The latest research into the ways that video games and technology affect learning and brain functions continues to demonstrate that these digital activities improve a whole host of critical Thinking Skills, including memory capacity, semiotic learning, inductive discovery, and executive functioning.
Yet sitting a child in front of a video game, cell phone, or computer screen all day—without guidance or purpose—simply will not translate into noticeable improvements in cognitive functioning or academic success.
So where is the disconnect? Why is it that a child who spends hours analyzing the geometry of a slingshot in Angry Birds doesn’t see any improvements on his geometry tests at school? Why does the girl who writes 2000 words-per-day in text messages dread having to sit down to write a 300 word essay? How can it be that someone who practices a particular kind of thinking in a digital environment, with great success, is unable to achieve the same level of competency with that very same skill when it’s called upon somewhere else?
At LearningWorks for Kids, our years of research and experience with these questions has taught us that without guidance, the brain will not build connections between the cognitive skills used in the digital world and the cognitive skills necessary for success in the real world.
In the pages listed below, you’ll find information on the scientific underpinnings explaining why this gap exists. You’ll also find explanations of the theories behind how we’ve developed our online toolset of video game PlayBooks, Beyond Games technology guides, as well as recommendations to help parents bridge this gap.
For decades, scientists have understood that play is an essential component of brain development and learning. From peek-a-boo to Playstation, play engages the brain in a way that other experiences and learning modalities simply cannot, teaching kids (and adults) everything from behavior in social interactions to analysis and problem-solving.
Video games and other digital media aren’t the only types of play that are good for the growing brain, and no child can (or should) be limited to digital play alone. The key to getting the most out of you child’s digital play time, is to incorporate it into a balanced Play Diet that also includes Active Play, Social Play, Creative Play, and Free Play.
Executive functions are the the brain-based cognitive skills that form the basis for LWK’s Thinking Skills. These 12 cognitive processes call upon the prefrontal cortex to regulate brain functions like Organization, Planning, metacognition, and Flexibility, and are vital to success both in the digital world and everyday life.