What is good learning? That may be a subjective question. But it's likely that many parents would give answers that fall in the same ballpark, like:
Collaborating and discussing ideas, possible solutions
Project-based learning, designed around real world contexts
Immersing students in a learning experience that allows them to grapple with a problem, gaining higher-order thinking skills from pursuing the solution
To many parents, these notions are music to their ears. Would it seem terribly strange then to hear that students indeed are doing these things regularly outside of their classrooms? From a young age, they are engaging with new technologies that provide them with deeply engaging learning opportunities. Every day, many children are spending hours immersed in popular games and electronic activities, which deserve a deeper look into the impact they can have on education and learning.
1. Learning games don't need to always look like learning. Good learning games don't always scream "learning" at kids. Math and literacy skills can be embedded deeply into games, and children can acquire important skills via a more natural method that doesn't always look like learning. So while you may not see math problems on the screen for the entire game, a child can still be continuously learning through play.
I have seen these kinds of games with my own kids using the MobiGo Touch Learning System from VTech. The games and activities are fun, but they also have important learning components embedded deep within the gameplay. So while you child thinks it's playtime, she's actually learning math, vocabulary, logic and more.
2. There are a lot of different things that kids can learn from games. Games that involve problem solving and creative thinking along with core competencies (reading, math, etc.) can both be more fun than single-curriculum games and help kids develop a broad skill set. Look for games that involve an array of learning possibilities and many different focus areas.
3. Learning on screen doesn't replace learning off screen. Games can be a great way to learn. So are reading, playing with toys, and making up stories. Learning through games can supplement and sometimes structure learning, but doesn't need to replace other forms of learning and play. Don't look to educational games as a complete replacement, rather, they are meant to supplement those other time-tested methods.
4. Learning games can be an open and social experience. Contrary to popular belief, games aren't just a solitary interaction between a single person and a screen. Modern games are a social activity - kids watch as their siblings/friends play and can even help in certain multiplayer games. Post-game conversations take place to discuss strategies.
Parents can also participate, which can be as simple as asking them a few questions about the game or checking in now and then to see what they are doing.