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Microsoft, Universities Launch Game Institute

Microsoft, along with a consortium of universities, has unveied the Games for Learning Institute (G4LI), a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional gaming research alliance that will provide the fundamental scientific evidence to support games as learning tools for math and science subjects among middle-school students.

"Middle school is a critical stage for students, a time when many are introduced to advanced math and science concepts," says Ken Perlin, professor of computer science in NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and founding director of the Media Research Laboratory at NYU, who will direct the G4LI, to be located at NYU. "Many students become discouraged or uninterested and pour their time at home into gaming. Ironically, we think gaming is our starting point to draw them into math, science and technology-based programs."

The joint research endeavor of Microsoft Research, New York University, and partners that include Columbia University, the City University of New York (CUNY), Dartmouth College, Parsons, Polytechnic Institute of NYU, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Teachers College, will identify which qualities of computer games engage students and develop relevant, personalized teaching strategies that can be applied to the learning process.

"Technology has the potential to help reinvent the education process, and excite and inspire young learners to embrace science, math and technology," Microsoft Craig Mundie said. "The Games for Learning Institute at NYU is a great example of how technology can change how students learn, making it far more natural and intuitive."

Jan Plass, associate professor of educational communication and technology at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, will co-direct the G4LI with Perlin. While NYU will serve as the hub of the G4LI in its Computer Science Media Research Laboratory at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, the multi-institutional organization will have a myriad of partner spokes. The G4LI also will evaluate game prototypes and introduce them, along with accompanying curricula, to an existing network of 19 New York City area schools; results in the classroom will be tracked. Based on the findings, the institute's goal is to expand its research and game development to all K-12 grades. Resulting scientific evidence will be shared broadly with researchers, game developers and educators.

Microsoft Research is providing $1.5 million to the Institute. NYU and its consortium of partners are matching Microsoft's investment, for a combined $3 million. Funding covers the first three years of the G4LI's research, which will focus on evaluating computer games as potential learning tools for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at the middle-school years (grades 6-8). The institute will work with a range of student populations, yet focus on underrepresented middle-school students, such as girls and minorities.

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