Microsoft launches $3m edu-gaming institute

Does gaming help kids learn? Microsoft is spending millions of dollars to find out
Does gaming help kids learn? Microsoft is spending millions of dollars to find out

What to do after you graduate from Big Brain Academy?

Microsoft and New York University have teamed up to launch the Games for Learning Institute (G4LI), a research organisation that aims to provide "the fundamental scientific evidence" that games can help kids learn.

The $3m (£1.7m) multidisciplinary Institute wants to identify how computer games engage students and then develop relevant, personalized teaching strategies to use them.

G4LI wants to get pre-teen US children - and especially girls and minorities - excited about technology, engineering and maths. Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, said, "The Games for Learning Institute is a great example of how technology can change how students learn, making it far more natural and intuitive."

Thumbs at the ready, get studying!

The G4LI will evaluate game prototypes and introduce them, along with accompanying study plans, to a network of 19 New York City area schools, and results in the classroom will be tracked.

Ken Perlin, professor of computer science at NYU noted, "Many students become discouraged or uninterested at school and pour their time at home into gaming. Ironically, we think gaming is our starting point to draw them into maths, science and technology-based programs."

It's a nice idea - and sounds like a giggle for the Microsoft and NYU researchers involved - but the problem with edu-games is that while they may be informative, they are rarely fun to play.

And while $3m sounds like a large investment, it's just a fraction of the budget of a single blockbuster game like GTA IV.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.