Lumosity: Brain Games in the Classroom

You may have heard of Lumosity or seen an advertisement on TV. It’s the kind of tech trend that you hear about from a friend of a friend who swears it works for them. Lumosity is a web app that provides brain-training activities specialized according to the user’s cognitive needs or interests.

Brain teasers have been around for years, but what about using Lumosity games in the classroom? Can brain-teasing activities and puzzle games make an impact on a student’s education?

“Research shows that certain types of mental exercise can enhance the health and function of the brain,” their site reads. “Our scientists have engineered dozens of engaging games with this discovery in mind, and studies have confirmed that Lumosity training can improve memory, attention, and other cognitive areas.”

A Lumosity blog entry mentions the Lumosity Education Access Program (LEAP), which offers 50 six-month memberships to students between 3rd and 12th grade. The company, Lumos Labs, claims the program includes 63 schools and approximately 3000 students across the world.

Raindrops, a Lumosity math exercise

The tests are integrated into the curriculum at the teacher’s discretion, be it at the very beginning of the day to get students prepped for learning, or at any time when kids’ attention spans start to wane.

A possible benefit of using Lumosity or other cognitive stimulation exercise in the classroom is increased attention span. How many times did you doze off in class when you were a student? Now, consider how much harder it would be to doze off after playing a quick round of Raindrops, in which the player must solve math problems as quickly as possible before time runs out. There’s also Eagle Eye, a surprisingly addictive game of memory and spatial awareness that increases in difficulty as it progresses.

The Lumosity games are designed to be stimulating, but because of their rapid-fire nature, the boost they give is like a shot of espresso to the brain as opposed to a glass of wine. Instead of slowing down the mind, it wakes it up and makes the player more alert. Ideally, teachers should present the brain games and then immediately follow it up with the day’s lesson plan so the students remain sharp. Of course, if you let students play Lumosity all day long, the purpose is entirely defeated. Teachers should use brain games to prep students for sustained learning, not merely to keep them distracted until the bell rings at 3 p.m.

There is an ongoing argument about the place of technology in the classroom as elaborated in a recent Washington Post article. Lumosity seems closer to an educational tool rather than a needless distraction. Even if Lumosity was available to students 24-7, the nature of the games is such that it would require significant mental stamina to abuse them as forms of distraction. The games are tough, increasing in difficulty the more you play them, and are designed to be completed in brief 10-minute bursts rather than sustained sessions.

As Lumosity continues to grow in popularity among adult users, it is worth considering the placement of such technology in classrooms. In the formative years between 3rd and 12th grade, perhaps a few brain-training games can mean the difference between an A and an A+.