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From High Tech to Higher Education with Steven Mayer

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When Steve Mayer and his colleagues began their careers in technology, they explored new ideas “with the knowledge that they were going to fail.” This might sound like anything but a recipe for success, but it gave the young inventors freedom to try anything and everything. In the process, they created the world’s first video games, and also spawned new concepts in business development, marketing, and education. Ultimately their approach evolved into a new corporate culture that optimized creativity and became a hallmark of wildly successful Silicon Valley enterprises like Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Steve Mayer now applies the same principles to explore ways to optimize learning in the classroom and beyond. In an unlikely pairing he has found that the principles that entice a young teen to spend hours in front of a video game can also make a museum exhibit come alive. He explains, “I come from the world of high levels of electronic interactivity, video games. But there’s nothing more interactive than a good question to pull people in, to get the mind engaged. So you try to create the opportunity for a question to begin. If people find their own questions, those questions then become an entrÈe into incredible worlds of adventure.”

Steven Mayer is co-founder of Atari, the company that created “Pong,” the first video game. He served as executive vice-president for strategic planning for Warner Communications, and as president of Warner Communications Lab, the central research facility for all Warner divisions. Mayer was the founder and chief technical officer of Digital F/X, the Emmy award winning supplier of digital audio and video authoring workstations for television, video, film, and multi-media industries. He holds eighteen patents in the computer and multi-media industries.

Topics Explored in this Dialogue:

  • What is the formula for success to introduce a new video game
  • How commercial marketing techniques inspired innovation in early childhood education
  • What marketing gimmick became Sesame Street’s most successful learning tool
  • How crass commercialism can help visionaries realize their dreams
  • What video games and museums have in common

Program Number: 3181               Host: Michael Toms            Interview Date: 10/31/2006

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