Despite plentiful evidence that playing too much on computer games can harm children’s development, if designed and used correctly, the games can actually improve learning, a new study has suggested.
Conducted by Professor Paul Howard-Jones from the University of Bristol, the study involved 24 university students. The researcher put the students through three types of study sessions while measuring the activity of their brains. First, the students were given conventional questions to answer. Secondly, they were solving multiple-choice quiz questions and finally, they competed against each other playing a computer-based question game.
The study found that while playing the game, the student’s minds were wandering much less, suggesting better concentration.
"Technology has a reputation for doing bad stuff to children's brains, but it's important that we don't demonise it,” Professor Paul Howard-Jones said. “This is evidence that computer games can be good for learning if we are careful about how we design and develop them.”
Researchers found that when students tried to study by just reading notes and looking at example questions, a 'Default Mode Network' in the brain - which makes the mind wander to other things - was activated. Yet this disappeared when students took part in the game-based session, and their learning increased.
"For the first time we can actually see what learning through games does in the brain," Howard-Jones said.
The study is only a pilot project and will be followed by a bigger classroom study to be launched at the Association for Science Education annual conference in Birmingham, which will involve 10,000 UK secondary school pupils.