Sidney Pressey’s Automatic Teacher

Pressey-Testing-Machine

Pressey wanted the Automatic Teacher to give the human teacher more time for individual students (…) The machine was built out of typewriter parts and employed an intelligence test with 30 questions (…) The user responded to text question using four keys; each time the user pressed a key the machine advanced the test paper to the next question, but the counter registered only correct answers (…) In December 1925 Pressey began to seek investors, first among publishers and manufacturers of typewriters, adding machines, and mimeograph machines, and later, in the spring of 1926, extending his search to scientific instrument makers (…) in contrast to his peers, investors failed to see the virtues of Pressey’s machine (…) multiple efforts were made by him to massively the machine (he even invested his own money) but high production costs and difficulties in alignment made dragged production to an halt (…) after several attempts Pressey publicly admitted defeat. In a third and final School and Society article, he skewered education as “the one major activity in this country which is still in a crude handicraft stage (…) The Automatic Teacher was a technology of normalization, but it was at the same time a product of liberality.

 

References

  1. Petrina, S., 2004. Sidney Pressey and the Automation of Education, 1924-1934. In Technology and Culture, 45(2): 305-330, DOI: 10.1353/tech.2004.0085, full text available here

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