I’ve been pretty aware of how angry that voice is in the last few HEWNs I’ve sent out. And I know that that’s my reputation: I’m ed-tech’s Cassandra. A very very pissed off one at that.

I didn’t want Teaching Machines to be an angry book as much as I wanted it to be an interesting and honest one. Early in the writing process, I talked to several people who said they would be more interested in reading a narrative than in reading criticism or analysis.

So that’s sort of what I wrote: the story of teaching machines from the late 1920s thru the late 1960s; the story of bureaucratic and technological educational reforms in post-war America; the story of Sidney Pressey and B. F. Skinner; and the story of how corporations really screwed those two psychologists over as the “business of education” expanded its hold on public schools.

But now, re-reading my draft, I do recognize that I need to interject my analysis, my voice a lot more. I mean, I have opinions on all that I’ve written – opinions on behaviorism, business, politics, and so on. I can try to play the part of a dispassionate journalist, I suppose. But I’m not one. Most of the people familiar with my work know that.

So the trick with these revisions is to integrate the narrative and the analysis. I’m not sure I’ve entirely figured that out yet.

Audrey Watters


Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning

Audrey Watters, (MIT Press 2021)

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