Atari founder pushes cloud-gaming school

Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari, thinks cloud computing can fix the “nightmare” of modern education.  With Bushnell’s Speed to Learn, students could finish high school in a year, he said at the Cloud Gaming Conference USA. From The Escapist:

At an education summit in New York, Bushnell described the program as arcade-style videogames combined with aerobic activity for the purpose of education.

“The whole idea,” Bushnell said, “is to give rewards that real kids want to have, and to have school be as chaotic as possible.”

Speed to Learn would use cloud computing to minimize technical problems, Bushnell said.  At any given time, 10 to 15 percent of classroom computers don’t work, he said. “They’re virus-infected nightmares.”

“We’ve been in hundreds of classrooms with 40,000 kids. We are currently teaching subjects 10 times faster. We believe that when we roll this up to full curriculum we’ll be able to teach a full career of high school in less than a year. And we think we’ll be able to do that by the end of next year.”

I’d imagine that videogames could teach some things quickly and well, but could they teach everything? That seems unlikely.

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  1. No, I don’t believe it for a second. Can videogames teach a student to follow a complicated argument and think deeply about it? (OK, I don’t know that many live teacher manage that either, but I’m betting more than videogames do.)

    • It will be interesting to see, everything now adays is quickly moving to cloud computing. I am not so sure on if they could teach everything that is needed within a year, although it would eliminate many of the issues that arise from public schools today.
      Good examples would be bad influences from bad children, the cost to the state, and county to run a public school, the problems of attendance for those that can not get up at 6am, and the list goes on and on. Colleges are already moving to this although most don’t look seriously upon people with “online degrees” so only time will tell. (ok shutting up now before I end up writing a book)

  2. Nolan Bushnell is more of a celebrity than a thinker.

  3. It depends on what your definitions are.

    Do I think it is possible to learn all of the knowledge that we currently teach in school in a year? No way.

    However, if your goal is to teach certain critical thinking skills, and the knowledge of how to access and manipulate knowledge, then I could see this happening.

    The key question is to decide just what skills and knowledge are neccessary/valuable.

    Many of my colleagues are distressed that kids can’t write in cursive any more. So what? cursive itself is just a bastardization of calligraphy…how upset is anyone that most people don’t read/write calligraphy anymore?

    Many of my colleagues are upset by the use of non-standard spelling and grammar. Many of them are unaware that both are fairly modern additions to the English language. (I do believe standard spelling and grammar is valuable however)

  4. I’m curious what Bushnell thinks “real kids” are.

  5. I doubt that Bushnell has a clue.  It takes what, ten thousand hours of practice at something to become truly good at it?  He thinks that an entire high-school curriculum of subjects can be mastered in perhaps 1500 hours.  Either he’s wrong, or he has a very loose definition of “mastery”.

  6. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    Here’s your entire high school curriculum:

    8-3pm, less lunch and breaks and passing and assemblies = ~6 hours a day
    ~180 school days in a year, times 6 hours… that’s 1080 per year.

    Four years: 4320 hours.

    Assume that the ten to twenty minutes a night of homework on average gets cancelled out by screwing around in class.

    That’s a far cry from 10,000, and it’s split among like 6 major subject areas: historyish-“social studies”, an unholy matrimony of literature, rhetoric, grammar, and something that sort of looks like logic but really isn’t that we call “English”, “science” (which is like three separate subjects anyway), mathematics, PE, and some foreign language or another.

    High school’s a joke. It’s primary purpose is to sort kids, not to educate them. It’s secondary purpose is to watch them. It’s tertiary purpose is to provide some tools for some of the kids to educate themselves. Maybe.

    Moving it online and adding video games isn’t going to help much with either of the first two goals, though it might help separate the credential-evaluation prong of education from the instruction-learning prong. That’d be nice.