Monday, December 21, 2009

New Research: (Serious) Games Raise Kids IQ

Serious Games challenging us to play a better education


Via: Richard Carey > Digital Media - UC Berkely Study: Gameplay Shown to Raise Kids IQ

Richard Carey reports on his latest post the study conducted by Dr. Silvia Bunge, a neuroscientist at UC Berkley, concluding that some video games help enhance kids' reasoning and processing skills. Findings even yielded that some games helped in raising kids' IQ points.

Dr. Silvia Bunge, a neuroscientist at UC Berkeley, has long been interested in understanding the development of children’s intelligence. She’s been measuring kids’ intelligence and scanning their brains for several years in order to understand what exactly makes some brains function better than others. This has given her unique insight into the mental processes kids are capable of, and how to test for it. Last year, Bunge and her graduate students decided to see if they could train up, or sharpen, children’s minds. Their study might sound remarkably simple, but the results have been flat-out astonishing.

Dr. Bunge and her team went to an Oakland elementary school, where its history of low state test scores made them a suitable place to conduct the study. The kids' IQ averaged at 90, while their brain speed was measured to be at the 27th percentile. Background-wise, their parents were mostly high school dropouts. These are the kind of demographics that their objective seeks to address.

They selected games that required specific mental functions since they'd be giving a mental workout, if you may, for exercising forethought, planning, comparisons, and logical integration. Among the games selected were Rush Hour and Qwirkle. For the Nintendo DS, Picross and Big Brain Academy were put to the test.

Twice a week, the kids played the games for an hour and fifteen minutes. Every fifteen minutes the kids moved to a new table, to make sure their brains always had something new to figure out. (The neuroscientists thought it was important the sessions remained fun.)

After eight weeks, they ran some tests, and found that the kids' reasoning scores improved by 32% - in terms of IQ, that would be a sizable 13-point IQ gain. Typically, a year of school raises a child's IQ by 12 points on average - Bunge and her team were able to beat that with gaming sessions that total only 20 hours.

The study is reported by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman in their Newsweek blog NurtureShock, under the post New Research: $13 Christmas gifts = 13 point gain in kids’ IQ.

Here is the full article!

New Research: $13 Christmas gifts = 13 point gain in kids’ IQ
Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Shoppers, you might want to redo your gift list after you read this.

Dr. Silvia Bunge, a neuroscientist at UC Berkeley, has long been interested in understanding the development of children’s intelligence. She’s been measuring kids’ intelligence and scanning their brains for several years in order to understand what exactly makes some brains function better than others. This has given her unique insight into the mental processes kids are capable of, and how to test for it. Last year, Bunge and her graduate students decided to see if they could train up, or sharpen, children’s minds. Their study might sound remarkably simple, but the results have been flat-out astonishing.

First, they went looking for off-the-shelf board games, card games, and video games that demanded distinct mental functions. One group of these games was chosen because they’d give children’s reasoning ability a workout – these games require forethought, planning, comparisons and logical integration. The games chosen were card games like SET, the traffic-jam puzzle Rush Hour, and Qwirkle, a cross between Dominos and Scrabble. For the Nintendo DS, they chose Picross and Big Brain Academy. There were also two games for the computer – one called Azada, another called Chocolate Fix.

Bunge’s team brought the games to an elementary school in Oakland with historically low state test scores. The researchers asked some second, third and fourth graders to stay after school to play. The kids’ IQ averaged a 90, and their brain speed (a subtest of intelligence) ranked them at only the 27th percentile. The children’s parents, on average, were high-school dropouts. These were the kids every education policy hopes to target, and every thought leader has an opinion on how to improve.

Twice a week, the kids played the games for an hour and fifteen minutes. Every fifteen minutes the kids moved to a new table, to make sure their brains always had something new to figure out. (The neuroscientists thought it was important the sessions remained fun.)

After just eight weeks – twenty total hours of game playing – Bunge’s team retested the children’s intelligence. They were specifically interested in the kids’ reasoning ability. According to the classic theories of intelligence, reasoning ability is considered both the core element of intelligence and also the hardest to change. Allyson Mackey, Bunge’s graduate student who supervised the study, thought she might see gains of 3 to 6 points, at most.