FAST45 Learning Platform Public Lecture II – The History of the Future of the Learning Platform

Learning Platform Public Lecture II – The History of the Future of the Learning Platform

Prof. Audrey Watters

25 February 2022

16:00 – 18:00 CET

The History of the Future of the Learning Platform

How do the stories we tell about the history and the future of education (and education technology) shape our beliefs about teaching and learning — the beliefs of educators, as well as those of the general public?

This talk will explore the long history of “personalised learning” — visions for an automated future of education that are almost one hundred years old. Contrary to popular belief, ed tech did not begin with videos on the internet. The idea of technology that would allow students to go at their own pace did not originate in Silicon Valley. In this public lecture, education writer Audrey Watters offers an insightful history of predigital educational technology, from Sidney Pressey’s mechanised positive-reinforcement provider to B. F. Skinner’s behaviourist bell-ringing box.

Watters shows that these machines and the pedagogy that accompanied them sprang from ideas–bite-sized content, individualised instruction–that had legs and were later picked up by textbook publishers and early advocates for computerised learning. Watters pays particular attention to the role of the media–newspapers, magazines, television, and film– in shaping people’s perceptions of teaching machines as well as the psychological theories underpinning them. She considers these machines in the context of education reform, the political reverberations of Sputnik, and the rise of the testing and textbook industries. Telling these somewhat cautionary tales, Watters challenges what she calls the teleology of ed tech–the idea that not only is computerised education inevitable, technological progress is the sole driver of events.

Introducing guest speaker Audrey Watters:

Audrey Watters is a writer on education and technology. She is the creator of the popular blog Hack Education ( and the author of widely read annual reviews of educational technology news and products. Her latest book, Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning, was published by MIT Press in 2021.

Join this event

This is the second lecture of the Learning Platform Public Lecture Series in the FAST45 research project. This series is hosted by TU Dublin.

FAST45 investigates alternative futures for institutions of higher arts education in Europe.

For more information, visit:

FAST45 is funded by the Erasmus + Knowledge Alliance programme of the European Union.

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Posted by Maarin Ektermann