Sentences About Teaching Machines

B. F. Skinner is often credited as the inventor of the teaching machine. He wasn't the first, but the trick is: you make the definition of teaching machine restrictive enough so that your product alone "counts." Skinner coined the phrase "Programmed Instruction" to talk about his model of education. Skinner called his general approach to psychology "Radical Behaviorism." Prior to working on teaching machines, he worked on a number of projects including the Skinner Box (that is, the operant conditioning chamber), the Air Crib, and Project Pigeon. Unlike Sidney Pressey, Skinner had success commercializing his teaching machines, in part because in post-war America (and in the wake of Sputnik), Americans were interested in science, technology, and gadgetry -- in the home, in the office, and in school. (The machines were sold door-to-door.)

Post-World War II and the rise of commercialized Labor-saving Devices: how might this explain the development of teaching machines in the 1950s onward?

B. F. Skinner did not believe in Free Will, something that Noam Chomsky took him to task for in his review of Skinner's book Beyond Freedom and Dignity. From Chomsky's review, "The Case Against B. F. Skinner " (ouch!):

"There is nothing in Skinner’s approach that is incompatible with a police state in which rigid laws are enforced by people who are themselves subject to them and the threat of dire punishment hangs over all."

We'll look more at the rise of Artificial Intelligence in Week 4, but it's worth considering how much Alan Turing was also a behaviorist. Is the Turing Test a behaviorist test? That is, what does it actually say about intelligence, human or machine?

Educational Television also took off (sorta) in the 1950s. (See: KUHT in 1953, the first public television station in the US.) Its precursor was the use of radio for education (see School of the Air & Radio University) and Educational Film.

In 1958, the National Defense Education Act was passed, funding instructional technology for the first time.

How does a computer change the (design, function, development, commercialization of the ) teaching machine?

With the development of computers during and after WWII, the development of programmed instruction soon turned away from Skinner's machines and towards Computer-assisted Instruction or CAI. Starting in 1960, the Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations (PLATO) ran on the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign's ILLIAC I machine. The "father" of PLATO: Donald Bitzer. PLATO boasted a number of innovations, including the plasma display panel. A Programming Language for PLATO called TUTOR was designed so that "anyone" could build lessons for the system. Meanwhile at Stanford, Patrick Suppes had also worked on computer-assisted instruction. The promise was that a computer could be like a tutor, offering personalized instruction for the student. (See: Bloom's 2 Sigma Problem) In 1967 he founded the Computer Curriculum Corporation.

Can a machine teach? (Can a machine think? Does a machine have to think in order to teach?) What is Teaching?