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Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good For You

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Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good For You is an argument in favor of the inclusion of video games, television shows and other forms of popular entertainment in education. According to Johnson, the negative preconception of the post modern world has no basis as video games will soon be what he called the panacea of education. The modern world was putting efforts to make people to believe that these forms of entertainments are detrimental to the Americans’ cognitive and moral development. He used his model of a sleeper curve to explain that the today’s entertainment increasingly demands the engagement of one’s cognitive work. Johnson noted that today’s’ television and video games are not just designed for a mere watching. But that they are more complex and demanding. That today’s video game players are involved in making long term strategies that help them make decisions about their involvement in video games. This paper will therefore seek to defend the importance of video game in education.

Johnson’s personal arguments

In supporting his position, Johnson pointed out several contributions of video games, televisions films and the internet to the field of education. He argued that these elements of popular culture are making students smarter through the engagement analytical thinking and problem solving. To him these processes are very basic for any learner to be able to correctly interpret video games. Students must strive to understand the complex plot structure of the modern television and film. Students must also commit themselves to understand the collaborative social and interactive world of internet. All these aspects of pop culture related to video games are intellectually demanding and enhances the students cognitive faculties by posing cognitive challenges. In highlighting the intellectual benefits that comes with video games, Johnson gave an example of the resent editions of his books which are presented using these technologies. The game therefore enables learners to access such like materials.

According to him, reading books chronically under-stimulates the sense while game playing engages the child in a vivid, three dimensional world filled with moving images and musical sound capes. To him books are simply words presented on a paper. And that only a small portion of the brain is devoted to processing written language is activated during reading. In contrary, games engage the full range of the entire working of the brain. It is therefore true the video games contribute much in cognitive development as it seeks to develop the entire brain functioning system. Johnson noted that books are strategically isolating while games engage the young in complex social relationships with their peers enabling them to build and explore words together. While reading books the children must isolate themselves in a quite space and shut off from interaction with other children. Reading books as an approach to learning discourages the sharing of ideas among the peers and robe them the possibility of learning from one another. Johnson also noted that even though many children enjoy reading books, a good percentage of the school going children do not like reading of books. It is true that successful learning process requires an environment that encourages the sharing of knowledge and ideas. Reading is therefore limited in this aspect because it is not an active participatory process but a submissive one. Johnson noted that the concern of today’s younger generation book readers is to learn how to follow the plot instead of learning to lead. This kills the creativity in the learners who are not exposed to other approaches to learning like the video game.

Greenfield’s contribution

Greenfield while contributing about the impact of video games on education noted that it has improved the learners’ visual skills. After studying more the 50 students, he concluded that exposing learners to such technology has made a great contribution in learning. He noted that no one medium can be good enough for learning and that to develop a variety of skills, one needs to be exposed to what he calls “a balanced media diet.” However, he also admitted that each of these mediums has costs and benefits in terms of the kind of skills they help develop. According to Gee, visual media is useful in testing students. Well designed approaches such as asking students to prepare and make a presentation on power point helps in the development of their cognitive skills. He observed that most students spend time with visual media than they do with the print limiting the effectiveness of the print approach to learning. He also noted that using such methods involving media makes the process of evaluating student much reliable. Such methods are able to give better picture of what the students actually know. He concluded that using vide games to supplement the learning methods will allow the students to learn how to better process their information.  

However, Greenfield raised a concern that the visuals should not be allowed to totally replace there reading culture. This is because reading of books is also necessary for the development of students’ imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking Reading also has an impact of enriching students’ vocabulary. According to Greenfield, reading for pleasure is the key to developing such skills. He sees the trend of the movement of students towards more of visual literacy and less to print literacy as detrimental to the students overall performance. According to the New Zealand Researcher Paul Kearney, students who play a realistic video game before engaging into a task shows a significant improvement in their ability to multitask compared to students who do not play the video games. Such students are therefore able to do a number of activities at the same time. This helps the students to utilize their time well.

Contributions by James Gee

James Gee wrote on active and critical learning within a semeiotic domain in his book what Video Games have to teach us About Learning and literacy. According to him any education system should seek to include more modalities including the use of images in gaming which he considers as one of the semiotic domains. Gee noted that games are heavily motivating, and teaches people to think about complex systems to enable them solve the complex problems that today’s world present. Games help learners to know their identity at an early stage. They take another person’s identity and trying internalizing it. Most of the school going children today identifies their professional role models during playing games. They then commit themselves to attain the same achievements. Gee also noted that games enable children to learn on how to cope with the modern world through its interactive systems.

In summary, the cognitive benefits of games include pattern recognition and system thinking. Playing video games teaches one to have focus and patience. It trains the learners to develop willingness and to best use their scarce resources like time. The games contain the core principle of learning that students prosper when the subject matter possesses challenge to their abilities. The students who play videos are therefore neither frustrated by difficult lessons nor bored by very easy lessons as often witnessed incase of the use of print. Using video approaches help enrich the learning in any of the learning processes. However, some scholars have also noted some negative aspects of video games. That more than 85 percent of video games contain violence and such media games can produce many negative effects, including aggressive behavior and desensitization to real life violence. Other scholars have also argued that if over emphasized video games have the potential of robbing the children the time to study. This will impact negatively on their performance.


In conclusion, there is still much controversial debate going on the roles of video game and other media based learning methods.  Globally, visual intelligence has been on the rise with some scholar predicting that video games and films may be the future prime approaches to education. The practice is more among those below the age of 26 years who are also the school going population. Even though Johnson’s work is generally accepted by most scholars, he is also accused of failing to effectively address the perceived negative issues related to games. The issues identified as triggered by the game include increase in aggressiveness and antisocial behaviors among school gong children. He portrayed the video games and television shows and movies approaches as very perfect. However, the technologies are used both in classrooms and by parents to accelerate the cognitive capabilities of the children. The today’s children are also more informed on the design and the working of the world.

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