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Simon Marcus Gower, Contributor, Jakarta | Sun, 12/12/2010 2:20 PM | Education

For most people the answer to the question in the title here would be an emphatic NO! But such a response may be as emotive as it is considered. It is undeniably true that there are mindless “shoot ‘em up” games that seem to have little to connect them to education but researchers are not entirely dismissive of the educational value of computer games.

Recent research has shown that computer gaming can actually have some surprising benefits for the development of children. Those action games that seem so distant from developmental benefit, it has been suggested, can help improve children’s vision and advance their reflexes and predictive ability.

It seems that hours of fun playing games can be more than just fun; they can also be changing the way the child reacts and responds to a digital world and digital prompts. This may seem scary; we may think of a child interacting with a computer as something less than desirable but, strangely enough, there may be ways emerging in which such interaction and skill is actually desirable. For example, in the world of medicine computer gaming experience and skill can be seen as advantageous. With the growth of robotics in medicine leading to significant surgeries being carried out with the manipulation of robotic equipment it is claimed that people that are familiar with remote controls from gaming are, so to speak, “ahead of the game”.

This may seem hard to believe but it does, in some ways, represent what we must get used to — the simple fact that technology has changed the way we do things and it has changed our skills and abilities in ways that we could hardly have imagined only a relatively short time ago. Children are “techno-savvy” and this is both needed and to their advantage.

Children’s brains adapt and assimilate new ways of doing things relatively easily and this is an excellent interface with technology where change and development is practically a daily reality. Children’s ability to speedily navigate their way around a computer, or any other gadget for that matter, allows them to quickly become adept and so capable users.

Computer gaming too does not just exist in the world of wild “shoot ‘em up” games. There are many concentration, memory and strategy games that allow children to develop far more than just a trigger finger. The dexterity with which children can speed around a keyboard, solve problems and come up with plans is something of a skill in itself.

So, while we generally think of computing games and technology as being rather ominous and worrying for the development of children and education, it may just be that we need to reconsider our attitudes.

There is little doubt that technology is with us; it is a fact of life and it is all around us. What we need to do is make sure that it is being used appropriately and wisely. Computers and technology have to form a part of our education and development.