Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Video Games, Tire Swings and Learning

My almost six-year old son LOVES video and computer games:  Wii, Nintendo 64, computer, my iPod Touch. 

I struggle with this.   Trying to strike a balance between how much is ok for a five year old to play (if he should play at all) and going with the Everything Bad is Good for You mentality.  Trying to embrace the notion that he is of the next generation.

Son was struggling with a certain game for quite a while.  The big boss was really hard to beat and after countless attempts, even my husband gave up.

tireswingChange scene to an indoor playground a few weeks ago.  My son engrossed in conversation with a 7 year old as they sit on a tire swing.  The topic?  Video games.  And how to beat this particular boss.

This week, my son beat the boss in one try.  All by himself.  Turns out Playground Kid made a suggestion about which characters he should choose to play on his team.  He didn't know exactly which ones to pick, but it got Son thinking.  Son carefully selects the right team and wins. 

Elation.  Triumph.  Joy.

Photo credit:  tire swing by without you


bschlenker said...

Hi Cammy! First of all, we missed you at AG|09. I hope you can make it to DevLearn09 in Nov.
I love this story. I think many techie parents are in the same situation as you. My wife and I balance each other out on both ends of the spectrum: Mom=No games, Dad=all games.
Actually, its not that bad ;-) My wife is awesome at Guitar Hero! AND we both think its important that the kids do sports, and have a creative outlet.

My theory is simple: The 3 A's - academics, athletics, arts. Each of my kids engages in at least one from each category. School takes care of academics, they each play a sport (or 2), and they each takes lessons in some creative endeavor...guitar, piano, writing, coding, etc.

I think in many situations kids will self monitor their use of video games IF they have been introduced to the other pleasures of life. It truly does take a long time for kids to see how practice makes them better at something, and that the better you are the more "fun" it becomes. My son LOVES computer games, but he also voluntarily chooses to play his guitar, shoot hoops, and ask me to throw a ball with him. Had I not encouraged and required early interest in those activities it would have been a lot easier for him to just want to play SPORE all day long.
I will say this...
I know my kids very well. And I've seen their little brains work like crazy to solve a game problem in Fantastic Contraption that is REALLY working their mental muscles. I RARELY see that type of brain power and interest being applied to ANYTHING the school has offered.
I say GO GAMES! Gaming is life!

Unknown said...

Love this post; such a parallel to my house with my almost 7 yo. Similar to Brent's comments, definitely need the balance, but I love overhearing the kids problem solving video games at basketball practice ;)

My goal all along as a mom is to help my kids become critical thinkers. No matter the subject matter, they should be developing the tools to help them analyze situations, solve problems, collect data...and then learning the importance of practice, collaboration, and learning by failing.

Sure, I do call him a mushbrain when he gets too wrapped up in Wii or his Nintendo DS. But he can also kick my tail at Brain Age or Find Mii. I'm looking forward to seeing how the skills he's learning through gaming will serve him in the other areas of his life.

Jeffrey Kafer Voice overs said...

The best games are not as much about beating up people and mindless violence as they are about problem solving. As long as the brain is being engaged and used to solve problems, video games can be a creative and engaging way to teach problem solving skills.

Cammy Bean said...

Brent -- I missed you all too, but enjoyed keeping up with ag09 on Twitter. Balance is key, but can be hard to achieve during a New England winter. I love the 3 As. We haven't gotten to the school phase yet (about to embark on that adventure) -- I think that will help the balance.

Koreen -- Favorite Wii games for you son? We still have to work on the learning by failing thing at our house. My son is very hard on himself when he loses.

Jeffrey -- Absolutely! And it turns out that sometimes you have to solve a problem to beat someone up....;)

Kiara said...

School nowadays engages in educational games. Most of the Download Games are pretty cool. Several developmental games come in different categories like puzzles, words, logic, sports. Its just a matter of what and how we choose games for our kids. And with these games, often, we find them mingling and discussing to other children, making friends.

Green Man Gaming said...

Kids and adults can learn a lot from computer games. They are, after all, games and games help us to learn.

Personally I've used games a lot to teach adults different concepts. I sued real life games with things they can touch and interact with in 3D, as well as games that are on digital devices.

It helps to have a good mix of these. It doesn't make sense to isolate kids completely from computer games, since they are growing up in a world that is more and more reliant on these systems.

However, as suggested, it makes sense to ensure that they learn about activities that engage more of these senses and abilities first.