by Vera van Zoest
Spatial thinking skills are important in everyday life. Since spatial thinking skills develop during childhood, these are important skills to be taught in primary school education. The digitalization of education calls for better knowledge on how aspects of video games can be used in educational applications and digital learning materials. In this study, the relationship between children’s gaming habits and spatial thinking skills is explored. The focus of this study is on map reading and two specific skills involved in map reading: mental rotation and perspective coordination. To test for these skills, 230 children participated in four spatial thinking tests. These tests were created out of existing tests, of which some were adapted to suit children of 8 to 10 years old. Data about their video gaming habits was collected using a questionnaire. A classification method was developed to classify games based on the type of spatial thinking skills involved. Based on the games each participating pupil named in the questionnaire, each participant was classified as a ‘player’ or ‘non-player’ for each type of game. The relationship analysis showed that action game players performed better on a 3D mental rotation test than non-players of action games. Players of strategy games performed better on the perspective coordination test than non-players of strategy games. Players of games with an omnipresent interaction model performed better on both the perspective coordination test and the map reading test than non-players of such games. These results provide a basis for further studies on the game elements which can be implemented in educational games regarding spatial thinking skills.
Keywords: spatial thinking, map reading, perspective coordination, mental rotation, education, video games, gaming, game classification, educational games