A few colleagues of mine and I just finished putting on a week-long camp for boys, ages 8-11. Like most summer camps, we played our fair share of dodge ball, capture the flag, and soccer. We went to get ice cream, took adventure bike rides, and even engaged in some arts and crafts. We also did something quite unorthodox: scheduled video game time! We used that time to teach some valuable life skills: waiting your turn, sharing, resolving conflict, and the importance of communication.
The camp ran five days. On day one, all the boys, many of whom had ADHD, struggled to take turns as well as to constructively resolve conflict. We missed no opportunity, however, to use the discord we observed to teach these boys new behaviors. The threat of shutting off the game proved to be particularly potent in getting them to buy in to what we wanted to teach.
By the last day, these boys had markedly improved. We saw them willingly give up their seats to other boys who had not had enough screen time. They began making “I-statements,” taking responsibility for their feelings and opinions. The biggest lessons came neither from the “learning circles” we set up, nor from the lesson plans we had laid out in laborious detail. The video game consoles were an unexpectedly powerful learning conduit.
We made sure to communicate the importance of balancing games with real world experiences, which is why we built in intense adventures. They all felt a strong sense of accomplishment, for example, upon completion of a ten-mile bike ride. But, the most striking thing I learned was how video games taught them how to more effectively connect with other human beings.
- BOOK SIGNING: Please join me at Border’s Ann Arbor on September 8, 2010 at 7pm for a book talk and signing.