Saturday, September 17, 2011

Atari Founder will do what no one else can

At least, he thinks so.
Atari Founder to Create Game to Reduce High School to 1 Year: Nolan Bushnell thinks we can make better use of technology and what we know about learning to streamline high school from 4 years down to 1. A complete high school education in one year? Although details are sketchy, Bushnell plans to utilize his experience as a game designer to fix, what he calls, “broken computers and maladjusted teachers.”
Which is a very cool idea. I mean, think of it ... a whole lot of 13 and 14 year-olds who have finished their high school education and are now looking for jobs. Because what more does this country need than ill-prepared 13ers running around thinking they know everything? (They already do that but this program would put a stamp of approval on the whole charade.)

This project, known as Speed to Learn, incentivizes learning by providing students with interesting payoffs. Good work could earn one a nap or time with a laser cutter, for example. At an education summit in New York, Bushnell described the program as arcade-style videogames combined with aerobic activity for the purpose of education.
Interesting choice that. A nap or time on a laser cutter. Wonder which one the kids will choose? At first, the laser cutter. That'll get boring quickly because it's online and no one wants to give a bunch of 13ers the really good materials. They'll just take a nap ... or go outside ... or play real video games that are fun.

Hold on, how's he going to pay for the materials and the $100,000 laser cutter? I thought this was going to save us money? Are the kids doing this at home? From the WinXP machine in the corner of the kitchen?
While visiting schools, Bushnell noticed that up to 15% of available terminals were unusable due to various computer problems, a number that he aims to reduce with the new system.
Well, THAT certainly rings a bell. Going onto the cloud won't do much for that dream if the computer itself is crap, though. Or if the network is down. Or it's Vermont, where half of the state is still dialing in to log on.
The educational speed gains will come mainly as a result of the unique way of rewarding students for successfully accomplishing their tasks, such as obtaining a solution to a problem in a specified period of time:
Ahhh. A modern-day version of a Skinner box.  As long as we're all pigeons, it should work out just fine.
“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 can solve your problems
with a magic box.
In one year, all of your students
will graduate with honors.
But not yet.
Well, let me know when you have something, Nolan.  Be sure to do some testing, though.  Just saying you're "Like Salman Kahn" and proclaiming the next coming of Jesus Christ isn't enough. "We are currently teaching subjects ten times faster" means nothing if those kids aren't learning anything.

"When we roll this up to a full curriculum"?  How about getting one course first? You know, a beta version?

I'm sick of computer guys assuming that they have the answer to all of education's problems just because they managed to write a computer program once. Online learning is a sham. Video games don't teach math. The kids are getting screwed.

"Deus Ex Machina" was a theatrical trick in Ancient Greece and it's a theatrical trick now.
"Bushnell has said that he’s been working on Speed to Learn for over ten years, but so far there are no demos or screenshots to examine. However, if he intends to stick to his ambitious launch deadline, those should be appearing in the very near future."

At this rate, I'm expecting Duke Nukem Forever to come out first. The kids will really enjoy that and they might learn something about the promises Broad and Gates and Bushnell make and recognize them for the false prophets they are.


  1. Ooh, *finally* a streamlined process to transform people into workers.

  2. If he can do it, great. My guess is he can't--so we'll have a bunch of 13- and 14-year-olds with *proof* (since it came from a computer!) that they don't know enough.