The Teaching Machine
Machines play chess, compose beautiful music, do difficult mathematical problems, and have shown that they can learn from experience. We also have machines that teach. At first these teaching machines were built especially for the purpose, now we can use the computer for linking videoscopes in the classroom to a central computer. In Chicago there are over 100 videoscopes located in seven schools linked to the central computer. In the Bronx, New York City, there is even a robot called LEUCHIM helping out.
What does a teaching machine look like?
If your school does not already have teaching machines, you may not have seen one. These robots are rather simple looking and quite harmless. In most cases, they are just metal or plastic boxes with two windows in them, and a few knobs or pushbuttons here and there.
To operate most teaching machines, you press a button and it brings your first question into view in one of the windows. Then you write your answer on the paper exposed by a small window near the top of the machine. When you press the button again to get the correct answer, a shield covers your answer, making it impossible to change it.
Now, press the button again to get your next question. As it appears, your answer to the previous question slides out of view, the shield disappears, and you have a clear paper area to write on again.
THE TEACHING MACHINE
How does a teaching machine “teach”?
The teaching machine teaches you your lessons in the same way we teach a machine to learn. The programmer (your teacher) puts a programme (your lesson) into the machine (the input) and you (like the computer) process that material. You study the question, reach inside your memory element, and come out with the correct answer — you hope. This, like the computer, is your output.
By having the lesson fed to you rather slowly and well‐planned, you learn by trial and error, just like a machine. If you make a mistake, the teacher pushes the “goof” button, but, unlike a machine, your punishment may be to stay after school.
Close‐up of the part of the teaching machine that contains the question and at the lower righthand corner your answer. On the illustration below it you see the next question and your check of the answer for the previous one.
Can machines replace teachers?
Teaching machines will not replace teachers. But, programmed learning, as this type of teaching is called, will help the teacher to teach better. These machines will also help to solve the teacher shortage by allowing larger classes. Since pupils using these devices require little supervision from the teacher, she has more time to give special help or to do other classroom tasks.
We can also use the computer as a teaching machine. This is called CAI or Computer Aided Instruction. Instead of a teaching machine we use a videoscope. The computer can hold a wide variety of teaching material and make it available to pupils in several classes at once. It can also keep a record of how well you are doing and let the teacher have a note of it. In this way it will help the teacher even more than the teaching machine.