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Microsoft and Universities Will Study Using Games to Teach Middle-School Students

Microsoft is teaming up with a consortium of universities to study how best to use computer games to teach middle-school students math and science. The interdisciplinary research project, which is to be announced today, will involve New York University and a consortium of other institutions — the City University of New York, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Parsons the New School for Design, and the Rochester Institute of Technology. Columbia’s Teachers College and NYU’s Polytechnic Institute are also involved.

In middle school, many students “become discouraged or uninterested and pour their time at home into gaming,” said Ken Perlin, an NYU professor of computer science, in a statement. “We think gaming is our starting point to draw them into math, science, and technology-based programs.”

Mr. Perlin will be a co-director of the research effort, which will be called the Games for Learning Institute and will have a $3-million budget for its first four years’ worth of research. Half of the money will come from Microsoft, with the balance put up by the universities.

John Nordlinger, a senior research manager for Microsoft Research, noted that while educational games have become commonplace, “little is known about how, why or even if they are effective.” He said the new institute’s researchers would study “what makes certain games compelling and playable and what elements make them effective.” The research, he said, would provide “important information to researchers, game developers, and educators to support a new era of using games for educational purposes.” —Lawrence Biemiller

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