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ICS Ph.D. Program
Research Practicum

Research in CSCL

Readings & Research in Cognitive Science

Fall Semester 1999

CSCI 7762, PSYC 7762, LING 7762, EDUC 6505, PHIL 7310

call #84520 -- one credit -- required for joint Cog. Sci. Ph.D.

"Computer Mediation of Collaborative Learning:

State of the Art & Beyond"

Instructor: Gerry Stahl


Time: Wednesdays 2:30 - 4:00 pm

Place: Computer lab, ECCH 105, Engineering Center

links to software

ICS is now hopeful that the Joint Ph.D. Program in Cognitive Science will be accredited in the near future and is offering this seminar for graduate students interested in meeting the requirements for that degree. Others are welcome to participate with permission of the instructor.

NEW.gif (1785 bytes)     New this semester:


Knowledge-Building Environments: the seminar will investigate, compare and assess state-of-the-art research prototypes and deployed collaborative learning technology systems (see What is a KBE?) -- based on last semester's theory of computer mediation (see Readings in Spring '99.)


Project-based: seminar participants will work in small interdisciplinary groups, reviewing readings and engaging in research on focused topics (see illustrative and proposed Seminar Projects.)


External collaborations: seminar projects will work with researchers at labs around the country and become a productive part of a larger research community (see proposal for KBE Interoperability collaboration.)


Research Practicum: participants may increase credit to 3 hours, complete their Research Practicum requirement and publish a paper (see Research Practicum requirements.)


Improved WebGuide 2000: research results and discussions of readings will take place in our own Collaborative Knowledge-Building Environment on the Web (see WebGuide Instructions.)

Description for Fall '99:

Carefully designed innovative software promises to provide powerful tools for groups of learners to collaborate in ways that significantly extend human cognitive abilities. Cognition can benefit both from collaboration and from computer support -- provided that we meet a number of serious educational, social and technical challenges. Effective design of software and learning practices requires an understanding of how such tools can mediate high-order mental and social cognition.

This semester’s seminar will research the state of the art in knowledge-building environments (KBEs) such as JIME, DynaSites, CSILE, KIE, CoVis, CoWeb, LearningSpace, WebCT, and WebGuide. It will explore directions for future development and use of this technology. This  research will build upon concepts of mediation and learning from last semester's readings, although people who did not previously participate are encouraged to join.

August 25 - September 8:

We will start by participating in a peer review process for the on-line Journal of Interactive Media in Education (JIME). We will collaboratively discuss and review a paper on "Affordances for learning in a non-linear narrative medium."

September 8 - September 22:

Then we will research collaborative Knowledge-Building Environments (KBEs):


How do we define a KBE? What is the theory underlying KBEs? Let's define the key concepts.


What are the seminal papers about KBEs? Let's build an annotated bibliography of these.

September 22 - December 8:

Seminar participants will be expected to define small, short-term, collaborative research projects and then exchange perspectives on this semester's topic based on their research findings. Interdisciplinary teams of 2-4 people (in Boulder & Dortmund) are encouraged. Illustrative issues (just examples to stimulate ideas):


Interdisciplinary: How do we define and assess learning in KBEs? How do we compare effectiveness of different KBE approaches and components? Is there a typology of KBEs?


Computer Science: Define a standardized XML format for a KBE. Develop tools for data interchange among KBEs and display tools to analyze and display the contents in ways relevant to research questions.


Education: How do the technical designs of different KBEs affect the scaffolding of classroom practices and content for their use? For instance, integrate a graphical rocket simulation, a graphing component and WebGuide for classroom trial.


Psychology: How can LSA be used by researchers to analyze discussion databases and how can KBEs use LSA to provide useful guidance to users?


Linguistics: How can the databases of KBEs be analyzed to determine communication and argumentation structures and to compare them to those of standard discussion forums and face-to-face class discussion.


Philosophy: How is meaning constructed, shared, internalized, mediated, preserved or distorted, alienated, reified through external representations in KBEs?

Seminar participants this semester will have an unprecedented opportunity to work with researchers at leading research labs across the country and around the world who are developing state-of-the-art knowledge-building environments. Class projects will involve working with these researchers to access inside information and data; and project results will be disseminated to the external researchers. The KBE development community is starting to collaborate (see KBE Interoperability proposal) and this seminar can play a central role in facilitating this important process.

Seminar participants can optionally earn three (3) credit hours per semester by integrating this seminar with the Research Practicum (the other two-semester requirement for the joint Ph.D. -- see ICS Ph.D. Program). This involves doing a more extensive interdisciplinary research project and submitting a journal article describing the findings (see Research Practicum).

This semester, the seminar will initially meet in a computer lab to collaboratively learn how to use WebGuide, a locally-implemented knowledge-building environment (see AERA '99 paper on WebGuide). During the summer, WebGuide is being upgraded to WebGuide 2000, based on ideas and experiences last semester. The seminar in the Fall will have an important impact upon the future development of WebGuide. Seminar participants will have 24-hour-a-day access to the computer lab to engage in on-line discussion and collaborative knowledge building.

Approach of course:

This seminar is primarily intended for graduate students in computer science, education, psychology, linguistics and  philosophy. Other people can participate with permission of the instructor. This course is a core part of the ICS joint Ph.D. in Cognitive Science; it provides an opportunity for students from diverse departments to get together regularly, discuss stimulating readings in cognitive science and work collaboratively on interdisciplinary projects. It involves readings and research related to innovative theories and methodologies of cognitive science. Participants will share interdisciplinary perspectives through in-class and on-line discussion of research papers and of their own research.

The content of this course changes every semester because candidates for the joint Ph.D. in Cognitive Science are required to pass two semesters of the course. Students are encouraged to continue participating beyond this requirement. Each semester will discuss a particular textual presentation of a theory of cognitive science or pursue research that is relevant for the fields of philosophy, linguistics, psychology, education and computer science.

The Instructor:

Gerry Stahl is a Research Professor in ICS (Institute of Cognitive Science), CS (Computer Science) and L3D (Center for LifeLong Learning & Design). He brings an interdisciplinary background to this course, having his undergraduate degree from MIT in math and humanities, a PhD from Northwestern in philosophy (with research on social theory at Frankfurt and Heidelberg), and a PhD from CU in AI & computer science. He is currently involved with interdisciplinary research efforts and is developing the software (WebGuide) that will be used and analyzed in the seminar. See his home page for links to his publications. See the WebGuide site for WebGuide publications and related information.


Students are expected to engage in interdisciplinary research projects, read related papers and produce brief on-line notes throughout the semester. Students must make significant contributions to the class’ shared interpretation of the texts and research being discussed. This includes participation in class discussion and in textual analysis or in research teams. An on-line knowledge-building environment will be used as a medium for supporting the evolution of text interpretations and research results. Students must contribute both by entering their ideas into this shared knowledge base and by reflecting upon, annotating and organizing the materials that others have entered. This means that students will have to compose several brief analytic comments on a weekly basis. They will have to read and comment upon the ideas of other students. There will be no final paper. There will be no exams. Everyone who participates fully in the collaborative effort will pass the course and receive credit within the ICS joint Ph.D. in Cognitive Science program.

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