsory education of this kind does hurt people’s love for learning.

    I’m very skeptical of the whole video-games-as-education thing, though. Video games train people to crave a sensory-saturated environment, repleat with difficult and interesting challenges from one minute to the next. Unfortunately, most things in life aren’t like this, and I find it difficult to believe that they can be made that way for schools. Rather, I think that while video games might help train future fighter pilots and options traders, they won’t train future scientists, engineers and academicians.