Computer games are educational
School Matters has made a Teachers' TV programme called The Games Children Play, [Google video link] which looks at the idea of using computer games in schools.
Here are some excerpts from the video:
'We know even from research in neuroscience that engagement with that part of the brain that gives affect to things - that is, it says: "This matters. Something is at stake here. Pay attention," (which is in part the amygdala but not just the amygdala,) means that human beings will process the information much more deeply than when you don't trigger that part of the brain and one thing games are certainly very good at doing is triggering that part of the brain. And schools ought to be.'
- that explains why, then!
'If you ask a kid what's the worst thing about a bad game, he'll say: "It's too easy." Ask him what's the worst thing about a bad assignment and he'll say, "It's too hard." That tells you the gap, right there. Because, for whatever it is, the kids are willing to stay up all night to solve a level on a game and aren't willing to spend an extra ten minutes on doing their homework. Now that should tell you about some gap. Parents say, "Well it's because its pleasurable, or fun, or easy," - but it's actually hard work to do these games well. Kids are willing to work hard to beat a game and are not willing to work hard to beat school. That's the fundamental dillema - the paradox - we have to look at, and figure out why that is.'
I think I know why that is. The child is in control, on a computer game. He can determine the outcomes and set his own goals. Success is based on truly impartial criteria and if he fails, he can just keep trying again (if he wishes) until he succeeds, without being humiliated infront of his friends and lectured about how he 'could do better'. There is no power struggle against another person or group of people, as there usually is with school learning.
I think it would be a good idea for schools to use computer games - if they're going to let the children choose them and have free, uninterrupted, unjudged, unhindered play sessions on them when the mood arises. Sadly, I can't really imagine it happening that way - which is a pity (or not, depending on your viewpoint) because it might have been the saving of the school system.