Online Games and Games to Learn – Know the Mental and Emotional Benefits

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It’s been a long time since videogames have been seen just as an option for entertainment and distraction. Yes, today it is also possible to use games and online games to learn.

Born in the late 50’s and with few features, little by little they evolved technologically. Still beyond, the very concept behind the games revealed interesting analysis of human behavior.

The internet marked one of those steps forward when it made online gaming possible. Since then, the level of interactivity has increased by including people beyond physical space and in real time.

According to American researcher Jordan Shapiro, who specializes in learning through games and digital technology: “For years, most people thought video games looked like candy: mostly harmful and tempting to children, but fine if used sparingly. Now we understand that they can have more “nutritious” values than our parents ever imagined”.

In his text originally published in English in the online magazine Mind/Shift: “Social And Emotional Benefits Of Video Games: Metacognition and Relationships”, Jordan points to the biggest intrinsic benefits of online games and games, adapting them to the context of education.

This is because even regardless of the content, there are points in common in the process of playing that stimulate various areas of the brain and also promote well-being. Studies indicate social, emotional and even metacognitive benefits.

What many people ask themselves is: what exactly is the role of these games and how do they connect to everyday life? The discussion has entered with strength in the area of education, which already deals with the challenge of capturing the students’ attention in the face of a strongly digital, interactive and multitella era.

So the first step is to understand the purposes and challenges behind applying online games in the school curriculum. After all, they can also become great teaching allies!

How Can Online Games and Games Help?

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Like most behavioural learning, the benefits of games in general are not necessarily linked to specific knowledge. As Jordan Shapiro’s approach, they especially include ways of thinking and acting how:

1. Fast and Accurate Attention Levels

According to one American Psychology Association, due to the repetitive action of reflex-based actions, children who play have higher spatial resolution in visual processing and improved mental rotation skills.

The explanation is due to the fact that playing is a skill that requires rapid thought stimulation and response. This agility of thought also triggers positive increases in creativity.

2. Mentality With a Focus on Evolution

Standard teaching rewards fixed skills, such as being good at math. Stanford professor Carol Dweck, who writes about motivation and social development, says the path can be dangerous.

She differentiates the theory of entity intelligence from an incremental theory of intelligence. While entity intelligence is fixed in innate traits and fixed to incremental, it leads to a continuous effort to solve problems.

Relating reasoning to games, Jordan Shapiro writes: “Video games nurture an incremental understanding of intelligence. As players are rewarded for one task at a time – to overcome one obstacle after another – they learn to understand learning and achievement interactively. (…) Players understand that mastering one stage is not necessarily equivalent to mastering the next. A new learning process begins at the conclusion of the previous one”.

It is worth remembering that at a time when social skills and demands are so changeable, incremental intelligence tends to be the most productive.

3. Interpersonal Skills

70% of gamers play with other people and among them there is a sense of community. Unlike the solitary player, they need to play cooperatively and also competitively.

This is already a known concept of games in general, including sports and games of reasoning.

Online games, however, raise this concept from the point where barriers of physical space are broken down, making it possible to play with people from all over the world.

The very idea of a team encourages the sharing of tips and tricks, and teamwork to win. Gamers also like to teach each other how to do better in challenges.

Within the educational context Jordan Shapiro adds: “Imagine a classroom where collaboration is the norm. Where assessment is collective and individual assessment and competition do not create a culture of “entity intelligence”. Game based learning is a tool that can help make this a reality.

Gamification: The Out-of-game Game

From this analysis, it is already possible to agree on the benefits of online games and games for both learning and more abstract and emotional areas.

However, educators should question themselves on one more level: besides entertainment games, is it also possible to play interactively to teach the subjects of the curriculum such as history, biology, chemistry or Portuguese?

The answer is yes! But there are also adaptations and techniques when the focus is essentially educational.

For that, the concept of gamification is applied, which is part of the operating structure of the games.

Gamification is basically the method used to take the logic of the game to other contexts of reality. In this way, it becomes easier to increase the engagement and thus achieve certain objectives and goals.

Its efficiency is high because despite not being focused purely on entertainment, the gamification process continues to work needs inherent to the human being. Among them are competitiveness, immediate feedback, a sense of evolution and also recognition through bonuses and prizes.

Stopping to think that billions of hours are spent every week all over the planet to play on a computer or videogame spontaneously, it is known that gamification is a promising proposal.

Many brands and companies already invest in gambling platforms and applications around the world to increase levels of engagement.

In the area of education, the number of games that bring knowledge to a high level of contextualization and interactivity through this type of support is also growing.

Challenges of Online Gaming in Education

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One of the main challenges about inserting interactive games into teaching is about timing and quantity. How much and when should students play?

To answer this question the first factor to keep in mind is that gambling platforms and applications should be considered at first, as a complement to teaching.

It is an additional and more stimulating method to help learn based on all gamification premises. The ultimate goal will always be to increase students’ productivity and engagement while they learn and test knowledge within a context designed especially for them in a playful and dynamic format.

At Home or at School?

It depends! The idea of this kind of format is exactly to stimulate spontaneous interest and autonomy on the part of the student. This means being able to choose and have flexibility to make use of it at different times.

So, more important than limiting when playing, it will be limiting when not playing. The impostor is to avoid conflict with other proposals and tasks in the classroom. For example, if the teacher is in the middle of an explanation for the class, obviously this is not the ideal time to play, even if the application contains an educational proposal.

However, the teacher may instead stimulate classroom use at limited times, especially at the beginning while students adapt to the new format and thus can even debate in real time and exchange ideas about the challenges.

Teachers should guide for the good use of gammified platforms or applications by understanding them as a complementary tool, which indicates that there also needs to be follow-up, besides consistency in the participation of these activities

Playing for a Better World

To understand a little more, game designer Jane McGonigal explains the concepts of gamification to achieve greater purposes, in her lecture “Playing for a better world” at the famous TED Talks on the theme.

Finally, it is clear that a school that really wants to attract the attention of its students, instead of decomposing with so many tools of distraction and entertainment, needs to have a clear and modern vision about human motivations and thus use similar resources in its favor.

Therefore, seeing the positive side of online video games and games by using tools that can take advantage of their logic allied to teaching proposals, is one of the most attractive and stimulating ways to go on learning.

Putting all these reasons on the balance, do you believe your school is keeping up with the current needs and motivations of its students regarding content platforms?