Social sites, videogames can up IQs: UK researchers

Well, it depends on the social-networking service, actually. Psychologist Tracy Alloway at the University of Stirling in Scotland “told the British Research Association that Facebook brings about educational benefits because it requires users to exercise their working memory – their ability, in other words, to store and manipulate information,” the Education Week blog reports and, according to The Telegraph, “playing video war games [strategy games, in other words] and solving Sudoku may have the same effect as keeping up to date with Facebook.” Dr. Alloway’s research team developed a “working memory training program” called “JungleMemory.” After two months in the program, a group of “slow-learning” students aged 11-14 in the Durham area “saw 10 point improvements in IQ, literacy, and numeracy tests,” and some who were at the bottom of their class at the beginning finished the program near the top, according to The Telegraph. Twitter, text messaging, YouTube, and TV don’t produce the same results because they’re mostly about short bursts of info that recipients don’t have to store, process, and repackage, apparently. It isn’t black and white, though, I think it’s important to point out. It’s not about specific sites or technologies so much as the brain activity involved in using them. Collaboratively producing and sharing a video on YouTube or writing a cellphone novel with text messages as writers do in Japan, would have entirely different effects from passively watching a video or quickly exchanging burst of info on a mobile phone. Here’s coverage in the UK’s IBTimes, and here’s the last story on Facebook & grades that got a lot of coverage.

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