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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 13:46 GMT
Video games 'stimulate learning'
children using computer
Learning or just playing?
Computer games could become part of the school curriculum after researchers found they had significant educational value.

The UK study concluded that simulation and adventure games - such as Sim City and RollerCoaster Tycoon, where players create societies or build theme parks, developed children's strategic thinking and planning skills.

We're not advocating arcade, shot-the-baddie type games

Professor Angela McFarlane, Teem
Parents and teachers also thought their children's mathematics, reading and spelling improved.

The investigation into the habits of 700 children aged seven to 16 also found that, far from being a solitary activity, children preferred to play games in pairs or small groups.

  Click here for the titles used in the research

The research from the group Teachers Evaluating Educational Multimedia (Teem) is being studied by the Department for Education.

The director of Teem, Professor Angela McFarlane, said there was much to learn from the games industry in terms of developing scenarios that really challenged and engaged children, rather than reproducing text books on the screen.

"Adventure, quest and simulation type games have a lot of benefit - they're quite complex and create a context in which children can develop important skills," said Professor McFarlane.

"We're not advocating arcade, shot-the-baddie type games," she stressed.

School curriculum

Teachers often found it difficult to justify the use of simulation or adventure computer games during school time because their content did not map the national curriculum, said Professor McFarlane.

But if educational material could be built in, such games could be used in the classroom legitimately, she said.

girl using computer
The researchers found games developed strategic thinking
"For example, you could use an historical event like the Battle of Hastings and - knowing the facts are accurate - get pupils to put themselves in the place of one of the soldiers or generals.

"At the moment though, there's no way of knowing whether the software used in some of the games that involve building and running cities are based on valid economic models," said Professor McFarlane.

The children questioned as part of the research said working in a team was the most important aspect of playing video games.

"Now that's interesting when the stereotype is that children play on the computer exclusively on their own," said Professor McFarlane.

"Teachers and parents then broke that down into skills of negotiation, planning, strategic thinking and decision-making."

The Teem study comes as other researchers argue the multimedia age has put children off reading and has produced a generation which spends too much time playing indoors.

Titles used in the research

  • Age of Empires II
  • Bob the Builder
  • Championship Manager
  • City Traders
  • F1 Championship Racing
  • Freddi Fish
  • Lego Alpha Team
  • Legoland
  • Micro Racers
  • Pajama Sam
  • Putt-Putt Enters the Race
  • RollerCoaster Tycoon
  • Sim City 3000
  • The Sims
  • The Tweenies
  • The Settlers
  • Uno
  • Worms United

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See also:

29 Apr 00 | Education
Video games 'valid learning tools'
11 Jul 01 | New Media
Prince battles video games
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