Early Attempts to Replace Teachers with Games

The current push to bring digital games into school is, strictly speaking, not the first, nor even the second time that educators have pushed for individualized instruction via machines. But it is decidedly the most nuanced, humanistic, and thoughtful. The first actually took place in the 1950s and early 1960s, when a small group of educational psychologists proposed doing away with teachers altogether and replacing them with self-paced, preprogrammed instruction on so-called "teaching machines." Operated mechanically by individual students as they sat at desks, the devices ka-chunged as students worked the levers, picking their way through multiple-choice and fiU-in-the-blank problem sets on punched paper templates. Advocates said the machines would keep kids actively learning since "continuous active student response" was required to keep the lesson moving forward. The machines also offered immediate feedback and self-paced instruction, with 'faster students romping through an instructional sequence very rapidly" while slower students were "tutored as slowly as necesiry, with indefinite patience to meet their special needs."^^

Many of the devices had actually been developed as early as the 1920s, but the Great Depression dampened interest in the field and putting teachers out of work. By the 1950s the devices were back, buoyed by a Harvard psychologist named Burrhus Frederic Skinner, who had long been interested in using machines to train rats and pigeons through reward and punishment. It was a 1953 visit to his daughter's math class that persuaded B. F. Skinner that children might benefit from "automated instruction." In 1954, he showed off a prototype machine for arithmetic training that offered, he said, "vastly improved conditions for effective study." By 1958, he and a handful of colleagues had designed and programmed a machine used to teach an introduction to natural science course at Harvard and Radcliffe. The work was funded by the Ford Foundation....demonstrations on YouTube, were purely behavioral devices that rewarded correct answers but responded to incorrect answers either by forcing students to stare at the material again or simply try another answer. One device, originally developed in 1925, actually dispensed Life Savers when a student punched in a correct answer. In a 1964 demonstration, Sidney Pressey, an Ohio State University psychology professor, said that by the 1960s the candies had grown too large for the machine. It dispensed Tums instead.


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 The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Toppo, Greg (2015421), The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter, Retrieved on 2018-04-15
Folksonomies: gaming game-based learning