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Gaming for Good Decision-Making


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Video games often get a bad rap. There’s widespread perception that gaming is inherently bad for children, leading to intellectual laziness and antisocial behaviors.  Today, though, it’s becoming clear that’s not the case. In fact, one recent review of research in American Psychologist shows that video game play may actually help strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, and memory. And just think what might happen if games were geared toward developing specific social and emotional skills, like empathy, patience, attention, and decision-making.

Thanks to a new partnership with Centervention, a company that designs online educational tools that help children improve these very skills, Denver Kids is providing students with opportunities to do just that.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to use technology to teach social and emotional skills, games and technology are engaging for kids, and once they’ve learned the skills in the games, they can be applied to real life.

When Denver Kids student Esmeralda, a third-grader at Maxwell Elementary, played Centervention’s “ ZooU” for the first time, she was engaged and eager to continue. The game is broken into six short scenes that provide insight into students’ communication, cooperation, emotional regulation, empathy, impulse control, and social initiation.

In one scene Esmeralda sees a classmate being teased after Lester the bird drops smelly fruit on him. She must choose between laughing along with her classmates, or standing up for her embarrassed friend. Esmeralda’s Denver Kids Educational Counselor, Emily Weiss, is able to provide constructive feedback to her along the way and pause for discussion. “Esmeralda had so much fun– she played six sessions in a row and didn’t want to stop!” Emily explained. “I like that I can automatically gather data about her session and monitor her progress. It allows me to learn even more about her and the way she approaches problems. I can tailor our time together, address her unique challenges, and reinforce what she’s learning,” she continued.

Centervention tools are part of a larger organization-wide effort to provide specific social, emotional, and academic (SEAL) interventions to Denver Kids students. Denver Kids is working closely with Denver Public Schools, the University of Denver’s Morgridge School of Education, and Rutgers University to develop best practice SEAL assessments, curriculums, and evaluation metrics that foster strong emotional intelligence in each and every Denver Kids student.