Bushnell: we’ll reduce high school to a single year
Nolan Bushnell has made the boldest claim yet about his Speed To Learn educational project: he says it will mean students can complete high school in less than a year.
Bushnell, founder of Atari, was speaking at the Cloud Gaming Conference USA in San Jose, California. He is still yet to go into detail on his Speed To Learn project, a suite of educational games which he said at E3 would "change the way kids learn, both in and out of school."
"I've been working on an education project for about ten years now, and it turns out that educating children and computers go together," he said. "We've been in hundreds of classrooms with 40,000 kids. We are currently teaching subjects ten 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 the next year."
It's a bold claim, but Bushnell is intent on reforming America's public school system. "It's a disaster," he said. "It's creating an underclass that will erode the foundation of our society." Getting computers into classrooms will ease the divide between haves and have-nots, he claims, and will benefit teachers as well as students: "If we can have a kid learn twice as fast, we can pay teachers twice as much."
Mindful of his audience, Bushnell said that the cloud would help Speed To Learn take off, reducing not just the cost to schools of computers but their durability in the classroom as well.
"If you go into a class of fifth graders – let's say there's 30 of them – and they all have computers, I guarantee you that ten to 15 per cent of these computers do not work," he said. "They're virus-infected nightmares.
"In cloud gaming you disconnect the system's administration from the computer to the cloud…it's going to be an important step for allowing technology into the classroom."
In July, Bushnell launched a similar attack on the US school system during his GamesBeat keynote. "The public school system with its bureaucracy and unions and bullshit is stuck," he said. "The pressure is building. There will be an earthquake."
Only when that happens will he fully reveal Speed To Learn. "Am I an ambulance chaser? No," he said. "I will take advantage of an opportunity, called predicting the future."