Toronto, ON (PRWEB) June 25, 2013
School days are coming to an end, and most kids have been counting down for weeks. But the kids of the Thinking Skills Club at Palmerston Ave. Public School in Toronto, Canada, it's not so straightforward.
The 7 to 11 year-olds have been attending the club Mondays and Fridays after school to play games - computer games - with the full blessing of the school administration. Mitch Moldofsky, a parent with two boys in grades 3 and 6, leads the club with games he has gathered on a website based on his studies in Cognitive Science at the University of Toronto, where he recently graduated at age 55. "I was the oldest student in my graduating class," he says. But with a new venture based on the use of internet games to improve school marks, he is clearly not the most old-fashioned.
One of the more compelling streams of research Moldofsky recalls from his recent re-education was from a lab at his Alma Mater itself, led by Professor Ian Spence. Spence, and avid glider pilot, has been leading studies on the effects of computer games of all sorts on spatial cognition, our brain's natural ability to locate things in space. Along with Jing Feng and Jay Pratt of his lab, he even found that playing a game could alter gender based brain differences, when college aged women who played the war game Medal of Honor for 10 hours actually caught up to men in their ability to do spatial cognition, according to established tests. Improved spatial cognition has been demonstrated to correlate with math ability, says the report, which translates into better marks.
In setting up his club, however, Moldofsky faced the need to provide games that were non-violent, as well as non-sexist nor racist, not always an easy job in the world of online culture. To get the benefits of a Medal of Honor without the gore, he looked at its basic qualities -- three dimensional game play, shooting targets, being aware of the landscape in front and behind you as well as to the sides -- then used research to determine which of these were most involved in the cognitive changes. The next step was to find a free online game that filled the bill.
"It's not an exact science," says Moldofsky. "That's why I think it works as a club -- like chess or Scrabble, it may help, and, if you find the right games, it couldn't hurt."