In a BBC article published online this week, a study of 14-year old boys revealed that the brain’s “reward hub” was larger in regular players. What does this mean for education and the advancement of “game theory?”
Implications fall on both the positive and negative ends of the spectrum. This reward hub, known by scientists as the ventral striatum, is strongly associated with emotional and motivational aspects of behavior.
On the positive side, recent studies of teens who are regular gamers indicate improved reasoning over their non-gaming counterparts. This is exciting news for teachers if it holds true! This means that when we make learning like video games, our students learn to think more effectively and make quicker decisions that are logic-based. However, I can’t help but wonder which games were played by the teens during this study. Was it Brain Age? Or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3? Seems like that could impact the results.
On the negative side, scientists believe this same reward hub is also responsible for determining a person’s predisposition to addiction disorders. Could it be possible that, by using gaming theory in the classroom, teachers could ultimately be contributing to a problem? Are we pushing our kids toward Internet or Video Game addiction?
I don’t think either finding is 100% accurate for the entire teen population. It’s really a “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” question. Do video games improve reasoning while increasing addictive tendency? Or are already good thinkers with addictive tendencies more likely to become gamers? I think we may never get a definitive answer. And I think the chicken – and the egg – agree with me on that.
The remaining question left for educators to ask is, “How do I use game theory to make the learning environment better, but minimize adverse side-effects?”
My answer: Make learning in your classroom fun, rewarding, encourage educational risk taking, and remove the fear of (ultimate) failure – just like a video game. But, for heaven’s sake, don’t leave out the L E A R N I N G.
I was emailed an interesting article today about a study done that tracks the eye movements in people reading websites based on age. They found that the younger generations who have grown up with the internet tend to read in a F shaped pattern, largely ignoring material in the bottom right corner and right side, whereas we “older” generation folks who grew up reading books still read in a Z shaped pattern scanning left to right like we would in a book. This got me thinking about my own students and the things they seem to miss in the novels we study in English class. I often assume they miss things because they being lazy or not reading carefully enough (both of which could still be true), but what if they are also missing things because of the way their eyes are being trained to move across a page (digital and, by association, paper pages)? I’d have to still do more investigating on the matter, but it got me thinking about the handouts I give in class whether they are being designed to best accommodate the digital generation. Any thoughts anyone?