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News Flash: Facebook and Games Are Actually Useful!

By Wayan Vota on June 9, 2014

How many times have you heard schoolteachers or community officials bemoan how much time youth are “wasting” on social media like Facebook, or playing computer games? In fact, Facebook is often banned in schools just for that reason.

Yet the poorly titled, “Non-instrumental Use of ICT as a Component of General ICT Skill Acquisition Study” suggests that non-serious uses of ICTs, like playing games and chatting on Facebook, lead to development of technical skills that are critical to employment in today’s digital world.

The study found that yes, there is indeed instrumental value in “playing” on public access computers and that embracing gaming and other leisure activities will allow public access users to acquire the experience necessary to build a range of computer competencies.

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We based the structure of the study on current research on games, drawing especially from the “serious games” and “games and learning” communities and associated research that shows the potential value of not just of educational games, but of so-called commercial-off-the-shelf games. Since gaming and social networking are prevalent throughout public access sites, this research sought to understand the role of non-instrumental usage as people gain competency with computers.

Our qualitative findings have shown that the Brazilian public, in general, has not embraced formal education as a means for gaining computer knowledge and skills. Instead, many pick up this knowledge from other resources, including friends, neighbors, and family, or most commonly, in the LAN houses. While individuals indicate an eagerness to gain new skills, many prefer to learn through technology exploration and engagement within the context of their immediate social network, rather than through a pedagogy of learning for its own sake.

The body of quantitative data provides evidence that people who largely use computers for non- instrumental purposes are generally as capable with the computers as those who use them for instrumental purposes. It also illustrates that people who largely use computers for these non- instrumental purposes are gaining skills that translate to instrumental tasks.

In other words, stop hating on Facebook and Angry Birds. Kids are actually learning real skills and we should celebrate their achievements.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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One Comment to “News Flash: Facebook and Games Are Actually Useful!”

  1. Josh says:

    I’ll preface my comments by saying that I have not read the report and probably won’t have a chance to read it. That said, it seems pretty obvious that people who use computers for whatever purpose are going to be capable of using computers over time. If learning how to use a computer is your end goal, then pretty much anything that involves using a computer will probably help with that. You could probably make the case that watching pornography online also helps develop computer skills.