Could Video Games in the Classroom Help Children Develop a Lifelong Love of Learning? 'I Mean, the Bottom Line Is, Where's the Harm? It's a Kind of Win-Win'

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Byline: Matt Withers

IT'S a classic case of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em".

Computer games - long considered the enemy of homework and widely seen as a key contributor to rising levels of obesity - are the latest teaching tool being explored by the Assembly Government in a bid to encourage children to learn.

"Brain-training" games, such as those for the top-selling Nintendo DS system, could become a fixture in schools, with experts claiming they could motivate pupils to develop skills.

It comes after Scotland's education minister said such games could play a key role in learning and that the DS in particular could have surprising education benefits for young people.

A spokesman for the Assembly Government said it was "always important to consider new technology when it comes to education".

He added: "We welcome developments that encourage young people to become enthusiastic learners."

In Scotland, education minister Mike Russell has been promoting the idea of computer games in schools, saying: "We need to embrace new technologies and tap into all the resources available to us to ensure that our young people develop successfully in a modern society within which computers are so important.

"Educational computer games can be a great way of motivating young people to learn in a way that is relevant and enjoyable for them.

"Computer games are often perceived as solely a distraction to learning.

"But alongside traditional learning aids, they can help make learning more engaging.

"Parents and teachers across the country are starting to see the benefits they can have."

Dr David Reynolds, an expert in the Welsh education system at the University of Plymouth, said he thought there was no harm in trying out such games and described it as a "win-win" situation.

He said: "My impression is that because these things are relatively new there actually hasn't been a lot of in-depth research about whether they are good or bad, but I think it's worth saying that if you look at the kind of things that people would have done with hard-copy equivalents, such as IQ tests and logical reasoning stuff, there is some evidence that it really does help and it's really good for children.

"I think it's also worth saying that people have been disappointed about the effects of IT in schools on children's development because a lot of money has been spent on it and I think people have been worried that it's hard to show the effects of all this kit.

"It may be a way of making some of the equipment in schools appear more relevant to children.

"It might be a kind of sugar coating, a new kind of technology that would persuade children that the existing technology is useful to them.

"I mean, the bottom line is, it's hard to see the harm.

"Where's the harm? It's a kind of win-win."

Brain-training games have been highly successful in recent years, particularly on the DS, a handheld games console specifically targeted by Nintendo at the kind of people who would not ordinarily play video games.

Among the most popular are those designed by the Japanese neuroscientist Ryuta Kawashima, although Nintendo has been careful not to claim the games have been scientifically validated, stating they are "entertainment products" inspired by Dr Kawashima''s work.

Dr David Miller of the University of Dundee has conducted studies into the effects of brain-training games on improving learning in partnership with the Scottish Government's education body Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS). …