In Praise of Video Games
When you think of playing video games and homeschooling, you probably imagine educational video games (i.e. for math). “Non-educational” video games are fun, but are also surprisingly educational. In praise of video games, here are some ways your kids are learning with them.
Learning to Read
My husband and I are both “gamers”, and love playing video games when time permits. Years ago, my son was motivated to learn to read in large part because I started playing a video game with him. Some of the characters in the video game were aliens and their speech had English subtitles. I told him he could not play by himself until he could read and he suddenly put effort into learning to read. (If you’re curious which video game it was, we’re big Star Wars fans and it was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic). There is even a book by James Gee entitled What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.
Besides reading skills, almost all video games involve critical thinking of some sort. The most obvious examples are puzzle-based games such as “Myst”. This video game first came out in 1993 and was a surprise success. Since then, many incarnations of “Myst” have been released. Today, “Myst” is also available for iPhone/iPod and various other formats, including “realMyst” for iPad. It’s not an action-based video game – the player simply travels around stunning landscapes and uses their critical thinking skills to solve puzzles.
Children can increasingly get a dose of physical education through video games. Most recently, through playing the game Pokemon Go! on smartphones. Players have to walk in order to hatch those eggs. Even before Pokemon Go! game systems such as the Nintendo Wii started offering sports games, and more, that involve physical activity in order to play.
Won’t video games make children anti-social though? On the contrary – almost 60 percent of avid gamers play with friends. Another 33 percent play with siblings, and 25 percent play with spouses or parents. Many video games offer a social, online component and children have to work together in cooperation to achieve goals in the game.
For instance, “Minecraft” can be played online with others. We live in a rural area and there is no opportunity to walk to a friend’s house to play, but my kIDs do get to play with real life friends online. One November, before Remembrance Day, my son and his friends worked together and built a beautiful cenotaph inside the game in honour of our soldiers who have fought and died for us in past wars – I was so proud of them!
Research shows some benefits to playing video games. A couple of studies out of the University of Rochester came to the conclusion that video games improve vision and players develop a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around them, (improving such skills as multitasking, driving, reading small print, keeping track of friends in a crowd, and navigating around town). Contrary to popular belief, research has also found that playing video games does not cause or increase aggression, but promotes cooperation and encourages gamers to control their aggression.
So, don’t be afraid to let your children play video games in your home and/or homeschool – it might just be a learning experience!
What have you caught your child learning through video games? Please let me know in the comments below!
Love, Luck &