#ocTEL Activity 1.3: Champions and critics of teaching machines

May 12, 2014 in Blog post, Reader

I enjoyed watching the short video on “Teaching Machines” presented by B.F. Skinner (exact date is unverified but believed to be in the 1950s). It reminded me of many of the discussions I have taken part in (and am still taking part in) over the years.

This is also a super resource in order to get a quick overview of instructional design over the decades :

This activity asks us to pick one or two of the following thinkers or approaches and read a bit about them  and then think about: What would they like about the Teaching Machines approach? What would they oppose, and what alternatives would they propose?  The list is:  Socratic MethodCommunities of Practice,  Etienne WengerJean LavePaulo FreireIvan IllichSocial ConstructivismActor Network TheoryEmergent Learning Model

I’m going to take a look at Communities of Practice and Social Constructivism to begin with and then see if I have time to take a peek at the others.

Communities of Practice are collective and interactive. They involve discussion and help and necessarily have three components which are domain, community and practice.

“From this perspective, the school is not the privileged locus of learning. It is not a self-contained, closed world in which students acquire knowledge to be applied outside, but a part of a broader learning system. The class is not the primary learning event. It is life itself that is the main learning event. Schools, classrooms, and training sessions still have a role to play in this vision, but they have to be in the service of the learning that happens in the world.”

I don’t really think the learning machine approach sits very comfortably with the Communities of Practice model set out by Wenger and Lave.

There is a concise description of Social Constructivism here:

This resonates with me as it is very much linked to my own research around cultural identity and how this may change through the experience of studying abroad.

We see in the document that “Social constructivism extends constructivism into social settings, wherein groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings.”

There is not much constructing of knowledge for one another in a collaborative way with the teaching machine approach.

From the additional resources I particularly enjoyed watching and listening to the presentation by Eric Mazur –  An abridged version of Eric Mazur’s presentation “Confessions of a Converted Lecturer”:

This is a description of a journey that I think many of us who teach have been on. A few insights from the presentation: We need to “shift the focus from teaching to helping students learn”

“The lecture method is a process whereby the lecture notes of the instructor get transferred to the notebooks of the students without passing through the brains of either!”

“The better you know something, the more difficult it is to teach” I particularly resonate with this last quote.

To see Eric Mazur in action doing an interactive lecture, check out this short video:

Here is a learning theories map from the HoTEL project (Holistic Approaches to Technology Enhanced Learning). This is a great interactive version of the image I posted a few days ago:

Here is another useful site to get an overview of learning theories:

1 response to The open course you cannot fail…

  1. Dear Maren

    “Lurkers” vs “Silent participants”?

    Here are a few other terms that could be used:

    vicarious learners?
    silent participants?
    Non-public user?
    legitimate peripheral participator?
    virtual participant?
    marginal participant?
    passive observer?
    cognitive apprentices?
    potential member?
    proximate member?
    tacit member?

    See Let’s get more positive about the term ‘lurker’

    Which term best reflects the degree/ style/ of learning? If you read a book, but never talk about it, have you learned any less?

    Best wishes


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