#ocTEL activity 1.3: Champions and critics of teaching machines

Pick one or two of the following thinkers or approaches and read a bit about them, starting with the resources linked. What would they like about the Teaching Machines approach? What would they oppose, and what alternatives would they propose? Explore the notes made by two or three of your fellow participants. What patterns do you detect?

First, I like that doing a TEL MOOC has me reading up on Socrates. A good sign that pedagogy is at the forefront here.

Before I read the article I had the typical view of Socratic method: the scholar sitting at the feet of the master, with both asking questions of each other–the scholar asking the master for guidance, and the master asking leading questions in order to make the scholar think. I now know that Socratic practice–as opposed to method–also involved browbeating by the master. I’ll segregate method from practice here and focus on the method.

The idea that “Education is not a cramming in, but a drawing out” sits well with this cMOOC, and aligns with learner-centred teaching. The types of activities we’re doing in this MOOC–critical reflection on practices, dialogic practice, comparing one’s responses to others’–exemplify the “drawing out” approach to pedagogy. I’ve wondered before how this type of learning can be promoted/scaffolded by technology; ocTEL is providing an excellent example.

This interpretation of Socratic pedagogy conflicts with the pedagogy of Skinner’s teaching machines. In the Skinner video, there is no dialogue, no chance for students to ask questions, and no possibility of avoidance of the instructor’s “pre-determined views.” ocTEL participant Intelligent Ideation comes to the same conclusions.

Dialogue in the forums on the Skinner-Socrates comparison centres on the useful point that there is a place for both types of learning, and both types of technology. The trick is deploying the right types at the right points in the learning process.


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