Report: Brain Training aids study in schools

A study has found that using games such as Dr Kawashima's Brain Age in class really does boost a range of skills.

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Gaming could soon be part of the national curriculum if one academic researcher has his way. Scottish primary school teacher Derek Robertson, who set up Consolarium--the Scottish Centre for Games and Learning--has released results of his most recent study that shows so-called brain-training games have a positive impact both on behaviour and on learning when used in schools.

The study took place over three P6 school classes (children aged 10-11), where School A was given 30 Nintendo DS consoles and copies of Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training and used them for 15-20 minutes every morning. School B used Brain Gym--a program of physical activities that is marketed as improving learning abilities--for the same amount of time every day, whereas School C acted as a control group and did not have access to either.

The children were given a numbers test before the Brain Training/Brain Gym activities, and retested again afterwards. Robertson found that there was no real change in academic self-concept (how smart the kids thought they were). However, he found improvements in both the accuracy of children's calculations and the average completion time for sums.

The control group scored approximately 72 percent on the first test, and 77 on the second. The Brain Gym group scored 70 percent before, and 71 percent after, whereas the Brain Training group saw an increase from 76 percent to 86 percent.

For average completion time the control group took around 19 minutes to finish the first test, and 18 on the second. The Brain Gym group took 19 minutes at first, which went down to 17.5 minutes, and the Brain Training group took approximately 16 minutes at first and 13 after.

The teacher in charge of class A told Robertson in a postmortem report that, even before seeing the official results of the second test, she knew her kids had improved. She said, "All those kids were coming in on a Monday morning, and they'd get out the Nintendos and it settled them down for the rest of the day." She added that no one had attempted to break the games machines, or otherwise damage them, because the children felt they were important.

Speaking at the BAFTA headquarters in London, Robertson said that in order to engage youngsters, especially those in schools where teaching is "challenging," teachers need to find new ways to motivate and stimulate kids and adults to learn. He said, "We have to find things that have cultural resonance to learners."

Robertson showed a video of a young boy racing to do a series of sums in the shortest amount of time possible, attention wrapped on the handheld. He commented, "Can you imagine giving kids a sheet of sums to do and getting that kind of interest? They were really proud of their scores. It was cool to be good at maths in that class."

He has also worked on other projects with games in schools, including with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Hotel Dusk: Room 215 as a basis for creative writing exercises, as well as experiments with Big Brain Academy and Nintendogs. He has a primary school project about to begin using the PlayStation Portable, which he thinks has exciting possibilities due to its multimedia capabilities and Internet access, and another using My Word Coach, which he thinks will have a real impact on literacy.

Robertson said that he would now like to try the research project on a larger sample.

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