Comment of the Day: RW: Disrupting Education: "'Will we ever create tech (even for a few subjects) that will work as well as good one-on-one tutoring?'...
...That already has been done in a limited, skill-building way; e.g., Kahn Academy as noted in the root ms of this thread. But teaching is more complicated than that; e.g., developing the abilities of groups of students who are not your own children or even your own tribe introduces wrinkles even before you get the question of what kinds of abilities the students might consider most valuable. Tech can't be about teaching (yet) and if it is to be about tutoring at more complex levels it needs to emphasize tech's strengths rather than attempting to emulate teachers; i.e., what computers do best is exhaustive data traversal and rules-based analysis.
NB: Years ago I had a discussion with some folks developing a biochemistry program at UCLA that involved tracking each student's steps in solving a problem set and generated a report showing the path each student took. This was not constrained to achieving the correct answer or even just the number of steps it took. The program conducted a path analysis and one of the report elements was how 'splayed' the path appeared; that is, did the path reveal a tighter pattern suggestive of conceptual understanding or did it suggest the student was following leads in unprofitable directions, not intuitively sure of where the answer might lie. Not sure where that program wound up but it seemed like the right idea to me: let the computer do what it does best then let the teacher do what they do best.
"In the last analysis, we must come to the inevitable conclusion that education can be imparted only by a teacher and not wholly by a method ... Just as a water tank can be filled only with water and fire can be kindled with fire, life can be inspired with life ... However it may be, we want a human being in every sphere of our life. The mere pill of a method instead shall not bring us salvation." –Rabindranath Tagore