Is the “teaching machine” an ugly ogre? Does it promise new blessing or new burden for the Church’s task in the world?

Whichever your answer, the arrival of the teaching machine for auto-instruction carries in its wake a widespread wash of devices and programming. Already 45 different kinds of commercial teaching machines are available. At least 104 companies are presently in various stages of producing programs or machines or both. Several publishing houses are working with manufacturers in producing efforts. Encyclopaedia Britannica Films reports programming sales amounting to $190,000 during the last three and one half months of 1961. Predicted sales are at least $3 million this year, $5 million in 1963, $6.5 million in 1964. This, for a movement initiated in 1958.

Use of the new learning technique in education show’s a corresponding gain. According to the National Education Association, procedures for 296 automated courses were prepared for general use last year, with 334 more scheduled this year. Programmed courses in mathematics, science, electronics and engineering, foreign languages and social studies are appearing, along with others. Even so, a shortage exists in materials and personnel for programming.

Even churches with huge education plants, or denominations urging effective use of audio-visual aids will not compete with the spiraling use of auto-instruction devices in industry. What significance have these commercial programs for church-related classes? The answer to that question lies in the nature of the device itself. What is it? Why is it effective? What are its possibilities and limitations for Christian education?

Auto-instruction devices have two aspects—programming and machines. In programming a goal is ...

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