When using test-preparation software, skills-building websites, typing tutors, and similar tools, students are experiencing teaching by technology. For previous generations of technology-using teachers, “edutainment” software was a popular method for teaching by technology. This software found students (for example) playing games in which they earned points by quickly answering math problems.
One of the more popular uses of teaching by technology for educators today is the use of test preparation platforms. These are cloud-based and customizable, so teachers can create class lists, define the content they want the system to present to students, and to set other variables. Students log on to the system (from any devices connected to the internet) and work through the lessons selected by the teacher. Later, the teacher can log on to the dashboard and see each student’s progress. Data specialists employed at the school may also access these dashboards to generate reports for various stakeholders, although access to the data in the reports must comply with FERPA protections of privacy.
Most educators recognize this approach is useful for only a limited type of lessons that can be effectively delivered by technology. These systems generally rely on students demonstrating learning by providing answers to questions that can be evaluated by an algorithm. Further, these systems depend on algorithms to determine what happens when students do not provide the expected answers. These are teaching by computers as once the teachers or other educators define them lessons to be presented, the system and its algorithms and programs (including the errors and biases) determine the experience for the students.
The publishers and vendors who produce platforms for teaching by computers seek to take advantage of the economy of scale. Once the system is produced, they can sell it to many schools and the development costs are distributed over the many clients. For this reason, these platforms tend to be written to address very general curriculum goals, and in many cases, the vendors seek to influence curriculum decisions so they create a market for their product regardless of the validity of the lessons.