Will the Father of Pong save our schools… with videogames?

At the recent GamesBeat 2011 conference, Nolan Bushnell—founder of Atari, games impresario, tech prognosticator—outlined his plans for the future.

“What am I working on?” he said. “I want to fix education in the world. As soon as I work on that, I am going to work on world hunger and then world peace.”

Through his startup Speed to Learn, Bushnell will try to get kids to learn faster by integrating game play directly into education plans. He claimed that his Wordplay.com Spanish vocabulary game can help kids learn Spanish five or six times faster than Rosetta Stone, the popular language software. He said that the games adapt to a user’s level of knowledge – known as adaptive practice – and will be combined with metrics and tutoring to recreate curricula for schools.

“All schools will end up using game metrics in the future,” he said.

Bushnell has tried to disrupt pre-existing industries before. After leaving Atari in 1978, he entered the restaurant business with a variety of concepts. Some succeeded (Chuck E. Cheese), while others failed to make an indelible mark (uWink, anyone?). Only time will tell if Speed to Learn revolutionizes education, or is just another New Math.

-Jon Irwin

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