Title of the course
Conceptual Foundations of Cognitive Science
Topic/Overview of course
Foundational introduction to the cognitive sciences. Two primary themes: (1) causal issues: cognitive and computational architecture (digitality, implementation, etc.), constraints of physical embodiment, neuroscience and dynamics; and (2) semantic issues: meaning, content-ascription, representation, and information flow. The role of both themes in language, reasoning, logic, computation, robotics, perception, cognition, and consciousness. Students are expected to deepen their appreciation of the above issues and their significance in the cognitive sciences through reading and discussing classical and representative papers. Throughout, an emphasis on critical reading, careful analysis, constructive communication, and clear exposition.
Number of students, and background of students
25 students from backgrounds in psychology, linguistics, philosophy and artificial intelligence.
Traditional challenges and opportunities in teaching your topic
The interdisciplinarity of the students and coursework produces interesting discussions, as students are exposed to perspectives from other fields. Wikis allow for easy, spontaneous discussion, as well as for digitization of the assignment process.
The Sakai wiki module
Innovative design approach
Significant portions of both the coursework and course discussion have been moved to an online format that is both persistent and public. Both student submissions and instructor feedback are visible to the entire class. Annotations are used to build a bibliography that will be used and improved upon in subsequent semesters. The wiki is semistructured: assignments are linked to from a predictable place in the page hierarchy, and pre-defined templates are available for page creation, but pages still have wiki-like flexibility for adding unanticipated content.
Evaluation (informal) and next steps.
The wiki is actively used by students, and there are a few examples of students discussing course material with other students. The digital format allows the instructor to give more verbose feedback than he would be able to in the margins of a hard copy, though this sort of structured feedback is somewhat outside the range of tasks that wikis are designed for. Also, as collaborative annotated bibliographies are developed in different courses using different systems, we need to think about how to unify these resources so that they can be used not just by the same course in a different semester, but by other courses with a stake in the same material.