read

I arrived at Landgraf Hall a little earlier today, but archival research is hard work, and I’ve left a little earlier too. My back is killing me.

But I made huge progress today through the materials that I was hoping to find – letters to and from Reynold Johnson documenting his attempts to sell IBM his “Markograph,” the automated test scoring machine he’d invented as a high school teacher in Minnesota.

I’m interested in this development in part because it helps show where corporate interests were in educational machinery – in testing and in typewriters (something I wrote about yesterday with regards to Ben D. Wood, whose papers I’m exploring.) I keep writing “poor Sidney Pressey” in my notebook because he seemed so unaware that there were all these other machinations underway – ones that he had no access to in Columbus, Ohio perhaps.

Most of the papers materials I went through today involved IBM. Wood had an incredibly close relationship with Thomas B. Watson, IBM’s founder who funded the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia (among other projects of Wood’s.) One can see in Wood the ways in which the history of educational testing and corporation’s role in education (and education technology) is deeply intertwined.

(IBM is pretty important to my narrative. IBM turned down Pressey. IBM had a bad business relationship with Skinner. IBM acquired Spencer's company, SRA. And so on.)

Also: there was a fair amount of red baiting in the correspondence between IBM and Wood, which – I’m not sure why, to be honest – I found a little shocking.

Audrey Watters


Published

Teaching Machines

A Hack Education Project

Back to Archives