Digital Games And Kids – A Different Perspective

The “Wikipedia problem” which means children turning to internet for readymade answers is the new age phenomenon baffling teachers and mentors globally. There are almost equal numbers of teachers who consider technology to be a solution as much as a problem. While a common belief is that technology is hindering the students’ capacity to think and analyze, there is also a strong opinion in favor of video games and digital gadgets’ ability to engage students and enhance learning by using more than one sensory stimulators. In spite of the growing concern about the students’ deteriorating attention spans, institutions are incorporating them in the process of classroom learning.Children are inherently inquisitive creatures. They have a curiosity to discover new things and learn by way of discovering and experimenting even before they are subjected to methods of formal education such as reading or writing. Science is a discipline of experiments and discoveries. The National Science Education Standards emphasize that “science education needs to give students three kinds of scientific skills and understandings. Students need to learn the principles and concepts of science, acquire the reasoning and procedural skills of scientists, and understand the nature of science as a particular form of human endeavor. Students therefore need to be able to devise and carry out investigations that test their ideas, and they need to understand why such investigations are uniquely powerful. Studies show that students are much more likely to understand and retain the concepts that they have learned this way “. Hence, it becomes imperative to engage children in science education at an early stage.Digital games are more capable to gain students’ interests and attention than other conventional means of imparting education in a classroom. However, some educationists also regard them as culprits of exponential decline in the attention span in children. The next sections in this article discuss the involvement of children in games in the tech age, types of games available in the market and the impact of digital gaming as learning aids in classrooms.Gaming and the New Age KidsDigital technology has expanded the horizons of video gaming in the modern world. Kids are subjected to far more complex and challenging technological environment than their counterparts were from over half a century back. Involvement of kids in digital gaming is a result of many significant changes in the lifestyle and culture of the modern society. Easy accessibility of technology, dispensable income due to dual income families and lack of infrastructure for outdoor activities in many cities are some major contributors in making screen games an important part of the children’s’ lives. A study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) found that only 20 percent of the census blocks are within half a mile of a block boundary. Also, the effect of peer pressure cannot be undermined in these times of social networking.The digital gaming market is one of the fastest growing segments of the global entertainment industry. US is witnessing unprecedented penetration of digital games amongst youngsters. In the US, 97% of the teens play some type of game on a regular basis. In India, the gaming market has grown manifold in the last few years. Hence, it is imperative that educationists are continuously contemplating the use of digital gaming as a learning tool in classrooms. Institutions are also employing innovative ways to leverage the digital advantage for enhancing the learning experience at schools.What are Digital Games?There is no concrete definition of games as it may vary with an individual’s preference and profession. Games can be defined as a “system in which players engage in artificial conflict, defined by rules, which result in a quantifiable outcome”. Technology and digitization add new dimensions to games where simulations, interactivity, augmented reality, alternative reality, collective intelligence and sensory stimulators such as sound and visual effects. Digital games are also characterized by their portability and limitless accessibility.Role-playing games, simulation games and puzzles are some of the most popular digital games. In role-playing games, the player enacts the role of a particular character in a virtual world moving from one level to the other based on the outcome of the earlier level. RPGs can be single player such as the dungeons and dragons from earlier days of gaming or multi-player games such as Diablo III, Xenoblade, Final Fantasy XIII-2 or Mass Effect 3. MMORPG or the Massive Multiple Online Role-Playing Games are an extension of the RPGs where large number of players interacts in an online virtual world. Simulation games create realistic situations in virtual worlds. The outcome will depend on the player’s decision-making and responsiveness and will be closely similar to what may happen in a real world in the same situation. Widely used in training and analysis, simulation games are also popular due to their unpredictable and personalized outcomes. Flight Simulator X, Live for Speed (LFS) and Need for Speed have been extremely popular simulation games for a long time. Puzzles genre of digital games involves problem solving and analysis with varying degrees of difficulty depending on the nature of the game. Crosswords and treasure hunt games are basic forms of puzzle games in both physical and digital form.All types of digital games involve a social involvement of players. Some need collaborative efforts to play while others may be discussed or analyzed socially. In spite of some games being accused of outright violent visual effects, a well-designed game can accelerate the thinking process by motivating, engaging, involving creativity and developing a meta-game i.e., social interactions inspired and enhanced inside or outside the game. Incorporating digital gaming in the basic education framework can lead to augmented competitiveness and multi-dimensional growth in children.Digital Games in Science Education – Why and Why Not?The 21st century requires the mentors and the students to integrate technology into the curriculum. Though the ultimate goal is to benefit the students in terms of learning and experience, unsupervised, unorganized or irrelevant application can lead to complete failure or have negative effects. Some of the negative impacts of digital games in general and in context with the education are listed below:

Digital games have been facing constant rebuke for allegedly enhancing aggression amongst kids and developing a violent streak at an early stage. In a study by Anderson and Bushman (2001), Children involved in violent video games are more likely to have increased aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and decreased prosocial helping. Use of weapons and being rewarded for being violent is a cause of widespread concern.

Digital games can be addictive for children and make them physically inactive. Digital games, other than social networking, are considered for reduced physical activity leading to obesity in kids and postural and skeletal disorders.

Addiction to games is also known to make kids socially secluded. Impulsive behavior, depression and increased anxiety levels are largely attributed to excessive gaming in children. Some studies also suggest that the children playing games are unable to concentrate for a long span and have reduced attention span.

Children are prone to absorbing socially unacceptable behavior through some digital games such as using profanities and ill-treating the fairer sex. Lack of adequate knowledge about screening the material available online is a growing concern amongst the parents.

Digital games are considered a hindrance to better performance in academics. Students are often found to skip homework to play games leading to deteriorated performance at school. However, despite their reputation as promoters of violence and mayhem, digital games have in fact been shown to help children learn skills, content, and vital “21st-century” skills. From digital games children can learn: content (from rich vocabulary to science to history), skills (from literacy to math to complex problem-solving), creation of artifacts (from videos to software code) and systems thinking (how changing one element affects relationships as a whole). Strong arguments in favor of using digital games as learning aids in secondary education are summarized below:

Digital games involve extreme hand-eye coordination and enhance motor and sensory skills. Sensory stimulation theory proposed by academician Laird (1985) validates that effective learning occurs when the senses are stimulated. While some studies show that digital gaming reduces attention span, there are strong evidences of improved concentration in short intervals of time. Digital games involve keeping an eye on every detail, follow the rules and respond proactively to the given situation. Complex digital games help is developing problem-solving and decision-making skills. Some games also involve logical analysis of the situation and pattern recognition and improve memorizing thus assisting in the cognitive process. Playing by the rules teaches children to accept and respect a certain level of discipline.

Multi-player digital games develop a sense of constructive competitive attitude. Collaborative games also improve team-building attitude. They develop time management skills in a team and train the players to cooperate for mutually desired goal. They teach the players to accept defeat as well as strive for better results. Digital games provide an avenue for hyperactive kids to direct the energy in a constructive system based game. They also provide an outlet to release aggression and frustration, thus helping in diffusing stress. Some games also involve physical activity such as Nintendo Wii boxing helping kids to engage mentally and physically with the kids. Complex digital games involve high level of multitasking thus improving brain’s natural learning process. Brain based learning theory proposes that multi-tasking is an inherent activity of the brain and learning is enhanced by challenges at various levels. Digital games develop efficient situational analysis and strategy making in children. Since games have certain objectives at every level and a final objective of the game, it teaches players to devise short term and long-term strategies such as scoring points, retaining energy and reaching the ultimate goal of the game. Simulation games and the role-playing digital games help players gain expertise or learn by experiencing in replicas of real world situations. Experiential learning and action learning theories are based on the premise that individuals learn faster when they by experiencing and actually participating in action.

“Games require the kind of thinking that we need in the 21st Century because they use actual learning as the basis for assessment. They test not only current knowledge and skills, but also preparation for future learning. They measure 21st century skills like collaboration, innovation, production, and design by tracking many different kinds of information about a student, over time. ”

SCIENCE, RELIGION, and SPIRITUALITY: In Search of God

Science and religion have traditionally been treated like oil and water–they don’t mix. They don’t mix because we have been led to believe that religion is a form of subjective fundamental belief whereas science is objective verifiable phenomenon. In this article, I have developed a formula to mix science and religion and to explain that the concept of God has practical value only if we accept it as part of us. A scientist may find difficult to believe that some wise old man or woman sitting up in heaven is keeping track of everything, but can’t deny the incredible awareness and intelligence that exists in life, in nature, and in us. It’s being a scientist that makes us spiritual.The questions about God, hell, heaven, and rebirth, and their relationship to realization, enlightenment, and spirituality, have occupied our mind for centuries in one form or another: What is God? Does He/She really exist? Why do we search for God? Do religions really believe in the same God? Why are there religious wars? Is there really a place such as heaven or hell? What was our past life? What will be our future life? Is there really such a thing as past life or future life?Religions and prophets have been preaching about God, hell, and heaven for centuries, and millions of people have cultivated belief in these phenomena. The revolution of science and technology in this century has forced many of us to reevaluate the doctrines and tenets of our faith. Should we believe in creation or should we believe in evolution? Should we believe in heaven and God’s court of justice when we look up in the sky, or should we believe in the space, the planets, and the galaxies up there? I hope this article provides a fresh insight into the mysteries about God, hell, heaven, and rebirth–and leave us wiser, peaceful, and enlightened.What is God?The philosophy of religion or the institute of God is the human’s greatest discovery. God is not a physical object. It is a state of mind. God is the Electromagnetic pulse of energy that gives life and lives within all. What we call our conscious/soul is part of God within us. That is why great prophets and religious scriptures say God is everywhere (omnipresent). Whenever, wherever, our mind and soul is with us, God is there; and the saying goes “God resides in our hearts- -not in temples, mosques, or churches. Bernie Siegel (author of Love, Medicine & Miracles) says same thing, “God resides in each of us.” In other words, God is a spirit that exists in every person. The rich, the poor, the king, the subject, the religious, the atheist, the sinner, the sage, the Easterner, the Westerner, the Christian, the Jew, the Hindu, the Muslim, the Sikh, the Buddhist, and on and on… This is consistent with what the Christians preach: “We are ideas of God!” And ideas come from–the divine mind. Only people (Homo sapiens) among the animal species are fortunate enough to have a powerful mind and experience the presence of spirit in their mind. The recognition of that spirit is what gives us spiritual living or realization of God. Completely illuminated human beings know that God is present in the deepest and most central part of their own soul. God is not outside the world. God is the world. So, philosophically, God is a State of Mind; OR It’s our mind, which is God! OR God is a spirit/conscious energy that exists in each one of us! (lf you’re confused, don’t worry! Read on!!)”God is not outside the world. God is within us. Live a Holy, Healthy, Happy Life.”Religion-spirituality and science can come together. God is scientific. God is light. God is darkness. God is intelligent, loving energy. God is nature. God is in us. God is psychoneuroimmunology when we witness miracles of healing. God is all. Some of us may distinguish between religion and spirituality; religion may be a possessive and destructive force that doesn’t allow expansion of mind, whereas spirituality is a healing force with no rules attached to God’s love or God’s ability to sustain us. We should remember the real purpose of a religion is spirituality; and we should try to stay away from names and definitions. God, for example, is one of the many names of the same divine force or universal energy.For those who feel comfortable with the word God or Creator, it’s a divine word! It brings peace of mind. With prayer, we speak to God. With miracles, God responds. Science now explains miracles of healing through the mind-body relationship. With prayer we awaken the spirit in our mind, and the transformed-spiritual mind causes hormonal and other chemical changes that eventually may result in healing. As such, God or Creator is not a separate entity, it’s part of us- -present right in our mind all the time. God is within us every moment, in every circumstance. He/She is to our left and to our right, before us and behind us, above us and beneath us. God watches every act–criminal or noble–and every moment, whether we’re alone or in a crowd. We cannot deceive God (our own mind/conscious) by thinking nobody is watching us.What about our belief in God’s form of existence or court of justice? Nobody could describe the physical or descriptive existence of God in the past, nobody can describe it now in the present, and nobody is likely to describe it in the future. For an atheist there is no God because physical existence cannot be proven. And that is why discussion on existence or nonexistence of God never gets anywhere. God’s existence cannot be proved or disproved. God is not a body like us sitting somewhere in the sky. We have launched rockets into the space, we have built space-station, we have analyzed moon rocks, we have taken close-up pictures of the planets–we don’t find even primitive life form, never mind finding God in the sky. Science may not find God in the sky who keeps track of everything, but the incredible awareness and intelligence that exists in life, in nature, and in us on this Earth is a form of God’s scientific existence.It’s impossible to see God, because He/She is an integral part of our mind. Since God is within us, we obviously can’t see God, just as, for instance, an eye cannot see itself and an ear cannot hear itself. And Zenrin puts in simply, “Like a sword that cuts, but cannot cut itself; like an eye that sees, but cannot see itself.” Our soul and God are one. The individual soul (atma) is part of universal or original or supreme or perfect soul called Parmatma (name of God in eastern scriptures). The attempt to bring the soul and God together merely perpetuates the illusion that the two are separate. It’s not so, and we’re already It. To know God is to be God; the two are not at all separate, points out the Hindu scripture Upanishad. If God and we were two separate entities, then we could see, hold, and go around Him/Her in a ceremonial worship! However, in various religions we find unique ways to worship God. Practitioners use symbols of godhead varying from images/statues to holy books and even imaginary pictures.The great prophets, Christ, Mohammed, Nanak, Buddha, Krishna, and Mahavir, all provided avenues to the realization of God or to awaken the spirit that exists in our minds. These paths are different, but the destination or message is similar. More importantly, there is one common element; they all focus on something that exists in our minds and strive for a realization or spiritual awakening that forms the basis for a changed or spiritual state of mind.If God is a state of mind with awakened spirit, what is that state of mind!That state of mind is without fear, without enmity, immortal without the fear of death or birth, complete within itself–timeless, ageless, and form- less (Akaal Moorat). We know that only the physical body ages, spirit is not affected by time or age or birth or death. A few blessed ones realize that state of mind (Nirbhau, Nirvair, Akaal Moorat, Ajooni, Saebhang, Gur Parsad Mul-Mantra or Basic Principle, Japuji). Nanak, Mohammad, Christ, Buddha, Mahavir, and other great prophets attained such a state of mind. They were able to awaken the spirit that existed in their minds. They realized the presence of spirit (God). In other words, they found God.It is that state of mind with awakened spirit which Rajnish called orgasmic, saints call peaceful, psychiatrists call tranquil, and drug addicts call getting high.Many spiritual masters have called this enlightened state of mind by different names. Buddha called it “the enlightened one.” Christ and Messiah also meant the same. St. Paul called it “the peace of God that passeth understanding” and Richard Maurice Bucke named it “Cosmic Consciousness.” Guru Nanak described as “realization of ultimate truth.” In Zen it is satori, in yoga it is samadhi or moksha, in Sufism it is fana, in Taoism it is wu or the Ultimate Tao. Gurdjieff labeled it “objective consciousness”; Sri Aurobindo refers to it as “illumination,” “liberation,” and “self-realization.” Dante said, “trans-humanization into a God.” Likewise, enlightenment has been symbolized by many images; the thousand-petaled lotus of Hinduism, the Holy Grail of Christianity, the clear mirror of Buddhism, Judaism’s Star of David, the yin-yang circle of Taoism, the mountain top, the swan, the still lake, the mystic rose, and the eternal flame.How an individual describes the enlightened state of mind may seem quite different and even opposed. As one and the same pain may be described either as a hot pang or a cold sting, so the descriptions of the enlightened experience may take forms that seem so different. One person may say that he/she has found the answer to the whole mystery of life, but somehow cannot put it into words. Others will feel that they have experienced, not a transcendent God, but their own inmost nature. Some will get the sense that their egos or selves have expanded to become the entire universe, whereas others will feel that they have lost themselves altogether and that what they called their egos were never anything but abstractions. Some will describe themselves as infinitely enriched, while others will say they haven’t a care in the world. A theist may call it a glimpse of the presence of God.Irrespective of that experience, we can call this state of mind with awakened spirit “the spiritual state of mind.” In everyday living, spiritualism is experienced as kindness, forgiving, mercy, compassion, peace, joy, acceptance, non-judgment, joining, intimacy, and an absence of need to dominate others. Spiritual beings focus on authentic personal empowerment, utilize multidimensional thinking, and believe loving guidance is available. They feel connected to all of humanity and practice a life without desire to control someone or to prove that they are right and the other person is wrong. They know a dimension beyond cause and effect. They are motivated by morality, serenity, and quality of life. They recognize a violent response to evil as participating in evil and focus on what they stand for. They feel a sense of responsibility and belonging to the universe. They have a tendency to extend love and help others rather than feel enmity and competition. Their minds are not controlled by anger, fear, lust, greed, attachment, false ego, or envy. Their existence is not affected by time and age. They are not afraid of getting old or of dying young. They see no sin in the world to escape from.Nonspiritual people, on the other hand, are in a state of fear and experience anger, abuse, pain, greed, addiction, selfishness, obsession, corruption, and violence. They hold grudges and seek revenge for perceived wrongdoing. They are only motivated by achievement, performance and acquisitions. They feel separate from all others.Why is there a spiritual need to search for God?”Possession of material riches, without inner peace, is like dying of thirst while bathing in a lake.” –Paramhansa YoganandaTo satisfy the sense may be the major challenge for some of us, but it is actually the easiest part. The mind and spirit require continual attention and stimulation. It is not until we assume responsibility for the enhancement of the total self that we can live full lives.For the sake of simplicity, let’s divide human life into three levels of existence. All three levels, we may point out, are a normal part of the human life cycle. It’s how we handle these levels that create hell or heaven in our lives.1. The first level of our existence as a highly evolved animal leads us to search for sensual pleasures such as lust, drinking, smoking, drugs and anything that satisfies or pleases the senses. Many people may spend their entire life right at this level.2. The second level of our existence as we advance leads us to think more like humans since we live as a civilized society. That is to have a well-paying and respectable job, a good house, an expensive car, and other materialistic desires. All this is a normal character of ego which requires strength, strategy, and effort to achieve material possessions. Most of us spend our life rising only to second level.3. The third or highest level of our existence demands something more than the first level of sensual pleasures and the second level of materialistic living. It provides an extra touch to the first and second levels! That third level is spiritual living or enlightenment, which we can call the ultimate achievement in human existence. It is because of this desire that we find well educated, highly intelligent, extremely successful, wealthy people looking for a spiritual leader or guru. These are the people who desperately follow those who can provide some insight into spiritual philosophy, whether it is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi or Bhagwan Rajnish or Swami Prabhupada–author of English version of Bhagvad Geeta and founder of International Society of Krishna Consciousness in the western world, which provided the seed of Hare Krishna movement.Most often the spiritual gurus are from the east since the western society is very big on action and there is no guidance for spiritual advancement. Owing to this spiritual need or void, 2500 or more cults exist in the U.S. alone. Cult leaders come from both east and west. Cult leader Jim Jones poisoned hundreds of his followers in the 1980s and David Koresh lead 86 people to burn themselves to death at Waco, Texas in 1993. Luc Jouret led over 50 members to forced death in Canada and Switzerland in October 1994. In March 1997, 39 followers of Heaven’s Gate died in a mass suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, California near San Diego. It’s the understanding of spirit in our own mind that can save us from cult incidences.”To seek spiritual power, there is no need to seek it through any occult hierarchy, any guru, any doctrine,” says J. Krishnamurti. “The important thing is to free our mind of envy, hate, and violence; and for that we don’t need an organization.” He calls people to examine their own hearts and minds to see the egotism and self-ignorance at the root of all sufferings and troubles; that is precisely what prevents enlightenment and spiritual power.The spiritual power doesn’t come from the same sources that feed our ego. Ego power is an important part of society in the worldly sense. It requires strength, strategy, and efforts to achieve things that have a social value. We like a well-paying respectable job regardless of whether we’re good at it, and it’s because of ego power we often are attracted to other material possessions.Our efforts to achieve ego power, however, don’t necessarily empower the spirit or soul. The spiritual power comes from living close to the heart. It comes from unexpected sources such as failure, sickness, and loss. For example, when we endure through loss of job or illness, we find inner strength that strengthens our spirit. Spiritual or soul power also comes from being ourselves doing what we’re good at. Inherent qualities such as intelligence, attractive appearance, and even powerful voice provide soul power. Spiritual power comes from doing something for community or country. Although we may not see a benefit in the worldly sense, it nurtures the spirit and feeds the soul. When we fail to nurture our soul, we fail to live in peace with ourselves in the face of illness, loss of job or loss of loved one. It was perhaps the spiritual power, more than her wealth or recognition that provided Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis the strength to live through life-crises up to the last minute of her life– May 19, 1994. It is for those successful, intelligent people who are looking for a spiritual power this article, I hope, will play a significan’t role. And please remember, a life lived in a spiritual state of mind or enlightenment is an everyday life with an extra dimension.How about hell, heaven, and rebirth?It’s our mind that creates hell. It’s our mind that creates heaven. And it’s the liberation of our mind (or soul/conscious which is part of God in us) from the fear of death or other miseries of the world that is liberation from birth and death cycle. Buddhism calls it Nirvana.Does hell or heaven exist as a particular place? No one has seen! But a person is in heaven if he/she is in spiritual state of mind; and is in hell if he/she loses control of mind. And our personality is the reflection of our state of mind. If our state of mind is saintly, we are a saint; if our state of mind is love, we are lovable; if our state of mind is complete, we are complete; if our state of mind is intelligent, we are intelligent; if our state of mind is unlimited, we are unlimited; if our state of mind is hope, we are hopeful; if our state of mind is honest, we are honest. On the other hand, if our state of mind is devilish, we’re devils; if our state of mind is evil, we become evil person. When, for example, we lose our control of mind to drugs–we’re opening the door to hell.Satan or evil is nothing but a counterpart of goodness. We know heat exists, but its counterpart cold doesn’t exist. Cold is merely the deficiency or lack of heat. Similarly, light exists, but its counterpart darkness doesn’t exist. Darkness is merely the deficiency or absence of light. Same is true for evil. Evil doesn’t exist, but its counterpart goodness exists. It is simply the deficiency or absence of goodness that we have named evil. And evil is what leads us to the door of hell. Evil mind is the mind out of control. It’s like the fire, which is our servant for cooking and keeps us warm, but becomes evil when it gets out of control.ConclusionAll the thoughts here are part of a single concept. By improved state of mind or spiritual state of mind or sharpening our faith, we can add an extra dimension to everyday life. This concept ignores neither science nor religion, and removes the cloudiness of fear and confusion that interferes with achievement of ultimate happiness. Those who are in the business of saving souls after death should focus on the soul when they are still living on this planet.References: ” Science, Religion & Spirituality,” ” In Search of God,” and ” Soul and Reincarnation ” available at various Book Sellers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.