Author Annie Murphy Paul, who writes our Learning Smarter column, writes about a free online tutoring system that attempts to emulate human interaction in this weekend's New York Times Education Issue.
The creator of the tutoring program comes to a conclusion: "'Let computers do what computers are good at, and people do what people are good at.' Computers excel in following a precise plan of instruction. A computer never gets impatient or annoyed. But it never gets excited or enthusiastic either. Nor can a computer guide a student through an open-ended exploration of literature or history. It’s no accident that ASSISTments and other computerized tutoring systems have focused primarily on math, a subject suited to computers’ binary language. While a computer can emulate, and in some ways exceed, the abilities of a human teacher, it will not replace her. Rather, it’s the emerging hybrid of human and computer instruction — not either one alone — that may well transform education."