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ETEC 511 History of Educational Technology: Discourse Leadership:
Learning Module: Overview :: Audio - Paul & Petrina (2002) :: Reading #1 - Moody (1999) :: Reading #2 - Petrina (2004) :: Reading #3 - Petrina (2002) :: Wiki Activity :: Twitter BackChannel Discussion :: Conclusion
DLG Foundations: Learning Theory :: References

Created and Facilitated by: Rachel Bronk, Sharon Hann, Emily Jarvis, Aaron Mueller and Andrew Olson

Summary of Sidney Pressey and the automation of education, 1924-1934

First, take a few moments to view the following video about 'teaching machines' hosted by the Father of Behaviourism, B.F. Skinner

The goals of Sidney Pressey back in the 1920s are essentially the same as the modern day Distance Learning Model. This model, at its heart, is about creating self-motivated, independant learners, and to provide the teacher with more of one of the most precious resources in the educational world: time! What to do with this time? Improve educational opportunities, of course. One major goal of automation was to free the teacher from the seemingly endless administrivia of attendance, classroom management, or one-size-fits-all educational planning; trying to herd 30 cats all through the same field at the same time!

Considering that much of our current debate surrounding the use of computers and other technology within classrooms, at its foundation, can be compared to this scenario presented by Pressey, this reading will likely have a strong resonance with the class. There will likely be two possible strong reactions:

1) Students should not be taught by a 'machine' and are human beings that need human interaction on a face to face level to learn most effectively. Subscribers to this school of thought will have an adverse reaction to this article, its inventor, Sidney Pressey, and also the concept of machines taking a place in the classroom.

2) Students and teachers can be released from the trivial and mundane - the 'bureaucracy' of education - downloading these tasks to machines and systems, thereby enabling them instead to focus on higher level concepts and activities. Students will be enabled by these appliances in the classroom to get fast and specific feedback, and therefore individualized educational attention. Subscribers to this school of thought will have a strong connection to Sidney Pressey, his goals and ideas, which seem to be coming more to fruition today, 90 years later!

Discussion Questions

Please address these questions by responding to the appropriate thread in Vista discussions

1. One of Pressey’s main arguments was in the individualization of education that was afforded by the teaching machine, via the near-instant and individualized feedback given to each student user. Based on our knowledge of effective assessment strategies, is the feedback provided by the teaching machine of significant quality? Is there a place for this type of feedback within the education system and to what degree?

2. How would the teaching machine fit within the various schools of learning theories? How would it be received by behavioral theorists? By cognitive theorists? By constructivists?

3. What parallels can be drawn between the teaching machine and the use of computers within contemporary classrooms?

Additional Resources

Blog: Teaching Machines: a 100 year old vision

Robots Marking English Essays!