From Scientific American
As kids spend ever more time in the virtual world, the debate over whether video games foster harmful or helpful real-world habits rages. Marc Prensky, an educational software developer, is pro-game. In "Dont Bother Me MomIm Learning!", Prensky maintains that kids "are almost certainly learning more positive, useful things for their future from their video and computer games than they learn in school!"
Prensky wants to ease parents fears by describing how kids see gaming and what they learn. "[P]retty much all the information that parents and teachers have to work with is a lot of speculation, conjecture, and overblown rhetoric about the putative negative aspects of these games," he writes. Unfortunately, his counterstrategy is to throw together a similarly speculative mix in defense.
Prensky presents an opinionated argument filled with anecdotes, a few studies, and quotes pulled from published news stories. There is no evidence too specious: he cites a recent study that found younger, newer radiologists were more accurate in reading mammograms than older, more experienced doctors and asks, "Could the higher visual acuity gained from playing video games be at work here?" How can the reader know, when Prensky didnt talk to the researchers to find out if the study was trying to answer this question?
He also takes the easy road in response to studies that find a link between aggressive behavior and violent video games: "Absolutely no one can say, when all the complex factors in a single childs life are taken into account, whether any individual child will be negatively influenced overall." Of course not. The question, however, is whether video games are a risk factor for aggression and, if so, to what extent.
Nor will Prensky concede that there could be anything wrong with new technology. Writing about cell phones, he says that "the first educational use students implemented for their cell phones was retrieving information on demand during exams. Educators, of course, refer to this as cheating. They might better serve their students by redefining open-book testing as openphone testing." It is not hard to believe that children are learning problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination from video games, as Prensky and others have written. Nor are all video games about killing things. But parents who have concerns about potential negative effects will be hard-pressed to fi nd thoughtful, well-researched answers here.
Prensky debunks the accepted wisdom that video games are harmful to children. Instead, he contends that games can teach a multitude of skills, including problem solving, language and cognitive skills, strategic thinking, multitasking, and parallel processing. He cites research showing the benefits of games in teaching skills children will need in a twenty-first-century economy, pointing to the military use of games to teach strategy, laproscopic surgeons who play games as a "warm-up" before surgery, and entrepreneurs who played games growing up. Better yet, Prensky details positive attributes of popular games, including the controversial Grand Theft Auto,
and addresses parent concerns about children becoming addicted, socially isolated, or developing aggression because of games. He offers recommendations for particularly beneficial games as well as Web sites to advance parent learning, and provides sound advice on bridging the gap between what he calls the young digital natives and the older digital immigrants. Parents and teachers will appreciate--and enjoy--this enlightening look at video and computer games. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved