UK funding council teaching and learning technology programme 
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 UK funding council teaching and learning technology programme

This message is addressed to UK readers of pop-forum outside Birmingham,
though I'd welcome comments from others.

UK universities have recently been invited to bid for funds to develop
or apply computer based techniques or courseware to improve teaching and
or reduce costs.

I have always believed that Poplog potentially provides the most
powerful tool there is for developing and delivering highly interactive
student-centred course materials for a wide range of disciplines. With
the development of the X interface and new (not yet widely distributed)
GO (Graphical Object) library and HIP (the Hypermedia in Poplog) tools
by ISL and Sussex and the realisation of this potential is at hand.

However it's a big system, and therefore unsuitable for delivering
courseware on PCs and the like. The fact that X supports network access
and the fact that networks are getting faster (e.g. SuperJanet, and many
current optical fibre campus networks) and the fact that at last
powerful compute and file servers are available that are also expandable
as the load grows (e.g. the new breed of fully symmetric multi-processor
Unix servers, which allow extra processors to be added to meet extra
demands) means that by connecting relatively cheap X terminals to such a
central server it is now possible to use Poplog to deliver high quality
courseware in such a way as to provide the illustion of an extremely
large and powerful workstation with many megabytes of local memory and
gigabytes of file store directly at hand, at a very much lower cost per
workplace for equipment and management than if separate workstations
were used.

So in collaboration with the School of Education here in Birmingham and
various others, I am preparing a proposal for funds to produce
additional tools to make it easier for people to prepare courseware
(e.g. with graphical interfaces to things like LIB NEWPSYS), and to use
those tools to prepare a variety of packages aimed at teaching AI (for
our new combined degrees in AI with various other disciplines) and for
teaching other disciplines such as psychology, mathematics, biology.

The point of this message is to find out if there are other UK
university departments that might be interested in testing either the
teaching packages developed in this way, or in using these tools to
develop further packages for in house use and use at other sites.

Also if you wish to join in the development please let me know
immediately, though likely funding limitations will limit the number of
departments that can receive funds for development in any one such
project. That shouldn't stop a different consortium bidding for funds to
use Poplog in some different way!

By a courseware package I mean a collection of textual materials (e.g.
teach and help files, and other online documentation, some suitable for
printing), images, and, where appropriate, software for running
simulations, demonstrating the consequences of rules, solving problems,
etc.

Examples of existing packages in Poplog that do not yet use the new
facilities but which could do, are to be found in TEACH GRAMMAR (which
uses LIB GRAMMAR to generate or parse sentences according to a
student-supplied grammar), LIB LOGIC, which provides exercises in
propositional calculus, LIB FINGER, which interactively demonstrates the
importance of good training sets for a certain kind of learning system,
prolog library(tracer) which provides a powerful tool for demonstrating
the procedural aspects of prolog, LIB MSBLOCKS and TEACH MSDEMO which
introduce ideas concerning the integration of capabilities using syntax,
semantics, and world-knowledge, together with simple planning
capabilities (which could be improved!) and TEACH PSYSRIVER, which shows
two ways to build a planning system using a general purpose expert
system tool.

David Young's TEACH RC_GRAPHPLOT could be the basis of a powerful tool
for teaching quite a lot of mathematical concepts concerned with the
behaviour of different kinds of functions.

Less obviously, the type-inferencing system in Poplog ML could, I
suspect, be extracted from the Poplog ML compiler to provide a totally
new tool for teaching people the concepts of types of procedures and how
to reason about types. (Rob, Simon, what do you think?)

There are more examples in the Computers and Thought book by Sharples
et. al, the book on NLP by Gazdar and Mellish, and the new book AI as
Search by du Boulay and Thornton, and lots more examples in local poplog
libraries in various places, especially Sussex of course.

So if you are interested in being a "test site" for courseware tools, or
courseware packages, please let me know. Equally if you have ideas for
participating in developing the tools or new packages, please let me
know. Unfortunately time is very short.

Aaron



Tue, 07 Nov 1995 13:49:43 GMT  
 
 [ 1 post ] 

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