Cognitive Process Instruction: Research on Teaching Thinking Skills

By Jack Lochhead; John Clement | Go to book overview

The Computer as a Personal
Assistant for Learning
Ira P. Goldstein and John Seely BrownFollowing is a revised version of testimony given before the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Domestic and International Scientific Planning, Analysis, and Cooperation, October 12, 1977.We believe that a revolution will occur over the next decade that will transform learning in our society, radically altering the methods and the content of education and deeply affecting the individual at work, at home and at school. This revolution will result from harnessing tomorrow's powerful computer technology to serve as personal assistants for learning. We foresee personal computers performing as assistants, coaches and consultants, becoming, in time, an intellectual resource as ubiquitous but more powerful than today's primary learning technology--the book, and as captivating but more active than today's primary leisure technology--the television. In this paper, we sketch briefly several paradigmatic examples of learning assistants and indicate how they derive from a synergistic union of computer science, information processing psychology and artificial intelligence research. This sketch is intended to provide an overview of the potential role of computers as learning assistants, rather than provide a detailed account of the underlying technology.
WE ARE AT THE BEGINNING OF AN INFORMATION REVOLUTION
While it is no longer revolutionary to assert that powerful personal computers will become widespread over the next decade (see Scientific American, September, 1977), it may seem impossible that they can be insightful teachers, responding appropriately to a wide range of unanticipated situations. Page turners, drill and practice monitors--of course. Troubleshooting consultant, mathematical assistant, intellectual coach--incredible! It is our objective here to demonstrate that what would have been an incredible role for computers in the 1960's is an inevitable one for the 1980's. We shall do so by describing three prototypes of the computer as consultant, assistant and coach, respectively.These prototypes are built upon an emerging cognitive technology, the central concern of which is to provide computers with an ability to understand the learner--that is, understand both his task knowledge and his learning style. Its approach is:
to use techniques of artificial intelligence to represent problem-solving expertise within the computer, thereby escaping the limitations of traditional, frame-based computer assisted instruction (CAI).

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