Many parents look at online gaming as an evil that contributes to lazy, overweight children who have lost the ability to use their imaginations for play. In some cases with children that are not properly supervised, that might be true. Like most other activities, online gaming should be enjoyed in moderation. Children do need outdoor activities to keep their bodies physically fit, but they need to keep their brains agile too. Parents who open their minds and investigate different online games will learn that while some games may not be particularly beneficial for young minds, there are more and more games available that are teaching important skills that can benefit kids throughout their lives.
Engaging the Mind
Teachers have come to understand that learning must engage a child’s mind. The best teachers regularly come up with new and innovative ways to make learning fun for children simply because doing so means that the subject being taught is more likely to be retained. Kids will actively participate when they find that the subject is taught in a way to which they can relate. Teachers who understand that boring, dry subjects can be taught in an engaging manner are the same teachers that come to class wearing funny hats to illustrate a point, or who help children make up songs or plays to learn a particularly hard lesson. Gaming can be another way for teachers to make learning fun.
More and more classrooms contain computers. This allows access to educational games that children can play to learn such subjects as math, science and English. As companies realize the market for online games with educational value, they are making more and more interactive games that teach a variety of skills that children need. These interactive, online games engage the minds of children and can help them learn not only subjects like basic math or science but also more abstract concepts like creative thinking.
Getting them Involved
Roleplaying games can help children learn narrative structure and character development. Throughout the years, countless children have dreaded standing up to read out loud in class or discussing book reports. Online games are another way to reinforce many of the same lessons; plus they have the chance to engage the minds of children who would normally just squeeze by these topics by gritting their teeth and praying for the lesson to be over. Those same children are challenged in a way that has the potential to actually catch their interest and pull them in to a love of the subjects being taught.
Turning Dreams into Skills
Many children that play video games dream of creating one of their own. Some children even express an interest in pursuing a career in game design. They may not necessarily understand what is involved in the process of game design and creation, but the idea sparks their interest. There are programs in schools right now that can help a child realize what is involved with that dream. Children can be taught through game design and implementation many different topics and skills. Perhaps the child wants to make a game about space. To do so, they would need to learn about space and such concepts as the lack of gravity, as well as the gravitational pull between planets and other objects. This teaches them about science in a way that guarantees the child will retain the information and put it to immediate use, which helps the information stick. There are challenges the child must overcome, but the rewards are both immediate and long-term.
Upping the Complexity
For a specific real-world example, in an introductory Latin class in a school on the east coast, a teacher created a clandestine organization to find the remains of an ancient Roman society. Every day, the students were given assignments through an online portal from the controllers of the secret, clandestine organization. The assignments were written purely in Latin which the students then had to decipher; then they would have to team up with other classmates to solve the puzzles and direct their online characters. The teacher could see in real time how the students were progressing through the assignments and where they were experiencing difficulties based on where the student got hung up in the game. This is just one example of ways that teachers are finding online gaming relevant and helpful to learning complex subjects.
As with movies, television and other typical childhood interests, games are an example of an area in which parents should think outside the box to find way to help their kids learn. Online gaming does have many intriguing and beneficial influences on students, especially in a classroom environment. It can teach creative thinking and foster the ability to collaborate with peers to achieve common goals. These skills can often be harder to teach than basic math, English and similar subjects, but they will have lasting benefits for children throughout their lives and careers.
EarthSky: Alan Gershenfeld: Video Games Help Kids Learn
MindShift: Can an Online Game Crack the Code to Language Learning?
Guest post was written and contributed by Jessica McGarrity for Kazaana – social networking for kids. Jessica is an independent researcher and freelance writer. She has extensive experience working with social media applications designed to be used by kids. Her articles appear on numerous parenting websites and blogs.