I’ve often quipped that, to borrow from historian Ellen Condliffe Lagemann’s assertion that “Dewey lost; Thorndike won,” when it comes to ed-tech “Papert lost, and Skinner won.” But Teaching Machines isn’t really a book of quips, and in order to make the argument that Skinner has continued to have an enormous influence on education technology, I thought I might try to make a list of his students and colleagues – a bit like the networks I’ve tried to map out for ed-tech investment and such – and see if there’s anything interesting to be gleaned.

Note: This list is a work in progress, so if you know someone who isn’t listed, please do let me know!

  • James Holland (worked in the Harvard teaching machine lab; co-authored with Skinner of The Analysis of Behavior, a “program for self-instruction”)
  • Ben Wyckoff (studied under Skinner at the University of Indiana; chairman of Teaching Machines, Inc.)
  • Lloyd Homme (worked in the Harvard teaching machine lab; co-founder of Teaching Machines, Inc.)
  • Susan Meyer Markle (worked in the Harvard teaching machine lab)
  • Douglas Porter (worked in the Harvard teaching machine lab)
  • Wells Hively (worked in the Harvard teaching machine lab)
  • Robert Gable (the inventor, along with his brother, of the ankle monitor)
  • Shoshana Zuboff (I’m not sure I’d describe her as a student of Skinner’s; but she did get her PhD from Harvard while he was a professor and writes in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism about his lectures and seminars)
  • Ogden Lindsley (founded the Behavior Research Lab at Harvard Medical School; student of Skinner)
  • Robert Epstein (student of Skinner; founder and director emeritus of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies)
  • Nathan Azrin (student of Skinner; the author of Toilet Training in Less Than a Day)
  • Matthew Israel (student of Skinner; worked in the teaching machine lab at Harvard)
  • Kenneth MacCorquodale (student of Skinner; worked on methodology of operant conditioning)

Audrey Watters


Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning

Audrey Watters, (MIT Press 2021)

Back to Archives