Archive for January 3, 2018

Do we really want computerized personalized tutoring systems? Answer: Yes

An excerpt from Mitchel Resnick’s new book Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play is published below in the Hechinger Report.  Mitchel argues against computerized personal tutoring systems, because they are only good for “highly structured and well-defined knowledge.”  Because we don’t know how to build these tutoring systems to teach important topics like creativity and ethics.

Agreed, but we are not currently reaching all students with the “highly structured and well-defined knowledge” that we want them to have. We prefer students to have well-educated teachers, and we want students to learn creativity and ethics, too. But if we can teach topics like mathematics well with personalized tutoring systems, why shouldn’t we use them?  Here in Atlanta, students are not learning mathematics well (see blog post referencing an article by Kamau Bobb). We have good results on teaching students algebra with cognitive tutors.

Here’s my concern: Wealthy schools can reject computerized personal tutoring systems because they can afford well-trained teachers, which means that there is less of a demand for computerized personal tutoring systems. Lower demand means higher costs, which means that less-wealthy schools can’t afford them. If we encourage more computerized personal tutoring systems where they are appropriate, more of them get created, they get better, and they get cheaper.

But I’m skeptical about personalized tutoring systems. One problem is that these systems tend to work only in subject areas with highly structured and well-defined knowledge. In these fields, computers can assess student understanding through multiple-choice questions and other straightforward assessments. But computers can’t assess the creativity of a design, the beauty of a poem, or the ethics of an argument. If schools rely more on personalized tutoring systems, will they end up focusing more on domains of knowledge that are easiest to assess in an automated way?

Source: OPINION: Do we really want computerized systems controlling the learning process? – The Hechinger Report

January 3, 2018 at 7:00 am 6 comments


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