While I was largely unimpressed with the Times Magazine special on education and technology, I did find one tidbit of research really interesting. Apparently, violent video games improve visual-spacial ability, especially in girls. The benefits are long term. And, yes, the games have to be violent.
… a 2007 study done at the University of Toronto showed that women who
played just 10 hours of an action-oriented video game (Medal of Honor:
Pacific Assault) not only improved their spatial attention and
mental-rotation abilities more significantly than their male
counterparts, but the game-play also appeared to substantially reduce
any sex-related gaps in visual-spatial thinking abilities. Five months
later, the effects still held. (Bad news for pacifists: a control group
that played a stimulating but nonviolent 3-D video puzzle game showed no
Maybe we should buy that XBox 360 for the kids.