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Nintendo Donates $3 Million for Study of Learning

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Nintendo Company Ltd., the Japanese video-game maker whose products are in one in five American homes, has donated $3 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for research into ways to make video games more educational while keeping them fun.

The grant, which was solicited by officials at the mit Media Laboratory, will support the work of Seymour A. Papert, who directs learning research there and is known as an expert in making learning fun for children. He is the inventor of logo, a computer language used in elementary schools nationwide.

Mr. Papert will direct research aimed at developing learning tools that will "look and feel more like Nintendo games than school books," according to a statement.

Nintendo is the undisputed leader of the American video-game market, selling a reported 9.1 million units of its Nintendo Entertainment System last year and some 50 million game cartridges.

Critics have expressed concern that the popularity of the games is creating a nation of sedentary youngsters who can become mesmerized by the video images. One company has even marketed a Nintendo lock called "Homework First," which parents can use to block the system from accepting game cartridges.

Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo's8president, said in a statement released by mit that the company "has long felt that we also owed a responsibility to develop our hard- and software to enhance the educational opportunities through our machines."

The Media Lab does not have to develop educational video games, but Nintendo could use the research to develop them, officials said.

James Mecklenburger, director of the National School Boards Association's Institute for the Transfer of Technology to Education, was optimistic about the venture: "There is nothing about the electronics of those devices that says they cannot be turned to educational use," he said.

--mw

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