It’s interesting to look back and see the past attitudes people held towards computers, especially in the educational space.  People actually actively feared that computers would replace the teacher.  While some of that holds true today (some people can earn college degrees online), there are still teachers.  We just use computers as educational aides.  I was shocked to hear that my high school had given all the students an iPad!  I couldn’t believe it.

In the early 1980’s, the advent of microcomputers made increased computational power available at a cost the schools could afford. More than a million personal computers were estimated to be in use in the schools by 1985. Applications had not stood still. The boundaries of computer-aided instruction have expanded beyond drill and practice. Software is now available for a variety of games and simulations designed to advance teaching, particularly in math and science.

Although an estimated 10,000 educational software items are available, their quality is acknowledged to vary wildly. Most school districts lack personnel with the expertise to discriminate among the products on the market. In the case of the better software programs, evaluations may indicate that such software enhances instruction, but by and large cannot show convincingly that the improvement is more than marginal.

When AI-influenced systems become available, the attitudes of teachers and teacher organizations will be germane. Resistance could arise from reasons ranging from computer fear to predictions that the computer will replace the teacher. And despite the likelihood that hardware costs will continue their incredible shrinking pattern, the investment required will daunt many school districts.

AI applications in business and the military have outpaced those in education in part because such organizations have the resources to invest in systems that are often designed specifically for them and that they see as cost effective. Many of the new AI systems being used in business for a variety of troubleshooting and decision-making tasks are based on AI research on building expert systems, a way of organizing the knowledge of experts to enable nonexperts to solve particular technical problems. A prototypical application was in medical diagnosis.

Excerpt:  Walsh, John. “Computers in class at the awkward age.” Science 233 (1986): 713+

It will be interesting to see how computers will alter education in the future.  Our partner website at No More Sad Computer has a few great articles on this subject.  We definitely think that the best way to influence the decisions made by our educators is to look back and see the advantages that increasing technology has brought us in the educational sphere, and that we should not fear nor fight the future.

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