That’s according to a new study out of the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), which looked at the impact of the new Ribbit Frog Ribbit and Hop Frog Hop online games.
“Working memory is very important for just about everything we do in school,” says study researcher Zack Hawes. “(A strong working memory) is a very big indication of success for kids in school and later in life.”
Working memory is broadly defined as the ability to actively hold and manipulate information in your mind for a brief period of time (the mind’s workspace). While working memory was once believed to be a fixed trait, recent research shows it can be improved through practice.
Sixty-six Grade 1 students were divided up into two groups, one group playing the working memory games for a total of 20 minutes, four times a week for six consecutive weeks. Meanwhile, the other group played a different TVOKids.com game, which teaches math skills.
Before and after the study period, the children were measured on their working memory, short-term memory, math performance and on a task of executive function.
Compared to the math game group, the working memory group showed greater improvements across all tasks, including math tasks.
‘Statistically significant’ differences in improvement were seen on two tasks, the digits forward task (remembering a list of number digits going up sequentially) and the heads-toes-knees-shoulders (touching toes when told to touch head/touching shoulders when told knees) task.
Given the importance of working memory and self-regulation in the classroom, these evidence-based games appear to be one effective method for improving children’s capacity to learn, researchers said.
With a Swedish study finding ADHD symptoms were lessened in the classroom when working memory was strengthened, Hawes said these games may also help children’s ability to self-regulate in the classroom.
Pat Ellingson, creative head of Children’s Media at TVO, says the games were created as an exercise in better understanding how kids learn, but specifically to see how much working memory could be improved.
“We wanted to push ourselves to think differently about how we design our educational games,” she says. “Research is showing that if working memory can be improved so too will the capacity to learn. So naturally we wanted to take a closer look to see how this might be applied to a child’s learning outcomes and to the creation of our educational content, all with the end goal of helping kids become successful 21st century learners.”
Janette Pelletier, Ph. D., director of the Institute for Child Studies at OISE, was principal investigator on the study.
This isn’t the first time TVO and OISE have worked together to study the effectiveness of TVOKids content. In 2005 the Family Literacy Study, also led by Pelletier, found children whose families used TVO resources related to alphabet knowledge development had significantly greater literacy growth, particularly in the area of alphabet knowledge and conventions of print, than kids who did not.
These findings prompted TVO and the OISE researchers to team up to design games with the intention of exercising working memory.
Computer games designed to exercise and improve working memory are gaining in popularity.
The TVOKids Educational Blueprint ensures every piece of content delivers on an outcome from the Ontario curriculum and all made-at-TVO kids’ content is developed with educators and is classroom tested.
Watch mom bloggers and their kids checking out the games:
Read what some mom bloggers had to say about the games: