Sunday, January 11, 2009

Youth Need Video Games and Books (or Text?)

Should I let my children play video games? What about violent video games? Does reading books still matter? Is blogging in a classroom assignment useful? Do any of these experiences in early childhood or at home or in the classroom matter to learning?

In an age in which there are so many new technological toys and games, teachers and parents often wonder how these new experiences are effecting children's development. Patricia Greenfield, Professor of Psychology, UCLA, has spent her career teasing apart this complicated story. In a recent article in the journal, Science, Greenfield provides a good summary of the evidence that tells us that children do learn useful visual skills and vocabulary skills from video games and television, but they also learn aggression from violent video games. Likewise, less reading among children is likely responsible for lower abilities at abstract reasoning and critical thinking that have been better developed through the technology of "books."

Greenfield notes that the development of visual literacy is an important ability that prepares young people to take advantage of media-rich environments for formal education and for use in many modern professions. However, she notes that the development of scientific thinking requires additional intellectual skills-- reflection, inductive analysis, critical thinking, mindful thought, and imagination. These skills she notes have been primarily developed through reading of books and are rarely incorporated into video games and television.

But here is a thought. The latest round of technologies-- email, IM, SMS, social networking, blogs, and so forth are all much more "text" dependent than video games or television and have dramatically engaged young people. Could these text-based activities develop provide the foundation for the development of these other scientific skills of reflection and analysis?

An increasing number of "technology advocates" in education have asserted that we need to use more technology tools in the classroom. Greenfield's analysis provides a direction for how technology can be used at home and in the classroom to develop children's intellectual abilities-- as a tool for reflection and analysis. To my knowledge we don't have the evidence supporting this idea. We have a lot of advocates and a case could be made that reading text online would be no different than reading text in print, but we need to know more about reading online that is often not in-depth. There are a variety of studies that show that readers are likely to "skim" information online rather than read for depth. There are many questions here that deserve a more careful look.

1 comment:

Kiara said...

True, a lot of educational technology are being used and are being incorporated in student's lesson. I think a combination of both will make students learn better. This way students got to learn while playing their pre-selected Download Games/Video Games.