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Sent: Wed 10/8/2008 10:58 AM
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Subject: Microsoft supporting university program on gaming for teaching
Wanted to make sure you saw this article on how Microsoft is supporting gaming as a teaching tool, in partnership with universities.
Young gamers play video games at a gaming event this summer in Santa Monica, Calif. On Tuesday, Microsoft said it would co-fund an initiative with several universities in order to find scientific evidence that supports the use of games as a learning tool.
Microsoft, universities work to prove that video games can be educational
By JOSEPH TARTAKOFF <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
When John Nordlinger, senior research manager for Microsoft Research's gaming efforts, wanted a refresher on his French, he started playing "Everquest" -- the multiplayer online role-playing game -- in that language.
The strategy worked, Nordlinger said, but he added that researchers don't completely understand why.
"When people play games, there is some sort of state they get into," he said. "Nobody has really studied whether or not the brain is more receptive to learning complex concepts when you're in that state. People assume that is the case."
On Tuesday, Microsoft Corp. said it would co-fund an initiative with several universities in order to find scientific evidence that supports the use of games as a learning tool.
"Let's say you have a kid who is in school and he's in trouble and someone tries to convince you to (use) a game to teach algebra, and they ask for a study" to support the approach, Nordlinger asked. "This could be useful."
For Microsoft, the findings could potentially result in educational games designed for the company's Xbox game console, Nordlinger said.
Microsoft will invest $1.5 million over the course of three years in the initiative, which will initially focus on teaching fundamental concepts, such as fractions, in a middle school setting via games. A consortium of universities, led by New York University, will put in another $1.5 million.
"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," said Ken Perlin, a professor of computing science at NYU, who will co-direct the effort.
The first phase of the project will focus on trying to determine what "about games is both fun and transfers ideas," Nordlinger said.
Another phase of the project will involve developing educational games that draw on those findings.
Under the program, prototypes of the games will be introduced into 19 New York City-area schools. Nordlinger said that although the games will be developed for the Xbox, partner universities also were welcome to collaborate with other console makers.
He said it was not clear that Microsoft, which in the past has funded efforts to teach computer science with games, would produce game titles based on the new research.
But, he said, he imagined that a parent would be more enthusiastic about buying a child a "first-person shooter game" for the Xbox, if he or she knew it was "going to improve their SAT scores."
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