Can computer games help children to learn to read?

2 December 2008

At Channel 4 tonight, there was a debate about this question, organised by www.readingagency.co.uk. Several experts in the field discussed the issue, all arguing uncritically for computer games. None of them got to the nitty gritty though. At the heart of the issue are a few questions:

What is learning? What is reading? How do we best help children learn to read?
What is about computer games that can uniquely help with it?

One Scottish teacher argued that computer games can motivate children to read; he has helped schools to ‘teach’ games like Guitar Hero and Spore, encouraging children to do ‘literacy’ activities around these texts, such as devise their own European rock tour, create a guitar hero themselves.

I felt though we need to address this issue: we need to be challenged to learn and need to learn from our mistakes. Computers can give fast feedback on factual errors but struggle to correct cognitive errors. In this sense, they remain primitive; no computer game can give a serious critique of an essay, of an interpretation of a text, but they can check to see if a person knows the important facts of a text. Computer games can set challenges but can they assess learning meaningfully?’

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1 comment

  1. I am convinced that my Son learnt how to read by playing video games and now he is using the text speak on these games to communicate with other players, he is asking how to spell certain words. This has got to be a positive side to video games.

    from Laura

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