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The Design of Future Educational Interfaces
(Symbolic Systems 146/246–Education 237X)
Stanford University
Instructor–Sharon Oviatt

Course Day/Time: Wednesday, 3:15-6:05
Course Location: Wallenberg 160-127
Instructor office hours: Tuesdays 12-2, or by apt.
Instructor office: Margaret Jacks Hall, Room 460-040E
Instructor phone: 650-723-1535
Instructor email: oviatt@incaadesigns.org

Course Description
This course provides an original communications perspective for designing interfaces as thinking tools. It reviews new empirical findings showing that basic computer input capabilities can substantially facilitate or impede human cognition, including our ability to produce ideas and solve problems successfully. The central theme is that computer interfaces that encourage expressing richer information involving different representations, modalities, and linguistic codes can stimulate ideational fluency, clarity of thought, and improved performance on educational and other tasks. The impact of this perspective is a new direction for interface design that focuses on supporting human cognition, which will be essential for the successful development of future educational interfaces.

In covering the course, we will critique existing interfaces and discuss emerging directions for designing more effective ones, especially for education. We will analyze the basic communication features of interfaces, and also empirical findings that reveal how they can stimulate cognition and conceptual change. To promote a deeper understanding of the topic, we will review major trends in the evolution of human tool use, corresponding transitions in human cognition, and implications for future interface design. We also will discuss recent neuroscience findings relevant to interface design. Finally, we will examine twelve main cognitive science and linguistics theories that provide a foundation for understanding learning and the design of educational interfaces. The content of this course represents a broad multidisciplinary synthesis of information from the cognitive, linguistic, computational, and learning sciences.

The following are examples of questions that will be discussed in class:

Format, Credit Hours & Preparation
This course includes lecture, guided discussion, in-class activities (e.g., critiquing and redesigning interfaces), and a class project involving original research.

This is a 3-credit course, which students can elect to take for 4 credits by participating in additional activities during the class data collection project. Students must have permission to take the class for 4 credits.

This course is designed for upper-division undergraduate and graduate students with interests related to Education, Computer Science, and Symbolic Systems. Students who have taken an introductory course in one of the following areas would benefit most from this course: Human Computer Interaction/Design, Learning Sciences and Technology, Introduction to Cognitive Science (e.g., SYMSYS 100, 145).

Assigned Reading
(1) The Future of Educational Interfaces, S. Oviatt (Routledge Press), chapters provided by instructor
(2) Supplementary readings, which will be distributed in class or placed on library reserve