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Teaching Machines: From Thorndike, Pressey, and Skinner to CAI

As the psychologist Ludy Benjamin (1988) explains in his retrospective on the history of teaching machines, a teaching machine is a wholly or partially automated device that does three things: “(a) presents a unit of information, (b) provides some means for the learner to respond to the information, and (c) [the device] provides for feedback about the correctness of the information” (p. 704). As the present entry details, the mechanical version of teaching machines was pioneered in the early 20th century and reached their heyday in the 1960s, a point at which they were closely associated with the educational theory of B. F. Skinner. Following a swift decline, the machine technology migrated to early computer systems, becoming part of the computer-aided instruction (CAI) movement of ...

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