Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Learning machines!

Stanley Portier ( talked about a book of Dr. Marcel Mirande. I bought it and it was a nice book to read in the plane on my way to the EU project meeting in Innsbruck.

This book (only available in Dutch, see the website) is a lean and mean book about the 'learning machines'. In about 60 pages Mirande shows and analyse the development of the integration of technology in the timeframe 1925 – 2005. Actually he starts with one of the oldest examples of the use of a technical innovation in educational situations: the use of learning materials by the Romans (200 AC).

Romans with their learning machines.

The first modern learning machine was the one designed by Pressey from the Ohio State University. He created a testing machine. A Questionmark Perception avant la lettre. The machine even was able to keep the scores of the multiple choice questions. The next example is the machine of Skinner. As we know this was a bit more successful. It was a machine with a kind of adaptive presentation of learning objects.

Pressey's machine (1926)

It goes on and on. The most interesting is the way people perceiving these technologies. Till now the most inventions became never a solid and accepted tool. The reason was not the technical problems or difficulties but rather the fear of teachers and schools for the assumed replacements of teachers by machines.

Mirande state that the tipping point is now reached. With the implementations of learning environments like BlackBoard for the first time of the history of learning machines, the penetration is a successful and serious one. You can discuss the effectiveness and the additional value of the use of the learning environments but at least there is a solid base of users. Both within the group of teachers as within the student population.

Now it is time that we (all the people involved in learning) start to optimize the use of learning tools. Because the quality is still not in the tools but in the learning process!

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