Researchers believe interactive games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life could be adapted so that children learn skills from them that could be transferred to real life. They believe that the "immersive" aspect of the games in which the player suspends his belief means that the brain is particularly engaged and can absorb complex issues. The games real life feel also means that students could effectively carry out "work experience" on the computer learning techniques and skills they can apply back in reality. Researchers believe that the games, which they say are more active than passive traditional learning, could be most useful for science based subjects with students able to carry out imaginary experiments and improve their ability to "learn to learn". "Compared with a similar, paper-based curriculum that included laboratory experiences, students overall were more engaged in the immersive interface and learned as much or more," said Professor Chris Dede, an academic in Learning technologies at Harvard University in the journal Science. Games such as Whyville and the ecology game River City have already been developed specifically to teach children and students but scientists believe established popular video games could be adapted so that players could be "dosed" with knowledge.
Much like "flight simulators" they are so "real" that many life skills can be learned from them. Early tests of these learning games have shown unusual levels of student engagement. Dr Merrilea Mayo, director of Future Learning systems at the Kaufman Foundation, said the games can also help close the gap between under and over-achieving children. "Unlike lectures, games can be adapted to the pace of the user," she said "Games also simultaneously present information in multiple visual and auditory modes, which capitalises on different learning styles.
"Although the field is still in its embryonic stages, game-based learning has the potential to deliver science and maths education to millions of users simultaneously. "Unlike other mass-media experiments in education (e.g., TV), games are a highly interactive." The new research is likely to add to the debate about the pros and cons of video games. Last year the culture minister Margaret Hodge called for a film-style classifications for games such as World of Warcraft which is said to have 10 million users worldwide. There have also been concerns that the games are addictive and that children's education and lives are being disrupted by them.
( www.telegraph.co.uk )