Via: Online MBA
All video games are not created equal.
I wouldn’t recommend we encourage youth to play just any game. I doubt transferable skills are learned by repeatedly flapping a bird into a drainage tube. The best educational interventions are those that meet youth where they are and use the energy associated with that space to encourage learning.
So where are the youth? Minecraft.
Minecraft is one of the most popular games in the United States with over 100 million registered users. It’s not as flashy as typical video games—the graphics are lo-fi and 8-bit. At first glance, the game play seems incredibly simple: In creative mode, the goal is to build structures in an open 3D environment.
In this way, Minecraft is different than other video games because the object is to construct, not to tear down. It’s a video game, but it can also be classified as a building toy.
Parents are faced with difficult choices about technology. The prevailing wisdom is that “screen time” is bad for children. But can Minecraft be lumped in with the rest of the things that kids might do on a computer or phone?
Minecraft offers youth the opportunity to explore an environment that is not rule-based like the rest of their lives. “On Minecraft, you can do whatever you want,” a 9-year old Minecraft player told me.
Not only does the open-world nature of Minecraft give children the opportunity to be more creative, it allows them to feel like they have a sense of control over themselves and their environment.
It’s an implicit way for them to develop self-regulation skills that then transfer to offline spaces—through having this freedom to create on Minecraft, they learn how to identify and work towards offline goals like finishing class assignments or graduating from college later in life.
Playing Minecraft teaches kids useful skills. The most clearly visible are visuospatial reasoning skills—learning how to manipulate objects in space in a way that helps them create dynamic structures. Visuospatial reasoning is the basis for more abstract forms of knowledge like the ability to evaluate whether a conclusion logically follows from its premises.
Minecraft also helps youth learn how to collaborate to solve problems, and collaborative learning improves critical thinking skills that support motivation for learning.
Meet SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system from Valve, designed for the living room, and therefore with clear designs on Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony’s turf.
Valve took the lid off yesterday, the first of three living room-related gaming announcements. The next one happens tomorrow afternoon, with the final presumably taking place Friday. One of these reveals may be the fabled Steam Box, a kind of living room PC-console ostensibly built and sold by Valve to carry its software digital distribution platform beyond the increasingly staid traditional keyboard-and-mouse paradigm. This is not Valve dipping a toe in the water, in other words; this is Valve taking full measures and diving in.
- Valve introduces SteamOS for living room computers (gamesradar.com)
- Valve Announces Steam Machines (kotaku.com)
- Steam Box exists (joystiq.com)
- Ken Levine: SteamOS is “a brave and powerful idea” (pcgamer.com)
- Valve announces SteamOS, a living room operating system for games (theverge.com)
There may be a new market for video games: octogenarians.
Brain scientists have discovered that swerving around cars while simultaneously picking out road signs in a video game can improve the short-term memory and long-term focus of older adults. Some people as old as 80, the researchers say, begin to show neurological patterns of people in their 20s.
Cognitive scientists say the findings, to be published Thursday in the scientific journal Nature, are a significant development in understanding how to strengthen older brains. That is because the improvements in brain performance did not come just within the game but were shown outside the game in other cognitive tasks.
Further supporting the findings, the researchers were able to measure and show changes in brain wave activity, suggesting that this research could help understand what neurological mechanisms should and could be tinkered with to improve memory and attention.
The research “shows you can take older people who aren’t functioning well and make them cognitively younger through this training,” said Earl K. Miller, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was not affiliated with the research. “It’s a very big deal.”
- A multitasking video game makes old brains act younger (ndtv.com)
- Computer Game-Playing Shown to Improve Multitasking Skills (scientificamerican.com)
- Racy video game makes older adults better multitaskers (nbcnews.com)
- Video Game May Erase Effects of Aging on the Brain (news.health.com)
- You Can Teach an Old Brain Young Tricks (techonomy.com)
- Video Games May Help Memory of Older Players, Study Finds – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Multitasking After 60: Video Game Boosts Focus, Mental Agility (wnyc.org)