The G4LIs 3-Phase Approach to Educational Games

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-10-07 Print this article Print

John Nordlinger, senior research manager for Microsoft Research's gaming efforts, said Microsoft started off a few years ago "with the intention to improve computer science education because we had seen a drop in interest" from students.

"We weren't getting enough kids, especially females and minorities. So we decided we needed to do something, but we didn't have any expertise working with high schools or middle schools," Nordlinger said.

The G4LI project is taking a three-year, three-phase approach, Nordlinger said. The first phase will be to look at all the existing games for learning and assess what works and publish the results of that study. The second phase will involve prototyping the results of the study. The third phase will use the results and design factors available to game makers.

Microsoft will not be building the games, but will be working with them, Nordlinger said. The Microsoft usability group that does testing for games like "Halo" and others "will be working with these guys to make sure the games are compelling," he said.

Nordlinger said he thinks incorporating math education into games will be easiest, "but we also see the games being applied to science, and languages and helping with literacy overall."

To target female students, Nordlinger said the games aimed at girls will not feature "first-person shooters. These games do not apply well to females. They tend to prefer puzzle games and multiplayer role playing games."

Also according to the Microsoft release:

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 institute 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 would be 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.

"There has been a growing interest in games, but what had been lacking is a scientific study about how to transfer knowledge from games," Plass said. He said part of what he is bringing to the project is "an understanding of how we learn, how learning is a social process and a lot of research expertise."

Perlin said the G4LI alliance's job is "not to make the game, but to do the underlying science to understand what makes existing games work and to analyze the 'funology' of them."

During his speech at NYU, Mundie demonstrated how different technologies could be used for education, including how tablet PCs could eventually take the place of textbooks.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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