How interactive video games can influence numeracy and literacy

The medium is not the message

Giving every child access to a digital device will deliver technological literacy but will do little for neurological development. That development is dependent on the particular ways students interact with the content on the device.

Similarly, the child has a neuro-framework; a scaffold for learning, but that doesn’t mean they’re using it effectively. Fortunately, research tells us we can usefully stimulate these structures at an early age and that video games potentially do that job well. That is our domain.

One size does not fit all

Our aim is individualised learning. Done well, we differentiate learning not just on perceived  ability, but on a range of different needs and conditions particular to the child. The pedagogy of the game works well in delivering this differentiation.

To err is divine

Inherent in Edu-fy’s approach to neuro-framework scaffolding is the positivity of failure. A baby will stumble and bumble their way through learning to talking and walk, testing different approaches and making incremental adjustments that work over time. Hey presto! They’re walking!

Contrast this with the 19th century educational paradigm that marked out failure as a negative force.

Repetition requires purpose

Learning to drive is a complex task which most people would say they have mastered. Mathematics is probably less complex but few say they are skilled in it. A key difference is that we learn to drive in the real world, with a clear purpose in mind, while mathematics is almost always done out of context.

To encourage repetition we need to offer an intrinsic reward. If we tantalise with the possibility of a win the child’s brain releases the dopamine that helps build the neural connections involved in memory retrieval. With our games we bind challenging quests to skills acquisition.

Automacity is key

Once we establish a desirable journey the learner will make repeated attempts to access and retrieve that information. The path turns into a road, then a highway, then a superhighway to the storage centres of the brain. At that point we have automaticity, or automatic retrieval. That is a necessary skill for the brain to manage large amounts of information and convert it into the conceptual knowledge required for numeracy.