Educational Communication and Technology

Department of Administration, Leadership and Technology

Plass to Co-Direct new Games For Learning Institute, Funded by Microsoft

Jan Plass, associate professor of educational communication and technology, will co-direct the new Games for Learning Institute (G4LI), a first-of-its-kind, 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.

The Games for Learning Institute (G4LI) is a joint research endeavor of Microsoft Research, New York University, and a consortium of universities. The partners include Columbia University, the City University of New York (CUNY), Dartmouth College, Parsons the New School for Design, Polytechnic Institute of NYU, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and Teachers College. The G4LI will identify which qualities of computer games engage students and develop relevant, personalized teaching strategies that can be applied to the learning process. 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 co-direct the G4LI.

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.

Video games, with their popularity and singular ability to engage young people, are showing promise as a way to excite and prepare the Net generation, the current crop of students who have grown up on technology. This generation, though well-versed in using technology for social networking and Internet research, is continuing a decline in proficiency and interest in math and sciences - the very skills needed to prepare them for the new demands and requirements of the 21st century.

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.

Media coverage of G4LI announcement: 

The New York Times
e-Week
Popular Mechanics
Washington Square News
PC World