Thursday, September 11, 2014

Is it TechNo or TechYes?

This is a continuation from a post I made in Google Plus, and I wanted to be sure that I put my thoughts to paper, so to speak.  

I started with: 
I've seen a number of articles about "teaching machines" lately, and I enjoy reflecting over the connections this has with my work.  Are "Blending" and "Personalization" old news?  Are we just recycling old concepts under new names?  Does this current movement with educational technology have a predictable outcome?  

But, I must continue with: 
Today I read this article by Audrey Watters on Teaching Machines, which speaks to the importance of context and looks through a history of EdTech to evaluate the idea of "can a machine teach?"  It's an interesting argument.  

While the connections to today's technology, and yesteryear's (even the language around the rationales) is clear, I can't help wondering if this time it isn't different.  I imagine each generation has this same struggle with trying to assert the uniqueness of their approach, so my guess is that even my inclination to say, "yeah, but my situation is different" is predictable.  

Nevertheless, I can clearly see differences between today's technology and the learning machines of the past.  Some of these differences are obvious, like materials, design, and interface, but the interactivity, connectedness and the concept of being both consumer and contributor in the same interactive learning space seems to serve as "x" factors previously unseen.  

I see a functional difference between a faceless person writing questions for a "teaching machine," and people interacting in real time.  Perhaps this is the real issue with scale and context.  For past teaching machines to do their thing, it would be dependent upon  small groups of individuals crafting the programs and questions that the machine, which would be available over broad distances, would then assess.   In this model, scaling would dismiss context.  Specifically, the "scaling" really is about the the people writing the questions and programs.   This model is dependent upon a confidence that those people have the knowledge, and the rest of us will consume it via the machine.   

I am curious about how the internet changes this paradigm.   More specifically, the internet allows for multi-directional dialogue.   The pedagogue could be anyone, and not just the programmers and questions writers.  Functionally, it becomes less about the machine, and more about the interaction between the people on either end of the machine.