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How do video games in the classroom help or hinder learning?

Video games have many pros and cons on students' health and productivity.

Fig. 1. “Educational games help drive engagement.” STEAMCraftEdu, steamc12_wp, STEAMCraftEdu, https://www.steamcraftedu.com/steam-education-games-for-learning/. Accessed on 25 June 2020.

Video games are everywhere. About 85% of teens play video games (Pew Research Center). Many teens think that it has helped them in their learning, because video games provide a one on one experience that is engaging, fun, and interactive. Alternatively, some teachers have been known to use them in their lessons, but many do not because they feel like video games will have a negative impact on students’ focus. Video games have been known to cause problems when overused, but there are benefits if used correctly in a classroom environment. They may even give a better understanding than textbooks because of their interactive and immersive nature that makes it easier for students to adjust their learning to help themselves. Video games can be used for learning since they are engaging and improve body functions, though if overdone can become addictive. If video games are everywhere, why not embrace them in learning?

Improved Body Function

Video games are able to help regions of the brain and body. Although they have been shown to hurt the body, games can also help. In a study done by researchers at the University of Rochester half the participants played action games and half played slow-paced games (Bejjanki et al.). The participants who played action games made decisions faster than those who didn’t. The fast-paced action games required the participants to focus and look closely, while those who played slow games did not require the same level of attention. This may be able to help make students make faster decisions, like in math tests where time is of the essence. Furthermore, video games have been shown to improve memory and can help those who have amnestic mild cognitive impairment. In a study, some participants played games for 2 hours a week and the rest did not (Donnelly). Those who played improved their episodic memory by 40%. This can help students remember things like homework and other concepts allowing teachers to not remind students as much or repeat themselves. Although the learning was demonstrated mentally, these video games have exterior physical changes as well. The University of Toronto did a study that found out that people who played action games had better sensorimotor skills and hand-eye coordination (Elias). This could help student’s dexterity in and out of the classroom environment. Along with helping to improve various functions of the brain and body, video games also engage students effectively.

Engaging Learning Scenarios

Video games are a huge part of the teen world. Kids and teens like to play video games because of their engaging manner. Video games can simulate different scenarios in an engaging manner, but is it possible to use that engagement in an educational environment? Many video games are educationally compatible; like the Democracy series, which can help high schoolers to learn about politics and social sciences using government models, and Minecraft, which can be extremely flexible in its educational usage. The base Minecraft can provide an outlet for creativity and Minecraftedu, which was designed for educational purposes, can help students learn to code as well as work with chemistry – since it provides different chemical experiments using the elements and allows students to block code to solve problems. These types of video games provide a captivating experience for the students playing while also allowing them to be productive. Additionally, teachers can use video games to help model concepts in class. It may seem like a distraction but if you can harness the educational potential aspect of video games, then learning in the classroom could become easier for struggling students as video games cater to an individual’s learning.

Potentially Addictive

However, when people are exposed to video games, they run the risk of addiction. According to a study done by the University of New Mexico, 6 to 15% of gamers exhibit signs of addiction to video games, causing them to spend many hours on the screen (Boston Counseling Therapy). During a study, it was found that 2,000 kids, aged between 9 and 18 years of age, spent an average of 7 hours and 38 mins using a device daily (StuDocu.com). Among these participants, 27% reported “less than excellent” mental health, and 19% reported “poor” mental health. Additionally, students who are supposed to be using video games for educational use, may get distracted and use the games for off-topic subjects rather than doing the assignment. Furthermore, video games can also cause stress for many when not getting something right or not progressing properly. Students may encounter this during their studies and this can cause them to feel unmotivated, as if they are not smart enough to understand. In turn, this will make them unproductive and will make the rest of their work worse. Video games seem to negatively impact kids when not controlled by parents or teachers.

Video games have many pros and cons, but it seems that video games can be used for a wide variety of subjects. However, they must be carefully selected. If the wrong game is chosen for an assignment, it can make students frustrated and will make them feel bad and want to give up. If a game is selected properly, with clear instructions, students can learn quickly while having fun with a greater understanding achieved than if they had been reading a textbook. I believe that in order for video games to be used in a classroom environment, they must first be approved by an education board which will assess whether a particular game will in fact be useful in a specific class or grade level.

References

Bejjanki, Vikranth, et al. “Action video game play facilitates the development of better perceptual templates.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 111, no. 47, 2014, pp. 16961-16966, PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1417056111.

Donnelly, Laura. “Brain training games boost memory and may reduce the risk of dementia, research suggests”. The Telegraph. Telegraph, 3 Jul. 2017, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/07/02/brain-training-games-boost-memory-may-reduce-risk-dementia-research/. Accessed 23 June 2020.

Elias, Christine. “Your brain on video games”. University of Toronto News. University of Toronto, 19 Mar. 2013, https://www.utoronto.ca/news/your-brain-video-games. Accessed 23 June 2020.

“Positive & negative effects of gaming on student performance.” StuDocuBlog. StuDocu.com, 9 Jan. 2020, https://blog.studocu.com/en/lifestyle/gaming-effects-on-studens/. Accessed 23 June 2020.

“Teen, video games and civics.” Pew research center, Pew research center, 16 Sept. 2008, https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2008/09/16/teens-video-games-and-civics/. Accessed 23 June 2020.“What is video game addiction: is it real?” Thrivework. Boston Counseling Therapy, 30 Aug. 2018, https://thriveboston.com/counseling/what-is-video-game-addiction-is-it-real/. Accessed 23 June 2020.

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