G. Cappuccio, G. Compagno

University of Palermo (ITALY)
Play, which has always been considered an essential vector for the growth and cognitive and emotional development of everyone, constitutes a significant activity for the promotion of the person, as well as a way of liberating growth, protected from the interference of the hyper-structured world of adults. (Coggi, Ricchiardi, 2011).

This work aims to reflect on the educational dimension of play with respect to two distinct visual angles: brain-based education research (Neuroeducation) and the world of video games (Media education) with the sole aim of outlining the potential of playful practice, not without some methodological warning for its use in the pedagogical-didactic field.

Neuroeducation outlines learning processes starting from the neurophysiological mechanisms involved, such as memory, perception, attention, emotion. Taking into consideration some neurophysiological aspects, such as cerebral plasticity, cerebral bimodality, the spectrum of intelligences, it is possible to reconsider the learning process thanks to the mediation of play.

The second perspective, that of Media education, looks at the techno-dimension of videogames. Technological progress, the entry of new media and digital into everyday life greatly influence both the types and choice of tools for playing and the ways in which you play. According to Prensky (2005), immersion in digital environments such as video games produced a change in the structure and functioning of the brain in the new generation, albeit, unfortunately, poorly studied. It appears essential that teachers, pedagogues, and parents can correctly evaluate the video games to be offered to children to choose the most suitable products. To this end, the process of building a board for analysing the quality of video games is illustrated. The process is the result of observation and prolonged study, conducted with a holistic approach of behaviours, opinions, attitudes, knowledge, skills, and mechanisms developed by video games in children.

Our research questions were:
1) what elements characterize the game in a positive way? Which one in a negative one?
2) What elements are most relevant? Which ones are least relevant?

To build the evaluation model grid of the video games, the following descriptors were taken into consideration:
a) the educational value of the game in terms of the values conveyed and its representation of reality,
b) textual and narrative analysis of the game.

In the first phase of observation and evaluation, which took place from January to October 2021, 125 video games for children aged from 3 to 10 were viewed. For the analysis and evaluation of the video games, 15 nursery and primary school teachers and 43 secondary school 1st grade teachers, from the province of Palermo, were involved.

The work began with the construction and administration of a questionnaire to find out teachers’ perceptions about video games for children. Starting from the results of the questionnaire, an analysis model grid was designed and built as a first draft version to observe and evaluate video games.

At the end of the research, 125 tabs were produced, one for each videogame; these were fully examined. Thanks to the study of these grids, it is possible to get an idea of the world of video games today. Coherently with the aims of the research, the proposed analysis model grids refer to video games that we consider appropriate for children of kindergarten, primary school and secondary school 1st grade.