The Roots of Teaching Machines (the Roots of Education Technology):
Although B. F. Skinner is often credited as being the inventor of the Teaching Machine, the idea of using a mechanical (or eventually computerized) device for teaching and learning predates him by almost 150 years. (Don't worry. We'll look more at B. F. Skinner and behaviorism next week... )
Google Patent Search offers an interesting (albeit incomplete) look at patents filed in the US. It's a good resource to look for patents filed in education technology. See: Halcyon Skinner's 1866 patent "Apparatus for Teaching Spelling."
Between 1870 and 1940, there were over 700 patents filed for educational devices. These machines helped re-inscribe old educational practices and put in place new ones.
One considered the most commercially successful was Min Max Teaching Machine Model II dating from the mid 60s.
The turn of the twentieth century saw the rise of efforts to define and measure Intelligence. Often deeply intertwined with eugenics, intelligence testing was used to rank and categorize people. (See: Francis Galton, Alfred Binet.) In order to scale the process intelligence testing, particularly in light of World War I, many looked to machines to make the testing process faster.
The origins of the Multiple Choice Test: Frederick Kelly published an article in 1914 in The Journal of Educational Psychology in which he laid out his ideas for the Kansas Silent Reading Test. In order to make scoring standardized and "objective," he proposed a test with multiple choices from which students could select the right answer from a list of options.
The educational psychologist Sidney Pressey displayed his “automatic intelligence testing machine” at the 1924 American Psychological Association meeting. B. F. Skinner didn't really think it "counted" as a teaching machine, but it's generally accepted to be "the first" (depending, of course, on how you define "teaching machine.")