Atari's Founder Hopes to Hack Three Years Off High School

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Atari's Founder Hopes to Hack Three Years Off High School

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Nolan Bushnell believes cloud computing can fix the "nightmare" that is modern education.

In what might be confused as a doomsday prophecy, game industry legend Nolan Bushnell described some glaring faults of contemporary American education, including broken computers and maladjusted teachers. The fix, he recommends? A unique, game-based education program delivered via cloud computing technology, similar to what's being used on the modern videogame landscape.

"I've been working on an education project for about 10 years now," Bushnell announced at Cloud Gaming Conference USA, "and it turns out that educating children and computers go together."

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.

"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, Bushnell suggested, could ideally be accessed through a cloud network. Current computer situations, however, may not be suited for the task.

"If you go into a class of fifth graders - say there's 30 of them - and they all have computers, I guarantee you that 10-15 percent of these computers do not work. They're virus infected nightmares."

Bushnell added that young students will inevitably - in their curious nature - tinker with and inadvertently damage classroom computers. Cloud technology, he insists, will disconnect the system's administration from the physical machines, allowing an off-site location to handle any technical issues.

"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."

Painting in broad strokes, the industry veteran pointed out issues with public vs. private school educations, and the role wealth plays in society.

"Our public school is a disaster," he said. "It's creating an underclass that will erode the foundation of our society. The kids who happen to have won the lottery and been born to rich parents can survive. The parents make sure the kids are either in private school or something. The kids who have lost the lottery are being put into schools with dysfunctional teachers."

Right or not, Bushnell's solution could potentially put 15 and 16-year-olds in a college situation usually encountered by adults. It could also get more people into jobs sooner.

Do you think hitting the fast-forward button on education is a smart move?

Sources: GI.biz, All Business, Tech Crunch

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You can definitely teach the basic classes in less than a year, good luck cramming Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and much of History into a year, or their AP equivalents. How do you condense an English Lit class, I'm also curious? It takes time to read books, no matter how you structure the course, and people max out at around 800 wpm, so... not sure how this works.

You know what, I'm confused. How does he plan on cramming the more in depth, thought-requiring classes into a year?

Someone's been watching Extra Credits.
That being said, there's a serious problem in "hacking" off years of education. Instead of putting hormone-stricken teenagers with still absolutely no life experience out into the real world where they will inevitably balls everything up for themselves and our future, why not use the extra three years to educate them -more-.

Venats:
You can definitely teach the basic classes in less than a year, good luck cramming Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and much of History into a year, or their AP equivalents. How do you condense an English Lit class, I'm also curious? It takes time to read books, no matter how you structure the course, and people max out at around 800 wpm, so... not sure how this works.

You know what, I'm confused. How does he plan on cramming the more in depth, thought-requiring classes into a year?

I think this is meant for elementary and maybe middle schoolers so that we can have them blow through the basic shit quicker and get to the more complex things faster and possibly better prepared for than the current system would allow. Effectively shaving a few years off the educational process.

Hell yeah! I've been saying this for years. The idea that you take 30 kids and get the to sit still for an hour while some loser talks at them and have them learn anything is archaic and laughable.

There is no reason why each child can't have an individualized curriculum based on their interests that can change daily. You can teach all of the concepts you want in a wrapper that kids are interested in? Want to teach math? Some kids are interested in war so give example of how to calculate artillery trajectories or how military logistics. Some kids are interested in fashion so give them problems relating to retail supply chains or clothing production work.

For people interested in the subject read anything by John Taylor Gatto. All parents please read this book before you inflict public school on your children: http://www.amazon.com/Dumbing-Down-Curriculum-Compulsory-Schooling/dp/0865714487/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1315520029&sr=8-1

Triforceformer:
I think this is meant for elementary and maybe middle schoolers so that we can have them blow through the basic shit quicker and get to the more complex things faster and possibly better prepared for than the current system would allow. Effectively shaving a few years off the educational process.

I'll admit to my inexperience with the American Education system (here since late high to college now), but there are just some aspects of teaching that cannot be truncated. Reading, for one, is hard to cut down beyond what it already is because at some point you simply lose many of the details and/or you over burden the reader. Mathematics is a practice enforced through repetition and built upon a solid base, it is also not something I would "be cutting down on". Of course, where I grew up, basic math was taught for all of one year and part of the second, from there it was Algebra, Geometry, and off to infinity that ends with Calculus at a college level. Science takes time to build on too as much of it requires intuitive experience and a solid grasp of basics in order to pursue the more complex.

What classes in the American curriculum could you cut off? I know from my cousin that math is dragged on a bit longer than necessary in its basic levels, and that sciences are started off very vaguely, but the rest is Literature, History, and some electives. Where is there room to cut? I can understand refine to give a better experience and in that way push forward what is taught in high school... but I'm not seeing three years. Three years is a lot.

If it works? All for it.

Just don't demand 15 year olds enter the job market, or go to college just because they're done high school, they still aren't prepared for that pressure just because they can do calculus.

Those four years of high school to me are seen as a maturing period where teenagers can finally grasp concepts necessary to survive on their own like proper work habits. if you only give them a year to get their shit together before the big leagues then they might be more likely to flunk out of college as they don't know how to handle all of it. I think it would be better to instead of cutting down the high school years from 4 years to 1, to instead use the technology to teach kids more information than we do right now. it would improve the standard of education which would be huge because if a student decides not to go to college then they are still better off than before with this super education where giving them.

I've always thought the only (external) thing that could truly motivate me to do well would be well-designed achievements.

That said, I don't think a year will ever be enough to learn that much stuff. Maybe the interesting bits, but not the whole syllabus.

Hypothetically, if this cut 3 years off High School and people were leaving at 13, what would they do then?

Not everyone who finishes High School chooses further education, some go straight into work or start apprenticeships, would 13-year-olds be allowed to start full time jobs with equal hours and equal pay?

Would these 13-year-olds be exempt from tax or would they be treated the same as any other working adult?

For every potential 13-year-old who finishes school but doesn't go to college, those 3 years have to be accounted for, especially if they can't work in that time. There would have to be a lot of reforms made to accommodate this possibility, not just in the Education System but also Workplace reforms, Labour Laws and Tax reforms.

High School is a great "babysitter" and I can't see other areas of Society leaping at the chance to reform their practices or entire structures so they take responsibility of 13-16-year-olds.

"Cloud" computing? WHY?!?! Why pay for a service when you could just host the files locally on your own server? I don't get it and I probably never will. My home server works great and I can access it anywhere in the world.

But back OT, while a very admirable goal, using computers to teach is not the be all end all of fixing the American education system. As much as I'd like to see every child excel in school, this country still needs ditch diggers. I believe it's more important they have the know how and social skills necessary to complete the job than sitting them in front of a computer and have them hit keys all day. The real world isn't like that.

All very interesting, founder of Atari, but could you do something about the job market please? That's a big issue as well.

Yeah great idea, lets create kids that have no idea of how to behave in the work place. In the real world you don't get instant gratification. If you finish the presentation on time you don't get have a nap or play with a laser cutter, you get to do some more work. If you don't do the work you get fired. If you create and eduction system that never imposes any kind of discipline and structure how are the kids going to survive in the adult world?

You can already join the army in the US before you can have sex, or vote on what said army will be doing. You can kill people driving a car before you can kill yourself drinking alcohol. I think the priorities are skewed enough that this won't do much damage.

"and to have school be as chaotic as possible"

Gotta love well-meaning berks with harebrained schemes to "fix education."

The only thing wrong with the American education system is that it's under constant assault by crazies who want to systematically underfund it, dismantle it in favor of ideologically-driven "voucher" programs, destroy teachers' unions and teaching as a profession, and rewrite its textbooks to give "equal time" to Creationism and the movement conservative fantasy version of history. Get rid of those forces -- the forces who want to create an underclass and elite because they think they'll be welcomed in the latter -- and you fix the problem.

I highly doubt you fix the problem with gee-whiz technology, video game style achievement systems, and especially not by "making school chaotic." There are metric tons of research to indicate that kids (surprise, surprise) do not benefit from chaos as a learning environment, and that includes most of the geeky kids who fondly and mistakenly imagine they would. Nolan Bushnell's claim to already have accelerated the high-school learning curve by ten times sounds extremely dubious, and I doubt it will stand up to examination.

In order to survive this next mission, you must devolope a large shelter to save refugees from being mass murdered, to do this, you must correctly use archetectual designs (geomitry) so the building can take damage and not fall on itself, while holding off waves of attackers.

Maybe there is money, and educational opperitunities in this...

But then again, if you just got improved teachers, the system would soon fix itself.

Brian Albert:
It could also get more people into jobs sooner.

What? No!

I was all for this up until that. The job market is already saturated with too many people and too few jobs. We don't need people getting into the job market FASTER... that's just going to lead to more unemployment and make it harder on everyone.

Using cloud gaming to improve education? Awesome.

Speeding up High School? Egads.

ShenCS:
Someone's been watching Extra Credits.
That being said, there's a serious problem in "hacking" off years of education. Instead of putting hormone-stricken teenagers with still absolutely no life experience out into the real world where they will inevitably balls everything up for themselves and our future, why not use the extra three years to educate them -more-.

That may be what he is talking about. Get the basics done first and QUICKLY, not the 3 years of basics that we do now. This way the students can take College level courses in High School making them smarter learning about the real world while building a better work ethic.

Or it is what you said and kicking them out of school.

Venats:
You can definitely teach the basic classes in less than a year, good luck cramming Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and much of History into a year, or their AP equivalents. How do you condense an English Lit class, I'm also curious? It takes time to read books, no matter how you structure the course, and people max out at around 800 wpm, so... not sure how this works.

You know what, I'm confused. How does he plan on cramming the more in depth, thought-requiring classes into a year?

ShenCS:
Someone's been watching Extra Credits.
That being said, there's a serious problem in "hacking" off years of education. Instead of putting hormone-stricken teenagers with still absolutely no life experience out into the real world where they will inevitably balls everything up for themselves and our future, why not use the extra three years to educate them -more-.

Because the modern American school system, which I assume is the one he is refering to, is absolute garbage.

We force kids to go through 4 years of high school, many of them taking subjects they frankly could not give less of a shit about. And because of that, they find the easy way out of them, cheating, copying, flaking on work, and they still manage to get B's and A's with this sub par work.

Then the real world comes along and slams them into the ground. This is why college is the difference between a high paycheck and a low one. College teaches you what high school should have, that sometimes in order to get the things you want, you can't just take the path of least resistance.

If he can somehow find a way to incorporate that lesson earlier, while at the same time teaching kids social skills and whatnot, I'm completely in favor of his plan.

Nolan Bushnell: Once again making the world a more rad place.

Brian Albert:
Bushnell added that young students will inevitably - in their curious nature - tinker with and inadvertently damage classroom computers. Cloud technology, he insists, will disconnect the system's administration from the physical machines, allowing an off-site location to handle any technical issues.

Buzzword bingo ahoy! How does cloud computing differ at all in this context from thin clients with a server in a locked closet somewhere in-school, something we've been able to do for literal decades? Cloud-based thin clients will still require some technical administration (they ain't pulling info from the ether, they still need a LAN to hook to the Internet with) and someone to fix the ones kids have broken, it just moves one hardware component and the content outside the building. Everything else is still where kids can break it.

Also: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/technology/technology-in-schools-faces-questions-on-value.html?_r=4

BobDobolina:
"and to have school be as chaotic as possible"

Gotta love well-meaning berks with harebrained schemes to "fix education."

The only thing wrong with the American education system is that it's under constant assault by crazies who want to systematically underfund it, dismantle it in favor of ideologically-driven "voucher" programs, destroy teachers' unions and teaching as a profession, and rewrite its textbooks to give "equal time" to Creationism and the movement conservative fantasy version of history. Get rid of those forces -- the forces who want to create an underclass and elite because they think they'll be welcomed in the latter -- and you fix the problem.

I highly doubt you fix the problem with gee-whiz technology, video game style achievement systems, and especially not by "making school chaotic." There are metric tons of research to indicate that kids (surprise, surprise) do not benefit from chaos as a learning environment, and that includes most of the geeky kids who fondly and mistakenly imagine they would. Nolan Bushnell's claim to already have accelerated the high-school learning curve by ten times sounds extremely dubious, and I doubt it will stand up to examination.

Thank you for saying it all before I had to. I appreciate it :)

Brian Albert:

Do you think hitting the fast-forward button on education is a smart move?

No, but leaving education as it is, still based on 19th century concepts when children are the ones more capable of understanding how the modern world works (and thus more able to see the gap between how well it runs and how poor education does) is an even dumber move.

We're going to need to try a lot of harebrained schemes before we find one that works.

As someone who put minimal effort in my education because I could still get good grades with that minimal effort (and who nowadays has problems with putting effort on anything) I love the idea of giving additional rewards instead of just setting a ceiling. Smart children are able to play traditional education systems, but this is something that will entice them.

Brian Albert:
Do you think hitting the fast-forward button on education is a smart move?

Hell, yes.

My kids are just reaching the age of entering "the system", and it terrifies me.

The thought of them being stuck in understaffed, undersupplied, and overcrouded classrooms... all while being as bored to tears as their parents were, makes me wish that something like this could be implemented.

I dont agree with this.
Dont get me wrong streamlining learning is better, but you can't teach the maturity growth that would be lost in those three years with cloud computing.

I would rather see them teach MORE in high school that would make a lot of the college/university courses no longer needed, because it seems that colleges are left to pick up and teach things that high school should have, but never had the time.

<- This highschooler is all for it.

It's certainly better than reading books all day long.

I think it's a great idea, but slightly off target. Kids shouldn't be going to college when they are sixteen. Instead of getting kids the same level of education sooner, why not take the usual amount of time, but give them more education during high school. Have them know at 16 what they should know by their 18, and then spend the next two years taeching them even more. Education is an investment and we should be teaching our kids as much and as well as humanly possible.

High School itself as it's currently known should be completely eliminated anyhow. The education system was designed for a different time and as any bloated monstrosity tends to be, will be very difficult to change to adapt to the times.

For instance, high school preps people to go into college. A lot of people just aren't suited for it and don't need it. I think a lot of teenagers would be far better off being sent to trade schools instead, or even better sent out into the field for apprenticeships.

That's the only way we're getting any semblance of our manufacturing base back and sinking kids tens of thousands of dollars in loan debt is going in the opposite direction.

Jamash:
Hypothetically, if this cut 3 years off High School and people were leaving at 13, what would they do then?

Not everyone who finishes High School chooses further education, some go straight into work or start apprenticeships, would 13-year-olds be allowed to start full time jobs with equal hours and equal pay?

Would these 13-year-olds be exempt from tax or would they be treated the same as any other working adult?

For every potential 13-year-old who finishes school but doesn't go to college, those 3 years have to be accounted for, especially if they can't work in that time. There would have to be a lot of reforms made to accommodate this possibility, not just in the Education System but also Workplace reforms, Labour Laws and Tax reforms.

High School is a great "babysitter" and I can't see other areas of Society leaping at the chance to reform their practices or entire structures so they take responsibility of 13-16-year-olds.

Point may be a little moot since in Scotland you can leave high school fairly early and go get an apprenticeship no problem?

Guys, read Bushnell's actual statements. Brian Albert said join the workforce early, not him. Bushnell's not arguing for just a year of high school, instead he's arguing that he can provide resources that allow children to be educated faster and more efficiently. He's not saying that there would just be one year of high school, just that the current curriculum could fit into that time space. Although he doesn't say it directly, his opinion on public education probably indicates that he wants to still maintain a three or four year system, but offer far more in terms of actual education. What would be the point in just fitting a lackluster education in a year for him when he's aiming for improved education? He shows no indication that he wants to put 15 and 16 year olds in the workplace or college, just that his system can apparently fit a full high school career into one year. Completely different things.

Honestly, I can't believe I had to explain that. I blame public schools haha.

I'm going to hold off until I see some actual results from this (his claims seem unrealistic and too-good-to-be-true), but it's a very interesting idea.

Masses of atudent data in centralized cloud storage. What could possibly go wrong?

This sounds a little too close to for-profit education for me. Condensing a four year degree into a year and doing all the work at your own pace sounds great. However, the quality of the education you get is never the same as actually taking the time to do the four year degree. Like others have said, there is a maturing time when you work towards a goal like a high school or college degree. There are things like study habits, problem solving and interpersonal skills that are not covered in the "basics" of a degree. I fully agree that technology should be integrated better into the public school system, but I see that as much more of a funding and personnel issue than a degree timing issue.

I don't know...aren't we making kids grow up too fast as it is? Throwing them into college (or out into the real world) at such a young age, I'm not sure all of them would survive. Your brain and body need time to grow, and you can't really speed that up.

Perhaps not cut out 3 years, but I like the idea of changing the education system in America. Some things I think can be changed into a format that students will enjoy.

Now if they made testing like it is in Baka and Test, then we'd be golden.

I feel like an update is in order, the change would be slow of course and it would require a LOT of development time and money. But it may genuinely help humanity in the long run! That's not something you usually say about gaming!

I don't like the idea of a computer replacing teacher-student interaction though. School needs to be a community as much as it needs to teach.

just hope it has a chance to percolate in people's minds before Fox and those like them try to burn it without so much as reading an article on it...

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