Teaching by Machine

January 25, 1961

Report Outline
Dawn of Automation Age in Teaching
Characteristics of Teaching Machines
Probable Gains from Use of Machines

Dawn of Automation Age in Teaching

Prospective Revolution in Teaching Methods

Advent of the machine as a teaching device presages, in combination with educational television, the most drastic change in techniques of mass instruction since invention of the printing press. Printing by machine was responsible for development of the textbook, which gave students identical tests to study. Television and motion pictures are making it possible to extend indefinitely the number of students who may be taught simultaneously by a single teacher. With the read-and-respond teaching machine, now the object of intensive experimentation, automation of education takes another long step forward. The machine, or rather the material doled out by the machine, takes over functions of both teacher and textbook.

Televised and filmed courses of instruction have already reached a high level of acceptance and are expected in time to become routine in a majority of schools. The teaching machine, while pre-dating television by a score of years, is finally attracting the serious attention of school authorities. It is becoming increasingly clear that all of these devices will eventually be widely used in American schools, bringing with them revolutionary changes in the educational process.

Enthusiastic proponents of the teaching machine go so far as to predict that it will some day displace the teacher and the standard textbook as agencies for imparting basic knowledge to young minds. But the classroom teacher will not become obsolete. He or she will be freed from routine teaching chores to serve more effectively as mentor and counselor to students. Their reading may then range more widely and deeply because texts can be written on the assumption that fundamental facts have already been acquired from mechanical instructors. The teaching machine leads pupils individually along the educational path by presenting questions and checking the answers for accuracy, both by mechanical means.

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