NOTE: This is the first in a series of posts which will amount to an annotated bibliography related to peer reviewed articles about the use of video games as constructivist learning environments.
Blumberg and Sokol set out to examine “gender differences in the cognitive strategies that children use when they learn how to play a video game” (p. 151). Backed by a brief review of literature that suggested “children’s video game performance(s) typically reveal gender differences” (p. 151) they designed a study, drawn from a larger investigation (p. 152), in which they interviewed second and fifth grade children and then observed them learning to play a video game. These children were identified as frequent or infrequent players (p. 154) and the strategies they used were categorized as internal strategies, such as trial and error, or external strategies, such as asking others for help (p. 155).
Statistical analysis of Blumberg and Sokol’s data did not support their hypothesis that girls would show greater inclination toward external strategies and boys would show greater inclination toward internal strategies (p. 156). Instead, they found there was no significant difference in the cognitive strategies employed by children of different sex. However, the older students were more likely to use internal strategies, as were more frequent players. They conclude that “the informal educational gains attributed to boys… may not extend to the application of cognitive strategies” (p. 157). However, because this study was conducted using a popular gender-neutral game (Sonic The Hedgehog 2 on Game Gear) they caution that continued investigation is needed in order to understand “the continuing distinctions between boys’ and girls’ preferences for games that may have different ramifications for cognitive gains” (p. 157).
Studies such as this, which produce results in contradiction with commonly believed stereotypes about gender differences and learning, highlight the important role of formal research in exposing even experts misguided generalizations. More such studies are needed in the field of video games and learning if stereotypes and fears are to be allayed, and potentials are to be realized.
Blumberg, F. C., and Sokol, L. M. (2004). Boys’ and girls’ use of cognitive strategy when learning to play video games. The Journal of General Psychology. 131 (2), 151-158.