While many parents wonder if their kids are learning anything when they’re playing video games, one thing is clear: they are learning how to get better at playing video games. Perhaps a bit less obvious is that many of the best and most popular video games are cognitively challenging and practice problem-solving skills. The majority of the research suggests that “playing” video games has similar benefits to traditional play, in that kids can learn from it. The team at LearningWorks for Kids fully subscribes to this notion. However, as a psychologist who works with many children who love to play video games, I often wonder why they are still visiting me with learning, attention, and executive-functioning problems when there is so much to learn from video games. Their ability to tell me about the strategies and techniques they use in their gameplay informs me of the cognitive processing that is taking place, yet they tend to be unable to apply these skills to the real world. Popular games such as Fortnite, which is much more than a simple shoot-to-kill game, appear to offer many other ways to learn. So what do children learn from playing Fortnite?
Let me give you an example of a 13-year-old boy I interviewed about his Fortnite play. When asked why he liked Fortnite, he told me how much he enjoyed building new types of forts and the ever-changing environment that he was “dropped” into. Each game presented a new challenge and it was not easy competing against so many other players. Even if he lost (which happens most of the time for ALL players), he was able to stay in the game for longer periods of time. When asked about his approach for surviving and thriving in the game, he talked about game-specific strategies such as finding his favorite weapons, learning where to hide, and finding higher ground in fights. But when asked about how he used skills such as planning, learning from his experience, or recognizing when a strategy was not working, he had little to say. He could speak only to the concrete action he had taken and was not able to consider how these skills might help in other games or real-life situations. This difficulty in applying what one has learned in one situation to another is one of the characteristics that define kids with learning disabilities, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, executive-functioning difficulties, and behavioral and emotional difficulties. They can be characterized by an inability to generalize or transfer what they have learned in one setting to another.
That’s why we invented LearningWorks (LW4K) LIVE. LW4K LIVE takes children’s engagement with video games and technologies and helps them to make the connection between what they’re doing in games and the skills they need to succeed in the real world. We use their enthusiasm, focused attention, and persistence displayed in gameplay to help them learn skills that will be important for future success.
We use evidence-based strategic teaching principles to make game-based learning into real-world skills that help us to partner with kids, set clear goals, and utilize metacognitive skills. We help kids identify (Detect) the broader problem-solving, executive-functioning skills they use in their gameplay. Next, we ask questions (Reflect) and illustrate how and why these skills helped them in a game and where they might help in the real world. Finally, we give them in-lesson activities to use (Connect) these skills along with home-based options for practicing those skills. This is the LearningWorks for Kids method and process: we refer to these steps as Detect, Reflect, and Connect. While this method could be used to help kids learn all kinds of skills outside of a game, games are a great teaching tool to apply these principles because we have their full attention and motivation.
If your children love to play Fortnite, have them join our LW4K LIVE instructors, who will transform their gameplay into learning skills such as planning, organization, flexibility, and time management. Fortnite (we use the Creative mode, which is less violent and requires more creativity) is an excellent game for practicing and applying thinking skills. Our team of instructors ensures your children’s safety online and makes Fortnite into a learning experience. If your children haven’t already tried LW4K LIVE, watch this video or, better yet, sign up for a free trial class. We’d love your feedback so we can make these classes even more fun and a better learning experience.