Computing and Education per Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell

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by Jim Manley » Thu Jun 21, 2012 6:51 pm
Here's a very interesting presentation on computing and education from the perspective of what's been learned about learning and brain science over the past few decades, provided by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/23292792

This was part of the LAUNCH Education & Kids Conference that was held last week, and there are companion videos for the remainder of the conference available for viewing on that UStream page (this is just one video of about half a dozen, and this one is an hour and 43 minutes, alone).

Bushnell is the chairman of BrainRush.com, which is developing a Wikipedia-like technology that enables educators and content-producers to easily populate web pages with material. Once the content has been established, students learn via several mechanisms that are based, in part, on game-playing mechanisms that keep students very engaged and focused on the material to be learned. There are demos on the BrainRush.com site that are pretty convincing.

If you're not already aware, Bushnell is not afraid to poke establishments and bureaucrats, and part of his presentation discusses the issues of the immense and rapidly-growing student debt debacle, the "wisdom" of pressuring too many people to pursue a college degree, the need for technicians and craftspeople trained in subjects not addressed by college education, and other challenges. He also makes some astute observations about what can be done to address our education problems and the trends that are already in motion. These include breaking the schoolbook publishers' stranglehold on budgets and the shift of that money to computing hardware and software, the power of bottom-up efforts by teachers (and even students) to populate the WWW with educational material, the significance of colleges and universities putting their curricula material on-line, and many others.

Anyone who's involved in education should at least watch this presentation so that you'll be aware of what may happen if Bushnell's observations are as accurate as they appear. If his ideas pan out, they could help revolutionize education in precisely the ways it needs to change. It's not clear whether he stands to profit from BrainRush as he doesn't mention how its funded, but, he does make the case for education technology providers only being paid for positive results, rather than just delivering widgets regardless of their effectiveness. That seems perfectly reasonable to me.
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