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Kim Aling

ocTEL Mooc Champions and critics of teaching machines

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Skinner introduced the 'teaching machine' in the 1950s which he argued allowed for self paced learning (Bonaiuti, 2011).  Students were able to work through exercises at their own pace, moving on when they were ready.  The main limitation opf these mahines was their focus on rote learning not developing understanding.  It is only applicable to certain subject areas and is limited to the information provided by the writer of the material.  It does not encourage exploration or discussion and is very much an independent approach. 

Social constructivists would criticise this because for them learning is a social activity where meaning in created through discussion.  Theis is reflected in Sugata Mishtra's 'hole in the wall' experiments.  Learning comes from working together.

Followers of Illich would also criticise this approach (Smith, 1997).  He made a distinction between machines and tools, where tools enable learning and are in the control of the user, whereas machines are in control and users becomne slaves.  Illich argued for the disestablishment of schools and a return to more authentic forms of learning. 

A political critique would come from Paulo Freire who argued that teaching is a political act and takes place within a social context (Clarke, 2012).  He argued that education today aims to maintain the inequalities and principles of capitalist society, whereas education should provide the means to question and change the status quo. It shoudl free the oppressed by helping them to understand their situation and thereby givign them the tools to change it.  He would argue the machine is simply passing on accepted knowledge and not promoting the means to question and change.

Boniaiuti, G. (2011) B.F. Skinner: teaching machine and programmed learning [online] Found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTH3ob1IRFo [accessed 19/04/13]

Clark, D. (2012) 'Friere (1921-1997 educator and activist' Blog post, Donald Clark PLan B posted 11/02/2012

Smith, M. K. (1997-2011) 'Ivan Illich: deschooling, conviviality and the possibilities for informal education and lifelong learning', the encyclopedia of informal education, http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-illic.htm.



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