19th Century Precursors
Skinner’s teaching Machine
. The learning was structured in a series of small steps. Hints and prompts maximise success and being right, so there is progress towards more complex knowledge. Skinner saw the machine as giving quick feedback, free from error, providing active learning and the fact that the student moves at their own pace was seen by him as a real benefit, whether faster or slower, at the rate most appropriate for that student. He claimed that this machine-based learning doubled the rate of learning, compared to the traditional classroom.
The content was carefully programmed to build, step by step towards synthesis and complex ideas. The machines then began to include more complex branching, with audio and screen presentations. Industrial and military applications focused on vocational learning.
Plessy was the antithesis of Skinner, whose teaching machine was designed around positive reinforcement, hence his avoiding multiple choice questions, where the wrong answers (negative stimuli) outnumbered the right answer, that were actually given to the student, in advance of them having to think. Skinner saw this as weak learning and didn’t buy the idea that the study of wrong answers was anything but a distraction and, more seriously, seeding confusion in terms of what was learned.
Ferster, B., 2014. Teaching machines: Learning from the intersection of education and technology. JHU Press.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXHmFZyKEVY Skinner on his Teach Machine