Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

This is a review of Audrey Watters's book Teaching Machines. It's worth noting that the title refers not only to 'machines that teach' but also 'the process of teaching to machines'. This adds depth to comments like this: "despite all the talk of teaching machines enabling the individualization of education, programmed instruction was more apt to strip away student agency and selfhood.” The use of machines, historically, has reduced students to machines (as an aside, this is the perspective you should be reading a lot of education 'reform' efforts, including arguments against learning preferences, arguments against critical thinking, standardization of outcomes, etc.). "Wandering through the wealth of interesting details," writes Matthias Melcher, "the reader gets inspired to ask themselves what it is that makes these machines now appear so alienating, even ridiculous and embarrassing?"

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Last Updated: Sept 13, 2021 09:33 a.m.