You may remember Zoombinis, Oregon Trail, and early typing games like Jump Start. These were some of the first widely available computer games in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, the eLearning market has experienced phenomenal growth around the globe, with estimates placing revenue from learning games at $107 billion in 2015 alone.
“Do literature, science and typing games really help my child learn?”
Research swings both ways on the usefulness of eLearning. In his book “e-Learning and the Science of Instruction”, educational psychologist Richard Mayer, Ph.D., notes “The benefits gained from these new technologies will depend on the extent to which they are used in ways compatible with human cognitive learning processes.”
While the potential value of eLearning is unmistakable, defining that value is the subject of ongoing research.
Stepping back to the classroom, the University of Michigan School of Information surveyed 488 K-12 educators in the United States and found 90 percent of teachers believe games are effective for motivating students.
Results of the gamification survey include:
- 38% of teachers use digital games weekly
- 27% use digital games monthly
- 18% of teachers use games daily
- 16% never or rarely use digital games in their classroom
Noted one participant, a fourth grade teacher, “I use the game primarily to reinforce skills and provide high-engagement practice…”
A take-home point is provided by Douglas Clark, Ph.D., and professor of Learning Sciences at Vanderbilt University,“The research shows that [digital] games as a medium can be effective, but not always. Design is really what matters. Nobody assumes that all lectures, labs or books are good simply because of their medium."
Just like textbooks, board games, and teaching methods — some electronic games are good, and some, not so much.
Points to consider about electronic games for your child
While researchers dig deeper into what really works about digital games, you can feel confident your child is benefiting from game time if you ask these questions about the game before you buy or download it.
- Can this game help my child learn a skill? Typing games are useful inside the classroom and out. During class, some teachers use interactive games to allow students to compete and compare results, while strengthening their keyboarding skills. On their own, children can use engaging typing games to build muscle memory, boost hand-eye coordination, and enhance their familiarity with the QWERTY keyboard. Skill-building games can alleviate boredom, increase interest, and boost mastery levels.
- Is this a learning game — or just for fun? There are many reasons parents might be looking for a video game for their child — and sometimes it might be just for fun. Other times, the hunt is for a good learning game. When you are looking for eLearning, four suggested characteristics of a learning game include a challenge with fixed goals, sensory or cognitive curiosity, control or self-determinacy, and relevant fantasy that engages the learner.
- Does the game promote problem solving, collaboration, and creativity while remaining relevant? Some games have tons of bells, whistles, and cool side angles — but they may come up hollow for core content. Do your research before investing in any educational game.
With any kind of electronic game, remember to keep an eye on screen time. If you are looking for a good math or typing game, you might consider these online resources:
Whether it is math, science, or a fun typing game — finding the right eLearning solution that engages children on a deeper educational level is a good bet on your child’s academic future.