Cognition & Technology
CEP 909
Fall 2005
Stuff by day

Class meets Thursdays, 12:40-3:30, in 128 Erickson Hall


I am an Assistant Professor in the Learning, Technology, and Culture program at MSU. I have a background in mathematics, computer science, cognitive psychology, and educational psychology.

At the broadest level, my research is focused on understanding how the affordances and constraints of technology may interact with educational theory to advance pedagogy. This has developed into two main strands of research. The first is an intense study of how new technologies might be well-suited to help learners (especially teachers) acquire new knowledge, skills, or understanding in complex and ill-structured domains. The second front of action is a study in how to help teachers make connections between technology and effective pedagogical uses.

Check out my website for more information!


Welcome to CEP 909, where we explore the relationship between cognition and technology. The main goal of this course is to use cognitive theory as a lens for understanding and studying educational technology. We will cover the the latest research in educational technology using more traditional approaches, but we will also situate this learning in the context of designing and conducting our own experiment into the learning afforded by games (more on this later). A rough outline of what we will cover during the semester is as follows:

Early Weeks: Background readings and discussion about cognitive psychology and information processing theories of mind. We'll also do some classic cognitive psychology experiments on ourselves! Issues of how information is represented in the brain are emphasized. We'll need this understanding of cognitive theory for the rest of the course, as we will use this theory as a lens for studying learning in technology rich environments. We will also discuss the game(s) we want to study and what learning they might afford.

Middle Weeks: Armed with our firm footing in cognitive theory, we'll begin to move into what the research has to say about learning with some of the more recent technologies (e.g., web, video, games, simulations, etc.). This will be further informed by our own explorations into methodologies for assessing people's learning while working with technology. Including measurements of their understanding, their knowledge, skills, and their underlying representations. At the same time, we'll be developing measures and methodologies for our own experiment into game based learning.

Later Weeks : We'll continue our reading into recent research into learning with technology, but focus more and more on our own study that we have been designing. This will include data collection and analyses. Time allowing, we'll move into discussing more philosophical issues, including artificial intelligence, and the future of educational technology.


Semester Long Investigation

Too often, students are consumers of educational technology research, with little experience in building the kinds of studies that they read about. In this class, we try to fix that by using the semester to show the complete cycle of research: from formulation of an idea, all the way to presentation of results (which opens up new ideas).

Accordingly, throughout the semester, we will work as a class as a research team whose aim is to uncover the affordances of technology for learning. This year, we are interested in the learning afforded by games in particular. As a group, we will pick a game (or games) to study, identify the possible learning afforded by the game, and try to design a study that will investigate the impact of this game.

This means, that portions of nearly every class period, and week of the course, will be devoted to some group work around designing and conducting this study (real research is done in groups, hardly ever alone). We will do everything, from picking the materials, the research questions, design the measures, collect the data, analyze the data and present to our peers.

More details on this project as it emerges.


Other Activities Students Will be Doing

  • Reading - You have to do the readings. I will find out if you haven't.
  • Writing - Every week you'll be writing something short (a weekly homework of sorts).
  • Talking - You must talk in class (hint: this is a good way to show you have done the readings).
  • Posting - Every week, you should post something to the class via the yahoo group. Either a question, and opinion, or raise an issue. Just contribute!
  • Peer Reading - Every week you should read what someone else in class has done, and come prepared to talk about it when class starts.
  • Think - This class will ask you to try out ideas you might not agree with, but think them through and give them a try.
  • Argue - It's okay to disagree, in fact in many instances, it's encouraged. Be prepared to defend your ideas though. And you must "play nice" when arguing.
  • Collaborate - You're going to have to work in groups, and get along with team members (hint: this is important for your grade).
  • Joke - Be funny, it helps make class more pleasant.
  • Attend Class - Everyone is allowed to miss class for a good reason, but you have to tell the instructor.
  • Have Fun - That's what it's all about, right? (Or was that the hokey pokey?)
  • Watch Green Bay Packers Games - Okay, just seeing if you're paying attention. In fact this is a requirement for the instructor, not the students.


Yahoo Groups

This course makes extensive use of Yahoo groups. We use it two ways. First, we use it as a group mailing list, so that we can mail each other easily outside of class. Second, we use it to store files securely, and yet still be able to share them amongst ourselves (this will be useful as we develop materials for our study). There is a link to the Yahoo group on the top of every page in this site. We will enroll students in the yahoo group on the first day of class.


Participation (24% of your grade)

This refers to your level of participation both in class (12%) and out of class (12%) using email. In class, I expect each student to generally contribute (but not dominate) to a conversation. Outside of class, students should raise questions about the readings, or talk about ideas that excite them. Generally think about posting something once a week. Of course, the number of contributions is no way to judge the quality of a contribution, but if you're not saying anything, the obviously there is not much participation. If you are participating, then there is a somewhat subjective component to evaluating your contribution to the class. If you have any questions about how you are doing, feel free to ask me.


Students' Digital Portfolio (10% of your grade)

Every week, students will be asked to read and write on the current topic. Feel free to browse the weekly assignments in the "Schedule" section of the website.

We want to create a scholarly community in which people habitually share their ideas, both verbally and in written form. Since this is a "Ed-Tech" class, this means doing so in an electronic medium, i.e., the web. Students are required to post these assignments on a web-portfolio, of their own design, by 11:59pm on Wed night before the next Thurs class period. And students are expected to read other students work as well (the other half of the community dialog). There are other reasons for pushing for this web-portfolio, of course. Developing a web-presence is rapidly becoming a necessity for anyone in the field of educational technology, and if this course can be used as a stepping stone to a bigger web presence, then I welcome that development.

Of course, not all students may have the skills at the beginning of the course to make this happen right away. I understand this. However, all students are expected to develop the skills over the course of the semester, so that fairly early into the course, they can have a minimal web portfolio of their work available. In the meantime, the Yahoo! group we use of the course is a way for these students to share work with their fellow students (and instructor).

The teaching of web-skills will not be an explicit part of this course. However, I will point you to resources, and your classmates will be another resource as well. And I am available as resource out of class as well.

The grading of your portfolio is mostly graded on whether or not you were able to create a web portfolio in a timely matter (8%), with the remaining grade going to good design considerations (2%).


Weekly Assignments (33% of your grade)

Each week, there will be a short homework assignment related to the topic in the readings. Every week, your homework will be graded on your willingness to read, engage with, and use ideas brought up in the course. Each is graded on a 5 point scale.

  • 5 Points - Goes beyond the requirements of the assignment, and makes good connections to the course readings and outside readings. Careful attention to good writing
  • 4 Points -
  • 3 Points - Meets the requirements of the assignment, and connects to the readings, ideas presented in class, or other students' work.
  • 2 points -
  • 1 point - Incomplete, not answering the question posed. Not including any connections to the readings or other people's work.
  • Each day the assignment is late will result in a one point deduction.

Group Project (33%)

On our way to designing the experiment on learning from games, you will be working in a group throughout the semester. Your effort on the experiment, and the group project, is assigned in this component of your grade. This component of your grade is broken up as follows:

  • 1/3 of is determined by estimation of your own contribution and efforts to the project
  • 1/3 is determined by evaluation of your group as a whole. There will be many mini-assignments given to groups, and how your group does on these assignments will determine how your group is evaluated here. Everyone in the group receives the same evaluation for this 1/3.
  • 1/3 will be the final presentation of results which will happen on the last day of the class.


Readings for this course will be provided to you as .pdf files. Make sure you get the latest version of acrobat reader.

* Required

  • Sept 1 - Intro to Cognitive Psychology

    * Pinker, S. (1997). Chapter 2: Thinking machines. In S. Pinker, How the mind works (pp. 59-110). W.W. Norton and Company: New York. (Download part 1, Download Part 2) NOTE: The pdf contains more than the required reading, the rest is optional.

    * Anderson, J.R. (2005). Chapter 1: The science of cognition. In J.R. Anderson, Cognitive science and its implications (pp. 1-35). Worth Publishers: New York. (Download)

    Pinker, S. (1997) How the Mind Works (pp. 1-58). W.W. Norton and Company: New York. (Download part 1, Download part 2, Download part 3).

    Ashcraft, M. (1989). Human Memory and Cognition (pp. 1-35). Scott, Foresman and Company: Glenview, IL. (Download) The missing pages are available. NOTE: This is a review of the historical context. If you know all of this from CEP 911, browse through the familiar parts quickly, and pay more attention to the newer parts.

Sept 8 – Short-term Memory & Perception

* Anderson, J.R. (2005). Chapter 6: Human memory and encoding. In J.R. Anderson, Cognitive science and its implications (pp. 171-203). Worth Publishers: New York. (Download)

* Ashcraft, M. (1989). Short-term working memory (pp. 136-185). Scott, Foresman and Company: Glenview, IL. (Download) NOTE: This is a little out of date, but it has some ideas curiously missing from the Anderson reading.

Pinker, S. (1997). Chapter 2: Thinking machines. In S. Pinker, How the mind works (pp. 111-148). W.W. Norton and Company: New York. (Download) NOTE: The pdf contains more than the required reading, the rest is optional.

Anderson, J.R. (2005). Chapter 2: Perception. In J.R. Anderson, Cognitive science and its implications (pp. 36-71). Worth Publishers: New York. (Download)

Sept 15 – Visual Representations

* Anderson, J.R. (2005). Chapter 4: Perception-based knowledge representations. In J.R. Andersons, Cognitive science and its implications (pp. 106-138). Worth Publishers: New York. (Download)

* Pinker, S. (1997). Chapter 4: The mind's eye. In S. Pinker, How the mind works (pp. 283-296). W.W. Norton and Company: New York. (Download)

Pylyshyn, Z. (2003). Return of the mental image: are there really pictures in the brain? TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences, 7(3), 113-118. (Download)

Sept 15 – Long-term Memory

* Anderson, J.R. (2005). Chapter 5: Abstraction of information into memory. In J.R. Andersons, Cognitive science and its implications (pp. 139-170). Worth Publishers: New York. (Download)

Ashcraft, M. (1989). Chapter 5: Episodic-long term memory (pp. 187-245). In M. Ashcraft, Human memory and cognition. Scott, Foresman and Company: Glenview, IL. (Download)