Co-Sponsored by the Teaching and Learning Center, Graduate Center Digital Initiatives, and the Ph.D. Program in English
"Within the next twenty years," Ohio State University psychology professor Sidney Pressey proclaimed in 1930, "special mechanical aids will make mass psychological experimentation commonplace and bring about in education something analogous to the Industrial Revolution." Pressey was one of the first education psychologists to develop a "teaching machine" -- an innovation often credited to B. F. Skinner -- and to try (unsuccessfully) to bring that machine to market. His prediction about the future of education technology was a little off; and in some ways, it sounds quite contradictory to the arguments made about ed-tech today: that teaching machines will help counter the "factory model of schooling," that they will "personalize" learning, not "industrialize" it. But that’s close to what Pressey believed too, as contradictory as it sounds: that by automating education, we will "individualize" it. If we trace the history of teaching machines and a century long quest to "individualize" and "automate," perhaps we can see how Pressey's vision of the future might not have been so far off after all.
Audrey Watters is an education writer, an independent scholar, a serial dropout, a rabble-rouser, and ed-tech's Cassandra. She writes at hackeducation.com, among other places.
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