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Why the New MPower Games Transform Struggling Learners

I am so excited to announce my newest publication, MPower: Cognitive Remedial Card Games! MPower offers a selection of multisensory games that improve memory and the processing of information for enhanced learning of core academics, such as reading and math. This publication is ideal for developing early literacy skills, teaching new ways to encode knowledge, and helping struggling learners find joy in the learning process. MPower is a powerful and fun remedial tool that can be used by therapists, teachers and even parents to achieve sharpened cognition and enriched learning for their students or clientele.
New games develop early literacy skills

Much like a personal trainer can strengthen parts of the body by focusing attention on specific muscles, cognition can be exercised to build new neural pathways when students or clients play the MPower Games. Some reports suggest that brain training games do not apply to early literacy and learning, but because the MPower Games utilize foundational academic symbols and concepts, there is no doubt that regular practice will improve core academic readiness. The games in this publication exercise the recognition and naming of:
  • Letters
  • Numbers
  • Days of the week
  • Months of the year
  • Shapes
  • Common objects
In addition, students or clients exercise and strengthen the following areas of cognition which are all needed for competent learning:
  • Visual processing: The ability to scan and make sense of visual information and symbols.
  • Auditory processing: The ability to process and understand information that is heard.
  • Sequential processing: The ability to process information in a series or sequence.
  • Simultaneous processing: The ability to categorize, integrate and synthesize material.
  • Immediate visual memory: The ability to remember what was just seen.
  • Short-term memory: The ability to retain information that requires little processing or interpretation for a few seconds to about 30 seconds.
  • Attention: The ability to maintain focus on a selected stimulus, sustaining that focus and shifting it at will.
  • Executive Functioning (EF): The ability to shift tasks, self-monitor, self-initiate, plan, prioritize and organize information.
  • Attention to detail: The ability to thoroughly and accurately perceive and consider all the details and then determine the most important piece or pieces of information.
  • Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN)/Word finding/Word recall: The ability to quickly retrieve the correct word from memory when it is needed.
  • Visual-spatial skills: The ability to perceive relationships between objects and recall as well as manually manipulate visual information in space.
  • Working Memory (WM): The ability to temporarily retain information in memory, perform some operation or manipulation with it, and produce a result.
MPower is a form of cognitive, remedial training that can be used by therapists, teachers and even parents to achieve improved cognition and learning. 

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The Research Behind MPower and the Cognitive Benefits 

How Does Information Get Processed?
In the late 1960s, an information processing model was created to describe how the brain processes information. The original researchers defined four main stages: Sensory Input, Sensory Memory, Working Memory and Long-term Memory (Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1968). Since then, many researchers have made additions to this concept, but the basic model still remains unchanged.
Learn about games that can help struggling learners improve their information processing
As reflected in the image above, learners are first presented with Sensory Input or incoming sensory information. The Sensory Memory then filters the content by selecting the most important information and passing it on to the Working Memory. Subsequently, Working Memory, which generally holds between five and nine items (or chunks) of information, either processes and encodes this information into Long-term Memory or discards it. When deposited in Long-term Memory, knowledge is filed into chunks called "schemas." A schema is a set of linked mental representations of the world that helps organize and interpret information. For example, the brain has schemas for different main ideas such as transportation, food, and clothing, or math concepts and phonics.

This process is key to another piece of the puzzle known as the Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller, 88). John Sweller proposed that learning is impacted by limited capacity in working memory. Sweller defined three types of cognitive load: intrinsic, extraneous, and germane. Intrinsic load has to do with the inherent difficulty of the subject matter or information being input. It is influenced by the complexity of the lesson and how much prior knowledge a student has about the subject. Extraneous load refers to the manner in which information is presented to learners as well as the teaching style, lesson materials, and the learning environment. Germane load is the productive thinking that causes students to form and consolidate long-term memories. Sweller suggested that since working memory has a limited capacity, instructional methods should avoid overloading it. A sense of “cognitive overload” occurs when working memory capacity is exceeded. Once this happens, students are unlikely to comprehend the information and transfer it to long-term memory (Siegler, Alibali, 2015; Sweller, 1988; Sweller, Merriënboer, & Paas, 2019). 

Come learn about how learners need to balance cognitive load and cognitive capacity
The image above shows the importance of maintaining a balance between cognitive load (intrinsic load, extraneous load, and germane load) and cognitive capacity (working memory capacity and long-term memory capacity).

Four Factors which Increase Cognitive Load.
  1. Learners lack intrinsic load capacity or general knowledge.
  2. Learners’ approach to learning is labored and has not reached a level of automatization.
  3. Teachers’ presentation of the lesson is too dull or too complex.
  4. Learners do not possess the cognitive techniques that can help them manage the Germane load or productive thinking with the content.

MPower Helps Balance Cognitive Load and Capacity 
MPower was designed to help learners create the necessary balance between cognitive load and cognitive capacity. The card games provide exposure to early literacy concepts such as letter, numbers, shapes, months of the year, and days of the week. In addition, MPower integrates multisensory and playful content into lessons which makes the learning process more enticing and engaging. Repeated play helps to develop skills to a level of automatization. In other words, over time, the player’s abilities improve until they can access and process the information with little to no effort. When this sense of automatization is reached, it creates more cognitive space or working memory learning. Finally, MPower can help struggling students or clients increase their ability to manage Germane cognitive load. Recent research suggests that segmenting and sequencing techniques can help learners manage content that might otherwise create cognitive overwhelm (Sweller, Merriënboer, & Paas, 2019). In other words, MPower teaches the brain how to quickly organize information during the encoding process, so recall is enhanced.

Who Benefits from MPower?
This publication was created for learners of all ages and abilities:
  1. Preschoolers that need to develop cognition and basic core academic skills.
  2. Children with learning disabilities that exhibit difficulties learning academic content.
  3. Head injured victims that need to rebuild cognition.
  4. Elderly people that want to maintain or rebuild cognition.
Specifically, MPower aids those that are exhibiting one or more of the following difficulties:
  1. Many learners don’t have the core cognitive skills to manage their learning. (Savage, 2005; Passolunghi & Seigel, 2001; Gunnison, Kaufman& Kaufman, 1982; Das, Mensink, 1989; Chu, Vanmarie & Geary, 2016, Bull, Johnston, 1997). Poor exposure and/or weaknesses in basic cognitive processing areas can make school work an overwhelming chore.
  2. Many learners have come to dislike the learning process altogether. Traumatic learning experiences and negative associations with school work often result in a sense of learned helplessness and many of these learners will do whatever they can to avoid activities that exercise cognition (Fincham, Hokoda, & Sanders, 1989, 02; Diener & Dweck, 1978; Valås, 2001, 03).
Clearly, developing core cognitive skills and making the learning process fun and engaging is key. This publication was created for my clientele, and others like them, to rekindle a joy for learning by presenting the lessons and exercises as fun activities and games.

Purchase MPower
Cheers, Erica
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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