An article by guest writer Elaine Jek. Refer to “About the Writer” at the end of the post.
When I mention that my daughter plays Internet computer games, you may look at me with something akin to consternation while smiling indulgently, trying to be non-judgmental in an Oprah Winfrey inspired way.
Being in Silicon Valley, it’s no wonder that our household has caught on to the benefits of computer-based learning. The fact that our daughter is 3 years of age, and the perception that adult Internet entertainment has a bad reputation may justly fuel your concern. Perhaps our recent reading of “Everything Bad is Good for You” by Steven Johnson eased my husband and my apprehensions about new media. Although truth be told, my bleeding-edge-technology-leader husband needed no easing. And now that my daughter is learning at a good clip, I’ve come to be a big proponent of learning through educational Internet and computer games.
Setting aside the main benefits of each game itself, and having only a data point of one to draw my conclusions, I have noticed other auxiliary useful effects of computer game playing. A game may teach the alphabet or numbers which it does rather effectively, or it may just be plain kiddie entertainment, like decorating a gingerbread boy, other effects seem to follow as well …
Take patience. A young mind needs longer to learn than an adult who is already well versed in subjects like the alphabet and has forgotten how long it took to learn. The computer, power failures aside, can repeat a lesson unflaggingly without the exasperation a regular adult (i.e. I myself) would feel. A computer is more adept at going at the player’s pace and focus. Unlike a human who may see the need to conclude a segment or syllabus within an allotted time frame, the computer doesn’t rush the player.
Personal cheerleader. Often her virtual games start with “Lets get started!” and at the conclusion of unsuccessful attempts she hears a cheery, ‘Try again!” So much so, our little one seems to augment her “gung ho”spirit with an unflagging ‘Try again!” and a hearty “Lets get started!” gusto to her real world tasks and games she devises when she interacts with us. Independent analysis of a situation. Once she is on a kiddie-safe site, my daughter is free to explore the many games and learning tools available. She is justly proud of her efforts and jubilant when she figures out how to play or what is required of a game. These fun tasks take on the likes of stacking up enough props for a wolf to climb up and reach food, or maneuvering a trampoline to bounce falling animals back into a tree.
Spelling her name. Although my daughter is able to spend a fair bit of time on the computer, we restrict her use by installing her own user account and securing it with a password. This password was her name. But within months she learned to spell and key in her own five character name carefully. We have changed the password. In the meantime, knowing the characters to her name has spurred her on to commit the characters with marker pen to paper. She has so far been able to fashion 3 of the 5 letters.
There are a couple of especially useful abilities that my daughter picked up through consistently playing on the computer. Importantly, she is developing an enviable familiarity with new media that will prove essential in her generation, one that has not known a time without computers.
The other ability she exhibited recently was the beginning of a discourse in her mind about her environment. At the beginning of this year, she asked me, “Mommy, is this real?” indicating her chair, and then pointing to the tangerine tree outside, “Is the tree real?” Having experienced a virtual, animated environment, it seems like my daughter is trying to disentangle her reality and the virtual world. Of course it is questionable if her attempts are at the same depth as Plato’s contemplations.
It’s a good thing she hasn’t asked me this recently since I haven’t fully made sense of reality, especially, a reality with an ever increasing virtual playground.
About the Writer
The writer has a fine arts degree. A part-time jewelry designer, she has spent the last three years in close observation and documentation of a Post-Millennial.