Night With a Futurist II

So, I’m kind of digging the Da Vinci Institute here in Colorado. I joined to keep tabs on big brains like Thomas Frey and maybe accidentally learn something along the way. Working so far from ya’ll, it really helps to just unplug, spackle on some make-up and mingle with real-live human beings once in awhile. In particular, really smart, interesting beings who appreciate that while Today has gone to shit, Tomorrow just might be spectacularly mind-blowing.

Earlier this week, I attended another ‘Night with a Futurist’ featuring educator specialist Michael Cushman on the topic: “Next Generation Learning Technologies” where he made a case for using virtual reality and simulation to close the educational gap. First, Cushman laid out the stark realities in education:

  • One billion people on the planet cannot write their own name.
  • 135 million children have no educational opportunities whatsoever.
  • We have not altered the way we learn in over 100 years.

“No one has ever questioned the power of simulation: a fabulous training tool affordable only to the elite: pilots, military engineers, and Olympic athletes. Until now, simulation has been prohibitively expensive as industry pioneers struggle to recoup development and operational costs. But we are on the verge of a new era as a confluence of technical trends is poised to wash away barriers to mass adoption.”

He talked about next-generation simulation – laser scans, precision photography, high-res images, precise spatial relationships, accurate attributes – and how these can be used more often in learning situations: “Gaming and simulation technologies will merge. Learning will soon become a fun experience that turns learning into a sport, and the ease of practice translates into a far more durable form of understanding.”

Other Cushman quotes:

“ They’ll soon have headsets/goggles where users can move cursors with their thoughts.”

“If you watch someone do something very slowly, you can learn something without actually doing it.”

“They are working on applications for emergency response – seeing what a terrorist sees.”

“Imagine a Historical Graveyard Tour where a simulated ‘ghost’ pops up to guide you.”

“Every course at MIT is online for free but they are BORING. We have to look at what locks things in the brain.”

Following the break, Cushman’s ideas were debated by panelists:

Moderator: Allison Taylor, co-host of the Startup Junkie Underground, a Senior Fellow, and serial entrepreneur

Panelist: Raymond Hutchins, President of the SimGame Exchange ( and the Interactive Gaming and Simulation Alliance (

Panelist: Michael Sitarzewski, founder of, winner of the 2006 Colorado Inventor Showcase Software Company of the Year Award

Chris Meyers, National Sales Manager, Echostar

Key quotes:

“The most effective simulation company in the world is the U.S. Military. They are a major driver in the video game industry. They truly understand the mind of a young person.”

“The largest texting population is the Philippines.”

“In colleges today, the professors don’t know squat. Now, the students are the ones who know the future.”

“iTunesU – you can earn 4-year degrees on podcasts.”

Sitarzewski talked about his 4 1/2-year old son who has his own iPhone: “He knew instinctively what to do – slides, pinches. He plays games, draws … and don’t worry, he has no service.”

“How to get rid of the old educational model? Challenge the tenure system which does not reward performance.”

“Technology is changing so fast that kids are now being trained for jobs that will be obsolete by the time they graduate.”

“I have a theory called Internet Age: Whatever technology people initially learned to communicate on, that’s the one they are going to stick with.”

“Schools need to change physically. They’re like nice prisons.”

“There are a lot of people with formal education but no experiences. Look at ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ – the opposite. All he had were experiences.”

They also took Q&A from the audience and one man – a professor – stated flatly:

“It is URGENT that we fix the education system or the future is not bright.”



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