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Brains On Games: What Every Parent and Educator Should Know (English Edition) Kindle Edition
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Supporting my own view, and Fishman’s claim that ‘… not all learning is fun, but the best learning often occurs when one is having fun !’, Moldofsky cites Turkle appropriately when discussing gaming-addiction issues, “Your mind, in the end, has not been enslaved, it has only been entertained” (Ch2, p47). Providing evidence for these and other claims for the positive effects of game-playing (at least as far as his cited literature/notes allow), the central chapters of the book provides a discourse beyond the more familiar criticisms of 1st-person shooter games and socially-engaging/social-engineering-based games and activities, to instead include real-life problem ‘gaming’ environments such as FoldIt (which have led to significant commercial and scientific discoveries, see Ch3). Other examples include the enhanced motivation for health-oriented and fitness-enhancing gaming environments for educational and personal development, although the similarly positive performance-enhancing effects of gaming scenarios designed for corporate executive management and military personal skill developments were not included.
Also largely absent (tho’ implied by some of the accompanying references/notes provided), and of importance to many parents in aiding their decision making with regards affording/restricting their child(ren)’s access to compute/video gaming, was mention of the increasing research literature from controlled studies claiming enhanced academic and/or scholastic performance following the use of gaming environments specifically designed to increase their user’s cognitive, intellectual, and/or socio-personal skill levels. However, it is also noteworthy that some of the very best (and certainly true of the current batch of many successful technological elite entrepreneurs now becoming household names), were themselves compulsive computer-gamers and hackers during adolescence, and then chose either to shun (or at least rarely complete) their formal higher education programs before then independently transferring their developed skills to the market place of opportunity. Indeed, it is perhaps this very notion of transfer (in both Piaget’s, and the dictionary def sense of the term) which is of paramount importance to the reviewer to have found once again in this book (and which a future version might expand upon further, perhaps ?). Moldofsky includes the oft-heard arguments against the anti-social (“not so bad”), and pro-social (assistive reaction) effects of gaming, but more importantly alludes to the value of computer/video gaming’s potential for individual students developing critical skill-transfer in citing Kulman’s work (p.119), but more could be made of this as a critical point in encouraging parents and teachers to accept the evidence-based pedagogical value of purpose-designed gaming platforms – as may clearly be demonstrated by accompanying standard performance measures, comparative psychometrics, and/or scholastic achievements.
Viewing the importance of play in education, learning, and development (whether explored in physical rough-and-tumble, creative fiction/the arts, or competitive sport), I believe that Moldofsky is correct in championing the use of computer/video gaming as simply the most recent manifestation of a measurable achievement system akin to that of the historical Olympic Games, an environment within which a focused individual may develop and measure his/her own personal skill levels, in comparison with both their own earlier selves, and significant similar others. The level and success of one’s skill-development, and later successful transfer to novel and challenging situations for the benefit of society is (at least in the view of the current reviewer) no less questionable in the case of computer-gaming than it is for many of the other popular curriculum activity components now available in many mainstream schools and academies.
Dr. Anthony R. Dickinson
Research Advisor, Cognitive Development Lab, Beijing Genomics Institute,
President, Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology.
Mitch Moldofsky illustrates this well written book. Not only does he give us research but he also gives us the references to delve into for further reading on the subject. He is the founder of the Thinking Skills Club which is a website of fun brain games to use after school. I’ve learned a lot from the book and hope to put into practice the information for my grandchildren. Who would have thought that computer games may be good for our children, not me? We find out from the book that a lot of our kid’s teachers use computer math games to challenge them. We also find out from his research the violent games don’t always make our children violent.
Braiming – Brain gaming is a wonderful tool for parents of children of any school age, and even before. Moldofsky has done the research for us, just pick up the book.
I was given the book by the author for an honest review.
Do games encourage aggressive or counter productive behaviours. Moldofsky suggests not, arguing that modern parents and educators tend to err in being overly protective and that play often builds character by allowing children to explore alternative scenarios in a relatively safe environment. He cites a negative correlation between M-class (mature) video game sales and violent crime though notes a slight increase in truancy other negative behaviours in young boys, but a significant doubling for young girls approaching the same level. While the data for children is used correctly, the chart used for overall violence is problematic as any increase in the rate of societal violence in the young is masked by the bulge of the baby boom.
Chapter 2 addresses the concern of gaming as an addiction but compared to other activities such as smoking, gambling or substance abuse, it's relatively harmless. Moldofsky does make that point that unguided gaming behaviours tend to be self reinforcing, and he cites evidence that much of addictive behaviour is related to the brain chemistry. Simply throwing a child into a game is not enough, the game itself does not take into account the background that the player brings to it or local goals making mediation by teachers a valuable and often necessary contribution. He also outlines a number of psychological motivators that draw people in and make play such an enjoyable activity.
Chapters 3 and 4 go beyond theory and look at the structure of gaming environments such Khan Academy, a free resource for STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) subjects which combines "missions" along with cognitive mapping illustrating both the concepts learned and their relationship with each other. ClassDojo relates strongly to a behaviouralist approach by using badges and points to reinforce positive performance. Games like Evoke are online MOOCs where students interact and problem solve learning how to deal with topical crisis situation. He also gives a number of useful examples where both traditional board and electronic games have been adapted for the classroom.
The final two chapters are more speculative exploring the effect of up and coming immersive technology such as Occulus Rift and neuro-feedback devices. It also looks at some of the emerging ideas behind the pedagogy of games. There's an interesting study on ADHD. Pushing the subject further, games have the potential of moving from glass slab screens to the physical world by treating motion as information. We see this in such products as the Nike Fuel Band and most recently, yesterday's introduction of the Apple Watch (not discussed in the book), which uses haptic feedback (slight changes of pressure or vibrations applied to the wrist) to give direction (turn left, turn right), emotive response or other information, without the use of a screen.
I add by way of disclosure that Mitch has been a good friend of mine for a very very long time, however it was a complete surprise to me when he announced over lunch one day that he had written this book. As a friend, if I hadn't really liked the book I would have kept my comments private. However, because we are friends, part of that friendship has been common outlooks and interests. Oddly enough, though games and simulations do benefit many situations, other than classic games for social occasions such as Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit I'm not personally attracted to them, nor are my own children, and I tend to resist gamification.
My own interest lies in the area of cognitive psychology and the potential of applying different approaches to problem solving, and in this respect the book is richly rewarding. I found it an informative read that could be covered in an evening or, as in my case, over a couple of days of commuting to work. The target audience is teachers and parents interested the strategic implication of gaming and gamification as a means of improving the both the progress and enjoyment of education, while also addressing many of the concerns.
There were two things that I liked best about the book. The author was able to integrate real research in a meaningful yet not overly pedantic manner. Secondly, I loved his little cartoons. Not only were they funny, they reflected exactly the issues that I routinely hear in my work as a child clinical psychologist.
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