Special section on learning and skill acquisition in Child Development Perspectives (2011)

Medical News Today reported on an article published in June’s issue of  Child Development Perspective. The article in question was Douglas Gentile’s (Iowa State University) multi-dimensional effects of video games. The Medical News Today article mainly focused on Gentile’s paper where he argued that videogames are a gray area that politicians, parents, educators, game designers, researchers among others have seemed to miss the point, and Gentile wrote in the academic article, the polarizing rhetoric surrounding the issue generates more heat than illumination (ah! Good one!).

What MNT did not report is that Gentile’s article is part of a special section on learning and cognitive skill acquisition. Five articles discussed various perspectives on videogames. Fran C. Blumberg (Fordham University) wrote the introductory article of the section.


The prevalence of video game play as an integral part of children and adolescents’ media diet has generated interest in how it might affect academic learning. However, current developmental research fails to highlight this issue. The 5 articles in this special section are designed to spark developmental psychologists’ greater interest by suggesting ways to conceptualize what children and adolescents gain from the time they spend playing video games, and how the cognitive skills and strategies they use may transfer to, or at least influence, what they do in the context of more academic tasks.

Douglas Gentile’s article is about the five main dimensional effects of videogames (amount of play, content of play, game context, structure of the game and the mechanics of the game)


Video games are at the center of a debate over what is helpful or harmful to children and adolescents, and there is research to substantiate both sides. The existing research suggests that there are at least 5 dimensions on which video games can affect players: the amount of play, the content of play, the game context, the structure of the game, and the mechanics of game play. This article describes each of these 5 dimensions with support from the scientific literature, arguing that this approach can allow people to get beyond the typical “good–bad” dichotomous thinking to have a more nuanced understanding of video game effects and to provide testable hypotheses for future research.

Andy Boyan and John L. Sherry (Michigan State University) discussed issues of designing videogames and how to integrate target content (some random examples. how to ask a girl out, statistics, communication theory, etc.) as intrinsic part of the game.


Recently, there has been a great deal of interest in the use of video games for education because of the high level of engagement of players. This article blends research on game engagement from the media flow perspective with current pedagogical theory to advance 2 core design principles for a model educational game design: model matching and layering.

Shalom M. Fisch and company reported on three math-educational videogames studies and discussed some observations of the children’s detailed interactions with the videogame.


Children’s interaction with educational computer games reflects not only their game-playing expertise but also their knowledge and skills about embedded educational content. Recent pilot data, drawn from an ongoing evaluation of children’s learning from educational media, illustrate that, much like earlier research on formal classroom mathematics, children may engage in cycles of increasingly sophisticated mathematical thinking over the course of playing an online game. It is possible to detect these shifts in strategies not only through in-person observations, but via data mining of online tracking data as well. This article discusses implications for the study of mathematical reasoning, children’s use of educational games, and assessment.

Amanda E. Staiano and Sandra L. Calvert  (Georgetown University) reviewed research on exercising videogames, like Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Sports, & GameBike among others.


Digital games combining exercise with game play, known as exergames, can improve youths’ health status and provide social and academic benefits. Exergame play increases caloric expenditure, heart rate, and coordination. Psychosocial and cognitive impacts of exergame play may include increased self-esteem, social interaction, motivation, attention, and visual–spatial skills. This article summarizes the literature on exergames, with a special emphasis on physical education courses and the potential of exergames to improve students’ physical health, as well as transfer effects that may benefit related physical, social, and academic outcomes.

Fran C. Blumberg and Elizabeth Altschuler (Fordham University) reported their focus group study about adolescents’ opinions about learning across videogames and classroom settings.


This article reviews research examining preadolescent and adolescent students’ views of video game and academic learning. This research contributes to discussions about how students’ engagement and approaches to problem-solving during video game play may transfer to the school setting. It highlights work from ongoing focus groups that, for example, shows that preadolescents and adolescents see both video game and school learning as providing venues for mastery and challenge. However, the locus of control for learning in the 2 venues varied: Preadolescents cited teachers as in control of their school learning and themselves as in control of their video game play. Regarding use of strategy, students saw seeking help from peers and family as appropriate problem-solving strategies for both video game and school learning. Notably, they cited trial-and-error strategies as relevant across both learning contexts, albeit far more often in reference to video game learning. The article concludes by considering ramifications of these findings for understanding transfer of learning from video game play to school learning.

The articles are short (less than 8 pages long), so they should provide some interesting read and hopefully spark some ideas. (But I’m in the middle of the quarter, so who knows when I’ll get to it).


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