Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning, 2021.


  • Irina Tursunkulova University of British Columbia




teaching machines, education technology, personalized education, programmed instruction


Teaching Machines by journalist Audrey Watters blends the historical and political events of 1920-1960s in the United States and the changes in the K-12 school system, chronicling the rapid development of educational technology markets to show the inception and evolution of teaching machines. The author expresses her indignance towards Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who continue launching educational businesses, under the assumption that their “new” technological breakthrough will change the “stagnant” field of education technology. This book explicates how the “new idea” of personalized learning offered by current educational technology companies and industries dates back a century to the 1920s.

Author Biography

Irina Tursunkulova, University of British Columbia

Irina Tursunkulova is a Ph.D. student in the Language and Literacy Department, Faculty of Education at The University of British Columbia. An emerging scholar in the field of educational technology and having the opportunity to study in international contexts - Uzbekistan, Russian Federation, USA, and Canada - she aspires to research the professional development needs of practicing teachers in virtual educational settings.


Crowder, N. A. (1963). On the Differences between Linear and Intrinsic Programing. The Phi Delta Kappan, 44(6), 250–254. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20342926

Gates, A. I. (1962, April 17). The Papers of Burrhus Frederic Skinner. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Archives.

Lumsdaine, A. A. (1960). Some issues concerning devices and programs for automated learning. In Lumsdaine, A. A. & Glaser, R. (Eds.), Teaching machines and programmed learning. Washington D. C.: National Education Association. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F002248716101200225

Pressey, S. L. (1963). Teaching Machine (and Learning Theory) crisis. Perspectives in Psychology, 47(1), 126–130. https://doi.org/10.1037/14156-012

Skinner, B. F. (1960). Pigeons in a pelican. The American Psychologist, 15(1), 28-37. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0045345

Skinner, B. F. (1983). A Matter of Consequences. New York: Knopf.

Watters, A. (2018, March 7). (Searching for) Norman A. Crowder and the AutoTutor [web log]. http://teachingmachin.es/2018/03/27/crowder

Watters, A. (2021). Teaching machines: The history of personalized learning. MIT Press. https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/12262.001.0001






Book Review