Video Games and Developing Skills Students Need Later

Often described as harmful to kids, but could some video games actually help students learn? Research shows they can increase student engagement and build cognitive skills.

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Video games have evolved tremendously since their first debut in 1972 with the game Pong. Once thought to be a hobby for outcasts and introverts, video games are now played by a large majority of people around the world and can be found in almost every household.

With gaming becoming so popular, parents’ and teachers’ concern is rising. Is this increase in gaming across the world something to worry about? Or might it actually be beneficial to learning in today’s world?

There has been much speculation around the effect video games have on young minds and whether or not they are causing harm to mental development. Research has shown gaming can actually improve cognitive skills and help parents and teachers engage students in learning.

Here we will discuss the benefits of gaming, how these benefits transfer to the classroom, and how The Juice is using gamification to improve learning and engagement for our students.

Are There Benefits to Playing Video Games? 

The talk around video games used to be mostly negative, but as gaming culture continues to rise researchers have been pleasantly surprised by the positive effects we are seeing in young players. 

Improved social skills, sports skills, leadership, and cognitive strength are among some of these benefits we see emerging from gaming. Some hiring agencies are actually looking for video game experience on applications according to the Wall Street Journal.

Elements we see in video games, like virtual reality, graphic design, and coding, are starting to become a bigger part of our world. Companies are using these elements in their advertising, websites, and other customer experiences. 

Growing up playing video games can open doors and lead to intrigue in computer science, coding, and other STEM fields. Having already been exposed to these sciences while gaming can give individuals a leg up and add to their experience when applying for jobs in these fields. 

Video games can also strengthen teamwork skills and other sports abilities. Although the physical aspect of sports cannot be taught virtually, skills such as communication, problem-solving, team collaboration, and sportsmanship can improve through gaming. 

Engaging in sports activities can enhance social skills and teach valuable life lessons, but studies show many kids are dropping out of sports by the age of 13. A possible reason for this may be the pressure that comes with being on a sports team. 

Participating in online sports gaming can alleviate some of this pressure and encourage more kids to play team sports virtually. Online sports are more inclusive and allow for teams with diverse backgrounds, different skill sets, and even different locations around the world. 

Students who were once unable to participate in live sports due to physical, behavioral, or learning disabilities are now able to be a part of these online teams. 

This virtual world allows people to come together without the restrictions of income, ability, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Kids are exposed to diversity while learning to work together with others. 

Gaming has created a unique way of teaching life skills that kids can use in real life to achieve success in relationships, in school, in careers, and open the door for future opportunities. 

How Can Elements of Gaming Improve Learning and Engagement? 

So how do these video game skills transfer to real life? And what do they have to do with classroom learning? Many games require teamwork and problem-solving in order to move through levels or win.

This type of collaboration can be highly useful in the classroom. A necessary classroom skill for students is teamwork and collaboration, especially when being grouped with people they don’t know or don’t usually talk to for a project or assignment. 

When engaging in online games, most of the time participants are teamed up with strangers they just met. They get to practice working together towards a collaborative goal with someone who might be a different age or gender and who might have a different skill level. This mirrors situations they may see in the classroom. 

Games also allow students to practice emotional regulation. Strong emotions such as anger, frustration, and disappointment can hinder learning. Through gaming, students learn they must overcome these emotions and regulate in order to win or reach their goal. 

This emotional strength can help students be more successful in the classroom. Emotional regulation leads to better attention and behavior, increased engagement in lessons and tasks, and improves self-esteem and confidence. 

Many games have an element of multi-tasking which teaches kids how to quickly switch between tasks. Task-switching abilities represent cognitive flexibility and can be useful during the school day when many different subjects, classrooms, and tasks are assigned in a given day. 

Task-switching and greater attention span are useful skills during remote or virtual learning when students have more responsibility to keep themselves focused and on task. 

Gamers are better able to follow directions and solve problems on their own and challenge kids to find solutions with little help. Since video games often rely on trial-and-error, and individual improvement dependent on internal observation and evaluation, the link between critical problem solving and gaming becomes more apparent. As a result, gamers are able to strategize to reach goals. All of which are valuable skills we try to teach our students in school. 

What is Gamification? 

Parents and teachers can utilize these benefits at home and in the classroom through gamification. Gamification is when you take normal, daily tasks that might be difficult for kids to engage in and add gaming elements to make them more fun or appealing. 

Parents can use gamification to encourage their kids to complete chores, companies use gamification to hook customers, managers use it to engage their employees, and teachers can use gamification to motivate their students. 

Some simple ways to add gaming elements to every day tasks are to include timers. You’ve probably never seen a kid move faster to complete a task than saying “I’ll time you!”. 

Creating competitions in the classroom increases motivation and the desire to complete a task and do it well. Turning review sessions into trivia games where students can earn points improves attention and engagement. 

Classroom points can decrease negative behavior and inspire teamwork. Gamifying your classroom, your chore list, or other unpleasant tasks can increase cooperation, improve attendance, and create a love of learning.

How Does The Juice Use Gamification To Improve Learning? 

At The Juice, we are incorporating gamification elements into our products to help engage and motivate students and teachers. Our online curriculum allows students to interact with our content virtually, mimicking most gaming platforms. 

Our news-based articles allow students to be “investigators” and further their own learning through research and vocabulary discovery. Quiz questions have a trivia-type quality that allows students and teachers to monitor understanding and test their own knowledge. 

We’ve included short STEAM-related videos in our daily curriculum package that introduce art and science concepts as “life hacks”. This fun and engaging learning style challenges students to try different methods of solving problems or completing every day tasks. 

Including these gaming elements in our curriculum allows students to be more creative, engage deeper in the material, and sparks curiosity and the desire to learn more.

The Juice will continue to create learning tools that connect with students and exploit existing skills that develop through gaming culture. Visit us at thejuicelearning.com to find out how you can use The Juice to improve learning.

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US Politics (Grades 11-12)

Biden Executive Orders Will Reverse Trump Policies

President-elect Joe Biden plans to sign a flurry of executive orders soon after his inauguration tomorrow. He plans to address what he’s calling the four crises facing the country. They are COVID-19, the economic downturn, racial injustice, and climate change.

An executive order is a written directive from the president carrying powers similar to a federal law. Presidents have historically used these orders to push policies forward quickly because they do not require approval from Congress. The downside of executive orders is that they are easily overturned by any new president. That is not true for federal laws.

Among other moves overturning Trump administration policies, Biden’s orders will return the US to the Paris Climate Accord and to the Iran nuclear deal.

Related to the pandemic, Biden will require face masks on federal properties and during interstate travel. Other orders will be aimed at safely reopening schools and businesses.

On immigration, Biden will order agencies to determine how to reunite children separated from their families after crossing the US-Mexico border. Another order will end travel restrictions targeting majority-Muslim countries.

Other orders will address “equity and support communities of color,” criminal justice reform, and access to healthcare.

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