G4LI : The Games for Learning Institute

Tiltfactor at Dartmouth College is a partner in the Microsoft Games for Learning Institute. I (Zsuzsa) have reflected on this… A new generation is emerging. Today, young people take the internet for granted. More often than not, they are tech and media-savvy, sometimes intimidatingly so. And they play video games.

Yeah, video games: their graphics, premises, ideals put me to a test every time I’m around young players, many of whom are women. But I actually like to do that: hang out and play with youth, and multi-task, sometimes going into philosophical depths within conversation. I have noticed that we, ie. the post-Net kids and I, perceive things slightly differently. We also think and learn things differently. But we definitely share the fun

Chances are that the ‘net generation’s sense and/or experience of reality is different than mine. Actually, I know this for a fact. I remember a world that pre-date the Net. Things – reading and learning included – took time. Nothing was just a click-of-a-mouse or a touch-on-the-screen away… My generation more likely watched TV rather than spent time on gaming… so our sense of ‘gaming literacy’ was not very developed.

But this is where I am really going with all this: the connection of the two ideas, viz. playing and learning is what is really exciting about the formation of G4LI.

Recent press releases have announced that “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.”

On the one hand, schools are still skeptical about the value of games
in the classroom.

On the other hand, in the intriguing New York Times article written by Motoko Rich (3 Oct 2008), “The Future of Reading”, mention of social studies teacher Lyn Lord’s use of Civilization III for educational purposes raises important questions about embedded values within games. I am in a digital games class at Dartmouth so I am looking at this issue from a critical perspective. Besides the fun of testing, demoing and discussing – let alone playing – games we are still also asking ourselves the question: do games really have a place in the classroom? I would definitely agree that the value of well-designed, creative games for educational purposes should be taken seriously.

Increasing evidence supported by research suggests that education and playing are mutually complementary activities. Together, they can and do enhance student performance. This is even more important in math and science education, considering that these fields are rarely viewed as fun-yielding areas of study. G4LI’s mission is to put emphasis on this aspect because, as Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft Corp. stated, “Technology has the potential to help reinvent the education process, and excite and inspire young learners to embrace science, math and technology.”

So here is to more math whizzes and more projects like The Adventures of Josie True in the classroom