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Teaching Machines: A Brief History of "Teaching at Scale"


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Slides from my talk to the Harvard class Massive: The Future of Learning at Scale

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Teaching Machines: A Brief History of "Teaching at Scale"

  1. 1. Teaching Machines ! A (Brief) History of “Teaching at Scale” The Future of Learning at Scale - #t509Massive ! Audrey Watters @audreywatters
  2. 2. “I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks. I should say that on the average we get about two percent efficiency out of schoolbooks as they are written today. The education of the future, as I see it, will be conducted through the medium of the motion picture… where it should be possible to obtain one hundred percent efficiency” — Thomas Edison, 1922
  3. 3. Characteristics of a “teaching machine”: ! 1. content broken down into small (testable) units 2. immediate feedback 3. students “move at their own pace” 4. automation
  4. 4. “Comparable results have been obtained with pigeons, rats, dogs, monkeys, human children… and psychotic subjects. In spite of great phylogenetic differences, all these organisms show amazingly similar properties of the learning process. It should be emphasized that this has been achieved by analyzing the effects of reinforcement and by designing techniques that manipulate reinforcement with considerable precision. Only in this way can the behavior of the individual be brought under such precise control.” ! — B. F. Skinner
  5. 5. “There must be an ‘industrial revolution’ in education, in which educational science and the ingenuity of educational technology combine to modernize the grossly inefficient and clumsy procedures of conventional education. Work in the schools of the future will be marvelously though simply organized, so as to adjust almost automatically to individual differences and the characteristics of the learning process.There will be many labor-saving schemes and devices,and even machines — not at all for the mechanizing of education,but for the freeing of teacher and pupil from educational drudgery and incompetence.” ! — Sidney Pressey