Teaching Machines

Rapidly rising in importance are the mechanical devices which teach subject matter and also test at the same time. At present, the results are quite interesting and promising. Interacting personalities are not involved in the use of teaching machines, and because of this, one of the age-old relationships of teacher-to-student is missing. How much this will affect the success of the machines is not predictable. The traditional teacher-student relationship has been accepted as necessary. Perhaps it is not. Widespread use of such machines will naturally alter the how-to-study situation immensely. At the present they cost too much to represent a serious threat to established customs.

For certain kinds of learning, the machines seem to be excellent. Like other innovations, a cultural lag is bound to occur first. Machine-graded exams were slow to be accepted, but now are in full operation. Perhaps the teaching machines have equally great or greater potentialities. Much depends upon the incentives, of course, and in preliminary use it appears that incentives seem to be heightened. How much the novelty heightens incentives, only time can reveal. Creativeness and the toughening process of composition and of reworking material are absent both in machine-graded exams and teaching machines. Adversity and the resultant overcoming of harsh difficulties contribute a strengthening process leading to greatness, some say. These qualities are observed less and less with the introduction of machines. This is not to say, flatly, that education will suffer. But those who deplore the change from vigorous self-discipline should not be ignored in the rush to find easy ways to learn.

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