Eduptopia has a great post up by Dr. Judy Willis that explains some of the science behind why video games are good at teaching kids.
Basically, the brain encourages kids (and adults) to make correct decisions or predictions and rewards us with dopamine, which triggers a powerful sense of pleasure/satisfation. This rush helps encourge people to build skills.
So why don’t kids get a dopamine rush when they finish a big test or turn in an important project? Willis explains:
“In humans, the dopamine reward response that promotes pleasure and motivation also requires that they are aware that they solved a problem, figured out a puzzle, correctly answered a challenging question, or achieved the sequence of movements needed to play a song on the piano or swing a baseball bat to hit a home run. This is why students need to use what they learn in authentic ways that allow them to recognize their progress as clearly as they see it when playing video games.”
What is great is that the brain actually makes kids want to take on harder and harder problems when playing video games, Willis says.
“It may seem counter intuitive to think that children would consider harder work a reward for doing well on a homework problem, test, or physical skill to which they devoted considerable physical or mental energy. Yet, that is just what the video playing brain seeks after experiencing the pleasure of reaching a higher level in the game.”
In case you missed it, we had a post last week on researcher James Gee’s recent presentation at a MacArthur Foundation seminar on digital technology and learning. It was a fascinating run down.