Schedule for Fall 2007


August 20, 2007 @ 3:00
-- Kate Cain
Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Fylde College, Lancaster University
Title: "Poor comprehenders' inference making difficulties: causes and consequences" 

Abstract: Reading comprehension is considered the ultimate aim of reading, but some children experience significant problems with text comprehension despite age-appropriate word reading ability. Children with poor reading comprehension differ from good comprehenders in many key text-processing skills, notably inference and integration. In this talk, I will review my research investigating the inference-making difficulties experienced by poor comprehenders and examine possible sources of these difficulties: limitations in general knowledge, strategic knowledge, and memory. I will also present recent findings that shed light on the wider impacts that inference-making deficits might have on learning from text, and literacy development in general.

August 24, 2007 @ 12:00
-- Danielle S. McNamara
Associate Professor, Psychology/Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS), University of Memphis
Title: "Scaffolding Coherence in Mind of the Reader"  

The quality of a reader’s understanding of a text is often referred to in terms of coherence. A coherent mental representation of a text or passage indicates that the reader has generated numerous inferences to link concepts within the text to each other and to concepts in prior knowledge. Thus, one research goal is to discover methods to scaffold readers toward more coherent representations of text. In our lab, we have been approaching this goal from two perspectives: the text and the reader (see From the perspective of the text, we have investigated the role of text cohesion and how that influences the coherence of readers’ understanding of text. Specifically, we’ve investigated the effects of text cohesion, and how those effects depend on other factors such as readers’ abilities (e.g., knowledge, reading skill). We’ve investigated these interactive effects using both comprehension measures and eye-tracking measures, and with both young readers (ages 8-10 years) and college students. We have also developed an automated tool that assesses the cohesion of text as well as a multitude of other characteristics of text (see From the perspective of the reader, we have investigated the importance of reading strategies to text comprehension and the benefits of providing reading strategy training. We have developed an automated tutoring system called iSTART (Interactive Strategy Training for Active Reading and Thinking; see that helps students to learn reading strategies. The results of studies with high-school and college students show that the intervention is effective, and is most effective for students who tend to have the most trouble creating coherence from text, that is, those with less domain knowledge and those who are less skilled readers. Together, these projects show that a combined approach of increasing the cohesion of text and teaching students to engage in active reading strategies may provide a path toward coherence.


September 7, 2007 (SLC) 
-- Margaret Burnett
Professor at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Oregon State University
Title:"Gender HCI and End-User Programming: What About the Software?"

Although there have been many studies designed to understand and ameliorate the low representation of females in computing, there has been little research into how software itself fits into the picture. This talk reports the investigations we have been conducting into whether and how software and its features affect females' and males' performance in computing tasks.  Our focus is on how "gender-neutral" software interacts with gender differences. Specifically, we have concentrated on software aimed at supporting everyday users doing what amounts to end-user programming.  For example, what if females would be better at working with end-user programming software such as Excel, if the software were changed to take gender differences into account?

September 14, 2007
-- ICS Membership and Fellows Meeting

September 28, 2007
-- Nianwen (Bert) Xue
Research Professor, Institute of Cognitive Science - Palmer Lab


October 5, 2007
-- Ben Shneiderman
Professor of Computer Science, Founding Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, University of Maryland
Title: "Creativity Support Tools: Accelerating Discovery & Innovation" 

Creativity Support Tools is a research topic with high risk but potentially very high payoff. The goal is to develop improved software and user interfaces that empower diverse users in the sciences and arts to go beyond productivity and be more creative. Potential users include a combination of software and other engineers, diverse scientists, product and graphic designers, and architects, as well as writers, poets, musicians, new media artists, and many others. Enhanced interfaces could enable more effective searching of intellectual resources, improved collaboration among teams, and more rapid discovery processes.  These advanced interfaces should also provide potent support in goal setting, speedier exploration of alternatives, improved understanding through visualization, and better dissemination of results (demos will be shown).  For creative endeavors that require composition of novel artifacts (computer programs, engineering diagrams, symphonies, animations, artwork), enhanced interfaces could facilitate rapid exploration of alternatives, prevent unproductive choices, and enable easy backtracking. This talk provides a framework for systematic study of creativity. Two key issues are (1) Formulation of guidelines for design of creativity support tools (2) Novel research methods to assess creativity support tools.

October 12, 2007
-- Ken Forbus
Professor of Computer Science and Education at Northwestern
Title: "Steps towards human-level AI" 

A confluence of three factors is changing the kinds of AI experiments that can be done: (1) increasing computational power, (2) off-the- shelf representational resources, and (3) steady scientific progress, both in AI and in other areas of Cognitive Science. Consequently, I believe it is time for the field to spend more of its energy experimenting with larger-scale systems, and attempting to capture larger constellations of human cognitive abilities. This talk will summarize experiments with two larger-scale systems we have built at Northwestern: (1) Learning to solve AP Physics problems, in the Companions cognitive architecture. In an evaluation conducted by the Educational Testing Service, a Companion showed it was able to transfer knowledge across multiple types of variant problems. (2) Learning by reading, using the Learning Reader prototype. Learning Reader includes a novel process, rumination, where the system improves its learning by asking itself questions about material it has read.

Kenneth D. Forbus is the Walter P. Murphy Professor of Computer Science and Professor of Education at Northwestern University. His research interests include qualitative reasoning, analogy and similarity, sketch understanding, spatial reasoning, cognitive simulation, reasoning system design, articulate educational software, and the use of AI in computer gaming. He received his degrees from MIT (Ph.D. in 1984). He is a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, the Cognitive Science Society, and the Association for Computing Machinery. He serves on the editorial boards of Cognitive Science, the AAAI Press, and on the Advisory Board of the Journal of Game Development.

October 26, 2007 (SLC)
-- SLC Student Presentations
Johanna Blumenthal, Chandra Brodje, and Claudia Folksa will be discussing the focus of their summer research funded by the Science of Learning Center Grant.

Abstract: "Evaluating Third Through Sixth Grade Students' Answers to Science Questions: A Categorization of Inference and Knowledge"
Johanna Blumenthal
This research developed a model which was intended to categorize all of the factors involved in judging conceptual equivalence between a student's answer and a provided reference answer to science questions. A corpus of student answers to various science questions was then annotated according to this model.The research includes a description of the annotation and development processes of the inference and knowledge model.

Abstract: "Word Learning in Hard-of-hearing Children"
Chandra Brojde
Children are often biased in the way that they learn new words. These biases may be built from generalizations that children make based on past language experience and often help speed up word learning, in particular, they speed up vocabulary learning. For example, children who are biased to focus on shape as a way to extend words to object categories have larger vocabularies. Some populations, such as deaf and hard-of-hearing (HH) children, often have very small vocabulary sizes and do not show this shape bias. In the current study, we extended to a HH population, a training program that has previously been shown to increase non-HH children's vocabularies by several percentage points to ask whether this same training would help HH children. After training HH and non-HH children with shape-based categories, results suggest that the training program promoted vocabulary learning for the non-HH children but not the HH children. Further coding of the data showed no difference between groups in the amount of overt attention paid to the experimenter or the target trained

objects, suggesting that HH children's small vocabularies and shape-bias are not due to differences in the amount of overt attention focused on word-object shape pairings.

Abstract: "Beyond Boundaries"
Claudia Folksa
The aim of this research is to learn how people without sight extract and process information from their built environment. Specifically, what mechanisms and systems are in play as people who are blind learn, modify or augment travel routes in their environment? Discovering what methods of learning are used will shed light on how this population acquires wayfinding and spatial navigation knowledge, and generalizes and applies this knowledge to new circumstances. The methods to be employed in the summer research experience include both quantitative and qualitative data analysis.


November 2, 2007
-- Aravind Joshi
Henry K. Salvatore Professor of Computer and Cognitive Science at the University of Pennsylvania
Title: "Towards Discourse Meaning: Complexity Of Dependencies At The Discourse Level And At The Sentence Level" 

Abstract: My overall goal will be to discuss some issues concerning the dependencies at the discourse level and at the sentence level. However, first I will briefly describe the Penn Discourse Treebank (PDTB)*, a corpus in which we annotate the discourse connectives (explicit and implicit) and their arguments together with "attributions" of the arguments and the relations denoted by the connectives, and also the senses of the connectives. I will then focus on the complexity of dependencies in terms of  (a) the elements that bear the dependency relations, (b) graph theoretic properties of these dependencies such as nested and crossed dependencies, dependencies with shared arguments, and (c) attributions and their relationship to the dependencies, among others. We will compare these dependencies with those at the sentence level and discuss some issues that relate to the transition from the sentence level to the level of  "immediate discourse" and propose some conjectures.

*This 1 million-word corpus is the same as the WSJ corpus used by the Penn Treebank (PTB) for syntactic annotation and by Propbank for predicate-argument annotation. PDTB 2.0 is expected to be released by LDC in early January 2008.

November 9, 2007

-- Dr. Paul M. Churchland
Valtz Chair of Philosophy University of California, San Diego, CA

November 23, 2007
-Thanksgiving Holiday

November 30, 2007 (SLC)
--Michael H. Goldstein
Assistant Professor & Director, Eleanor J. Gibson Laboratory of Developmental Psychology, Cornell University
Title: "Social Responses to Babbling catalyze Speech Development and Word Learning"


December 7, 2007
-- Rebecca Scarborough
Assistant Professor of Linguistics, University of Colorado

December 16, 2007
-- ICS Membership Holiday Gathering
Invitations will be sent out, contact office for more info