Gamer to Learner
So everybody uses their computer for daily tasks like budgeting, school work, and project sharing; gamers do too; sometimes. Online college courses are increasing every day, and most any face to face college course uses an IS to at least give students a way of keeping track of their progress. What is really cool however, are the game/learning applications, especially the VREs and MMOGs. It might surprise people to know that even mainstream action based video games are tremendous tools for cognitive development; can help strengthen a lazy eye too!
Just a brief homage to the power of educational IS systems like “Canvas”: We can stare at our current average grades as often as we like, and feed off of the extrinsic motivation, and in some cases, negative feedback – ouch! We can do group projects on shared “wiki” pages, editing and saving simultaneously. Our instructors can separate current announcements from private messages, and throw in links to resources on any page they want; some instructors even opt out of using textbooks.
Links to documentaries, interviews, and blogs are great for collecting data, but what’s really cool are the applications and games. Virtual Reality learning environments can be used for skill training, social behavioral practice in problem solving, and general education. Being submerged into a virtual environment will help you keep focus – very important for cognitive development; it can be especially helpful for high anxiety ridden students.
Imagine virtual worlds where you hand movements are translated to interact with infinite possible schemas: Conducting, welding, CPR, martial arts, even a virtual chemistry lab. A project called “Comenius” has already been tested at a school in the Czech Republic and had very encouraging feedback. Comenius used the “Oculus Rift” and a “Leap Motion” controller.
In the arena of online MMOGs there is cool ‘save the world’ interactive game that’s been around for a while now – “Evoke.” At www.urgentevoke.com you can join thousands of others on different quests to solve international world problems like hunger, and water supply. It might sound a little ‘kooky’, but the imagery and storylines are luring.
If you’re not enthralled with the idea of being an activist savior, it might interest you to know that the games you do play are not frying your brain like some may say; though, they may be adding to your waistline – just cut back on the “Yoohoos.” Studies by multiple sources are showing the cognitive value of fast action gameplay.
The speed of the gameplay has a lot to do with the benefit. The player’s ability to make fast decisions is a regular challenge for most games. Those skills become sharpened as related to commitment and focus on the game. Gamers by their very nature are focus ‘monsters’ and therefore any cognitive improvement that can happen, does happen.
In a comprehensive study Adam Eichenbaum, Daphne Bavelier, and C. Shawn Green shed a great deal of light on the topic. They considered that the kind of people that become religious gamers may already share sharper cognitive skills. There studies then, looked at people who don’t play, and set them down for set number of hours a day, and then looked at the results.
The results were definitive that they showed marked improvement in basic perceptual and cognitive abilities. The abilities that are tapped by gaming are the same keystones that lead to higher intelligence. Memory was an equal factor of noted change. Keeping track of so many goals and items collected in gameplay storylines strengthens our working memory.
Another interesting fact and blessing – video games can help cure a “lazy eye” or amblyopia in adults. By using a patch over the good eye – as prescribed by many ophthalmologists – the lazy eye will grow stronger; citing some cases of complete restoration – 20/20 vision. Tests showed that video games were a far better source of focus for the weaker eye.
Researchers have shown that many children suffering from dyslexia were having issues with front end development – the transfer of information from the eye; having nothing to do with written language. It seems that in these cases it was again about focus and attention, and video games rid the players of those deficits. This is the kind of stuff Mom needs to know, you know?
So the harder games the better. In-depth objectives and uninterrupted missions in games are obviously going to be the best; lots of loot collection, and objectives for our memory; and lost of fast moving targets for our eyesight. And in regards to those fast moving targets – you may actually be training – to an extent – for the real thing,
Research has also shown that nerve balance – I figuratively refer to as damping effect, and the fast tracking of targets, may be translated outside of the game. It has been shown that there is a measurable improvement in the real world to spatial attention, tracking objects within a field of distractors, and reduced impulsiveness. Our ability to stay focused on what counts through many distractions, and not reflexively reacting to those distractions makes us ninjas!
Further psychological connects relate to ‘area of interest’, the obvious focal point that games offer – the screen; also, maybe the coolest thing of all is self-management. For students, if they have no self-learning abilities at all, they will likely react to failure by getting discouraged, or maybe there locus is external and they become bitter. A self-learner will repeat a regiment of trial and error until he achieves his goals – Sound familiar?
The games must be played anyway, and if we are becoming immortal vessels of profound awareness; biological hard drives of data; if we are developing eagle eyes, then too much is just enough of a good thing!