Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Teaching the Many, Rather than the Few

Four decades before the MOOC, a 1970 essay anticipates the potential boon of an education by computer.

  • December 18, 2014

Excerpted from “Computers in Human Society: For Good or Ill?” by MIT professor Robert M. Fano, from the March 1970 Technology Review.

“One of my greatest frustrations as a teacher has been my inability to meet simultaneously the needs of all my students. Students differ greatly from one another, not only in their intellectual capabilities: some proceed from the general to the specific; others from the specific to the general; some refuse to pay attention to details before they have acquired an overall view, while others cannot see the forest before having examined each tree. Individual instruction is the ideal answer; however, the necessary number of qualified teachers is just not available. Computers, if properly used, may provide a way out.

“Computer-aided instruction is often misleadingly described as ‘replacing teachers with computers.’ This interpretation implies mechanizing, rather than personalizing, education. Instead, we should strive for an interaction between teacher and student through the medium of a computer system. The goal is to make it possible for a teacher to provide individual guidance to many students instead of a few.

This story is part of our January/February 2015 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

“We may envision computer-aided instruction operating as follows: Each student uses the material stored in the computer system, learning and answering questions, under control of a program appropriate to his needs. The teacher monitors progress, and modifies the control program for each student as needed. If a student encounters difficulties, the teacher is called to give personal assistance through his own computer terminal.

“This opportunity hinges on bringing the power of computers to the service of the individual, a significant departure from the attitudes and trends that prevail today.”

Meet the Experts in AI, Robotics and the Economy at EmTech Next.

Learn more and register
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.