ANTECEDENTS AND CONSEQUENCES OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY

Glenn F. Cartwright

Abstract


Educational technology is not new. Between the years 1809 and 1936 the United States Patent Office issued over six hundred patents for machines which could teach. It would appear that many people felt that machines could do much of the routine job of instruction and it was this feeling which contributed much to the development of a systematic technology of education.

Emphasis in the evolution of educational technology has alternated between the hardware and software aspects of education. In the first decade of this century, software took the lead when the great American learning theorist E. L. Thorndike made an oblique reference to the establishment of a systematic technology of education to be brought about by the careful design and sequencing of instructional materials. His idea was given little attention and more than a decade was to pass before Sidney L. Pressey, the acknowledged "father" of the teaching machine, swung the emphasis in education technology back to one centered on hardware.

Pressey's device was one which gave and immediately scored multiple-choice questions, eliminating much routine marking for teachers. Although he found, almost incidentally, that his students learned from taking the tests and that many of Thorndike's Laws of Learning applied, Pressey chose to stress the hardware side of his invention rather than the educational program or software. For him, the machine was the answer! Unfortunately, the depression of 1929 contributed to the lack of support he found among teachers who, facing unemployment, could hardly be blamed for shunning a machine they thought might replace them. Three more decades were to pass before serious interest in programmed instruction was revived by B. F. Skinner. It was his task, in the late 1950's, to bring the emphasis in automated teaching back to the software side of the technology, and he stressed the importance of the educational program over the machine.

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