D. D. Guttenplan reporting ... href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/30/world/europe/harnessing-gaming-for-the-classroom.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3&partner=rss&emc=rss">Harnessing
Gaming for the Classroom
Paul Howard-Jones thinks he knows the answer to a question that has long puzzled both parents and professors: Why is it that the same teenagers who turn sullen and despondent when faced with a half hour of learning French verbs or organic compounds are happy to spend hours mastering the computer game Minecraft’s physics engine or the counterfactual history in Call of Duty?
A neuroscientist at Bristol University, Mr. Howard-Jones says that
“computer games are very, very engaging. And just as nuclear fission can be used to make bombs or generate electricity, games also have a light side and a dark side.”
Speaking at the Learning Without Frontiers conference in London last week, he said that computer games stimulate the brain’s reward system to produce dopamine, a chemical “which helps orient our attention and enhances the making of connections between neurons, which is the physical basis for learning.”
Mr. Howard-Jones said that research has shown that the introduction of a chance or game element into any reward system increases dopamine production. “For generations, we educators have done everything we can to maintain a consistent relationship between reward and achievement, but the neuroscience is telling us something different,” he said in an interview.
According to Mr. Howard-Jones, students learn more, and are happier to continue learning, when they are offered the chance of a reward rather than a guaranteed reward. Instead of trying to ban portable phones or portable computers from the classroom, teachers should be trying to harness the power of games in their lessons. “We call it TWIG — teaching with immersive gaming,” he said, explaining that “I teach several of my postgraduate courses in educational neuroscience using this medium.”
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