How video games can make you smarter

clip_image001Critics often accuse video games of making players lazy, inept and socially awkward. Contrary to popular belief, though, a growing body of research is now showing that many build, not burn brain cells by requiring extensive problem solving, teamwork and dynamic decision-making skills.
Also capable of building players’ confidence and helping them see the world from multiple viewpoints, games can be powerful learning tools.
Many games force us into trial and error allowing us to make mistakes and try again, promoting hands-on learning without the fear of ridicule or embarrassment.
Following are four ways that video games can actually help make you smarter. So before we harp on to students about dropping the controller and not letting their brains go to mush consider that gaming has the following noteworthy benefits.
Hands-on experience
More interactive and absorbing than passive forms of entertainment like movies and TV, video games promote higher levels of engagement because observers are actively and enthusiastically involved with on-screen activity. It’s a point author James Paul Gee emphasizes in “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy,” which argues that digital diversions promote more substantive learning. As he states, “good video games … are complex designed systems that players have to learn to engage with reflectively and strategically.” Many children can pass biology and physics tests, he points out, but few can apply that knowledge to solve real-world problems.
Job training
Businesses and universities are increasingly turning to interactive simulations and virtual worlds as training tools to educate employees. From Cisco to NASA, the U.S. Army to IBM, numerous corporations, government organizations and colleges have all employed interactive learning solutions.
As an example the Hilton hotel group, has built a custom 3-D hospitality training game for the PlayStation Portable, reasoning that it’s more informative and reasonable for staff to experiment by interacting with virtual customers.
Contextual learning
Video games may soon save lives as well. According to Dr. Jeffrey Taekman, “serious games and virtual environments are the future of education.
“Besides offering medical students the ability to practice on patients (which is much safer in the digital world), simulations offer health care providers several advantages. Chief among them, he says, are the abilities to make choices, see results and apply information immediately.”The traditional textbook will soon become passé,” he suggests. “Gaming platforms will offer an interactive way for students to learn and apply information in context.”
Teamwork and collaboration
Multiplayer games such as “World of  Warcraft,” and “City of Heroes” may seem like idle fantasy and sci-fi escapes but many require active teamwork and high-level project management to do well.  Requiring direct management and informed decision-making at multiple levels, we quickly learn to delegate responsibility, direct personnel and work toward a common goal. Gaming can actively promote teamwork and offer preparation for a job in today’s increasingly virtual workforce.
So, beware. Your superhero-obsessed student or Harry Potter-loving child may be tomorrow’s next genius inventor or corporate mogul in disguise.

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