The following post was prepared by Elaine Hirsch, and it provides a quick overview of some of the research around gaming.
Elaine Hirsch is a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and video games. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Research has shown that educationally modified, computer-based video games have the potential to increase players’ basic knowledge retention. This directly contradicts the prevalent assumption that video games are merely a distraction from “proper learning.” Moreover, these findings suggest games can be used as powerful tools to advance learning from online PhD programs to kindergarten classrooms.
The University of Kansas conducted research that suggested games can be used not only for the purpose of advancing learning, but also to impart very specific knowledge in their players. Three groups were administered a test of their ability to recall certain historical events. One group prepared by viewing a PowerPoint presentation and the remaining groups prepared with the aid of video games.
The two groups that used video games to prepare demonstrated a marked increase in knowledge retention. The increase was attributed to the psychological effect of participants being able to engage their minds to a greater degree than that of the group that passively observed the PowerPoint presentation.
Andrew Moshirnia, the author of the study, concluded that when video games are designed to include specific educational formats, they can be effectively used by educators as learning tools for their students. His study showed students who were exposed to these types of educationally modified video games improved immediate knowledge recall.
Meanwhile, Boston students have found video games played on mobile devices reinforce information learned in biology classes. Similarly, a group of New York City 8th grade students who played Nintendo DS were able to overcome misconceptions about the processes of photosynthesis. Students in Texas have also been shown to visualize physics concepts better when they were exposed to a library of online simulations.
The National Research Council explored the potential of educational video games for science learning. The study was presented to a group of educators, one of whom was Daniel Schwartz, a Stanford University professor of Education. Schwartz suggested the use of educational video games in an alternative way when he remarked about how the games can collect large amounts of data about their players, and how those data can aid educators in understanding how students learn.
At present there is insufficient empirical evidence to demonstrate a definite improvement in long-term learning retention through the use of educational video games. However, scientists attribute this more to the fact that video games are still too newly an object of scientific inquiry for adequate long-term studies to have been conducted. Many short-term studies have produced positive results, with students responding very favorably to the video game format. Chances seem good that video games, once considered only an obstacle to getting homework done, may take on an important role in education in the near future.