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Child Neuropsychology A blog by Dr Jonathan Reed
  • 5 reasons to develop computer game based learning

    There is a lot of debate particularly in the media about the pros and cons about computer use with children. I believe that there are some fantastic potential benefits in developing computer games to teach children. Here are 5 of them:

    1. Dissemination of information- Our knowledge about child neuropsychological development is increasing all the time. But there is a problem communicating this to teachers and parents and applying this knowledge. Computer game based learning allows this knowledge to be disseminated to a large number of children. An example is dyslexia (by this I mean difficulties in learning to read). As neuropsychologists we know how reading develops, what part of the brain is involved, how to intervene to improve reading and how this changes the brain areas involved. And yet there are thousands of children who leave school every year unable to read. Developing computer games to address dyslexia using up to date knowledge is possible. Simple computer based learning can spread best practice to everyone (national and international).
    2. Motivation-One of the problems in teaching is in motivating children who find learning difficult or unrewarding. Computer games designers are the experts in motivation especially for kids. I rarely see kids even with severe ADHD who can’t sustain motivation for computer games. Computer game based learning allows educators to combine these motivating factors with learning.
    3. Effectiveness-It is possible to test the effectiveness of computer games based learning programmes in easier ways than it is to assess human taught programmes. Computer games are a standardised procedure that can be easily tested. In this way we combine scientific method with education to determine which programmes are most effective. This in turn will drive development resulting in more effective games over time. This fits with government priorities in producing evidence based learning interventions.
    4. Addressing reasons for learning difficulties. As well as targeting a direct area such as reading it is possible to address indirect reasons for learning difficulties using computer games. A prime candidate is working memory. Whilst it is possible to target and improve working memory directly (see post), it is also possible to use computer games to minimize the demand on working memory with learning programmes by using techniques such as error free learning. It is possible to reduce the need for verbal instructions for children who find listening difficult. It is also possible to reduce attention demands by using visually stimulating action based games.
    5. Computer are patient. As a teacher or parent it can be very frustrating teaching the same thing to a child who just ‘doesn’t get it’. The child also picks up on this and is often anxious about failure. Computers can be very patient. They will repeat the same procedure in the same tone time and time again. Some clever games can lower or raise the demands on the child automatically depending on how the child is doing. The child can work at their own pace and level.

    Therefore in my opinion for all these reasons it makes a lot of sense to develop computer game based learning on a widespread basis. At the moment I think the field is in it’s infancy. To produce good computer game based learning requires a combination of great games design, cleaver programming to build in some of the important factors discussed above and expertise in teaching/ child neuropsychological development. There are thousands of learning games out there but very few based on knowledge of neuropsychological development, with good game play and research to show their effectiveness. I hope that this will change- it could change a lot of children’s lives.

    For an example of a computer game based learning using neuropsychological knowledge visit my games site- Neurogames.


3 Responses to “5 reasons to develop computer game based learning”

  1. You make a good case for video-games as an educational tool. Your properly indexed presentation is far more articulate and accessible than my lengthy essay. To the converted it seems so obvious, but we are a long way from convincing the masses. I find that the main obstacles to applying this in a meaningful way to any school curriculum is an overall negativity towards games in their current role in society. The teachers and parents who defend traditional methods of teaching will resist this new technology with rational arguments, and ultimately it comes down to a moral question. I believe this battle will be fought on moral grounds, which will inch forward at pace with society`s gradually changing view of games and technology.

    There will, however, be no trouble convincing the current generation of the virtues of gaming, considering the amount of time and resources they are freely devoting to it. As far as they are concerned, they are already receiving an education from the wide range of commercial video games on the market. Parents ought to be pleased at the enthusiasm their children have towards their own education. If parents were more adept, they would pay more attention to the precise cognitive development that occurs in these games.

    I have attempted to do so on a small scale with this blog:
    For now I have started with a few stone-age games in order to establish a criteria and method of assessment. The task of diagnosing the entire world of games is too vast to imagine, but for now I content myself with hammering out a fair and somewhat scientific grid for analysis. it is a work in progress.

    I look forward to reading more about the neurological aspects of gaming from your links.

  2. Thanks for the comment Tristan. It is good to see other people interested in this area. I believe that there are many benefits to developing games based learning but as you say a number of people are against it. I look forward to reading your blog in the future.

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