Education, Brain Plasticity and Video Games

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Learning is a physiological act. Even though the most part of it is still a mystery, there are some neurological theories about how we learn. For example, many scientists believe that when we learn new things, our brain forms new synapses, which is called synaptogenesis. They believe that the more we utilize the knowledge we learn, the more strengthened these synapses are. Moreover, some scientists claim that there is a relationship between learning and growth of nervous tissue, which is called neurogenesis.

As more and more research in brain plasticity addressed how learning affect our brains, I started to realize how ineffective our current methods are. I believe broadcasting information in classrooms while imposing passive learning on students affect their brains negatively. So how can we improve their learning experience physiologically? In my humble opinion, we should start emphasizing two key factors:

  1. Motor Learning: Hands-on applications which let students associate knowledge with movements may boost synaptogenesis. Theory is good, but practicality is the key. Let’s make sure kids use some tools, turn some knobs or engage other physical activities during their learning experiences. The more physically active they are, the more they improve their brains.
  2. Enrich Learning Environments: Scientists say enriched environments increases neurogenesis and improves spatial memory. Let’s create interpersonal spaces as well as personal ones where they can develop their own learning experiences through expression, communication, interaction and decision making. Students who are stimulated by their learning environments may learn more.

Video games might be great tools for education as they provide very sophisticated enriched environments which require motor skills. I believe Christopher Nolan was right when he said “when you play a video game, you could be a completely different person than you are in the real world, certain aspects of the way your brain works can be leveraged for something you could never do in the real world”. As Nolan stated brilliantly, they do make our brains work quite differently than real life.

Why don’t we create learning environments which stimulate neural pathways of students the same way video games do? Why don’t we use video games to offer a new learning environment which could never be offered in real world? Why don’t we utilize technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality and immersive media to do so?

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Think about an online video game which simulates a real-world scenario regarding a certain topic, where teachers, students and intelligent agents can interact 24/7. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could create the right content, dynamics, and mechanics for video games which would improve mental fitness, professional skill sets, social skills and confidence of students, as they have fun? For example, wouldn’t it be fun if you could record a virtual band in a virtual studio, to learn how to produce music?

Everything we need for education 3.0 is here. Shall we update?

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