Building Intelligent Interactive Tutors: Student-centered strategies for revolutionizing e-learning

Building Intelligent Interactive Tutors: Student-centered strategies for revolutionizing e-learning

by Beverly Park Woolf

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Computers have transformed every facet of our culture, most dramatically communication, transportation, finance, science, and the economy. Yet their impact has not been generally felt in education due to lack of hardware, teacher training, and sophisticated software. Another reason is that current instructional software is neither truly responsive to student needs nor…  See more details below


Computers have transformed every facet of our culture, most dramatically communication, transportation, finance, science, and the economy. Yet their impact has not been generally felt in education due to lack of hardware, teacher training, and sophisticated software. Another reason is that current instructional software is neither truly responsive to student needs nor flexible enough to emulate teaching. The more instructional software can reason about its own teaching process, know what it is teaching, and which method to use for teaching, the greater is its impact on education.

Building Intelligent Interactive Tutors discusses educational systems that assess a student's knowledge and are adaptive to a student's learning needs. Dr. Woolf taps into 20 years of research on intelligent tutors to bring designers and developers a broad range of issues and methods that produce the best intelligent learning environments possible, whether for classroom or life-long learning. The book describes multidisciplinary approaches to using computers for teaching, reports on research, development, and real-world experiences, and discusses intelligent tutors, web-based learning systems, adaptive learning systems, intelligent agents and intelligent multimedia.

*Combines both theory and practice to offer most in-depth and up-to-date treatment of intelligent tutoring systems available
*Presents powerful drivers of virtual teaching systems, including cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and the Internet
*Features algorithmic material that enables programmers and researchers to design building components and intelligent systems

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In one volume, Beverly Woolf provides a thorough and engaging introduction to the field of intelligent tutoring and related AI-based educational systems, covering the multiple approaches nascent in the field along with detailed case studies and the practical details of implementation. There is much to savor, both for the seasoned practitioner and those sampling the field for the first time." — William R. Murray, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Knowledge Systems Research, Boeing Phantom Works

"The book has broad coverage of all the interdisciplinary aspects that the field draws upon. No one, except an expert intelligent tutoring builder like Beverly could have written this book. She uses as examples of intelligent tutoring system from others leading intelligent tutoring, as well as talking about systems her and her colleagues have built." - Neil T. Heffernan, Assistant Professor, Computer Science Dept, Fuller Labs

"Woolf's Building Intelligent Interactive Tutors is a thorough, clear, logical description of the science, technology, methods, and rationale behind a very important, up-and-coming, educational technology: Intelligent Tutoring Systems. It will be very beneficial to developers and users (teachers and students) of ITSs and those who make instructional technology acquisition decisions. It's sure to become the standard, referenced ITS text." - Dick Stottler, President, Stottler Henke Associates, Inc.

Product Details

Elsevier Science
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Student-centered strategies for revolutionizing e-learning Series
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Barnes & Noble
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Building Intelligent Interactive Tutors

Student-centered strategies for revolutionizing e-learning
By Beverly Park Woolf


Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-092004-7

Chapter One


People need a lifetime to become skilled members of society; a high school diploma no longer guarantees lifelong job prospects. Now that the economy has shifted from manual workers to knowledge workers, job skills need to be updated every few years, and people must be prepared to change jobs as many as five times in a lifetime. Lifelong learning implies lifelong education, which in turn requires supportive teachers, good resources, and focused time. Traditional education (classroom lectures, texts, and individual assignments) is clearly not up to the task. Current educational practices are strained to their breaking point.

The driving force of the knowledge society is information and increased human productivity. Knowledge workers use more information and perform more operations (e.g., compose a letter, check its content and format, send it, and receive a reply within a few moments) than did office workers who required secretarial assistance to accomplish the same task. Similarly, researchers now locate information more quickly using the Internet than did teams of researchers working for several months using conventional methods. Marketing is facilitated by online client lists and digital advertising created by a single person acting as author, graphic designer, layout artist, and publisher. To prepare for this society, people need education that begins with the broadest possible knowledge base; knowledge workers need to have more general knowledge and to learn with less support.

Information technology has generated profound changes in society, but thus far it has only subtly changed education. Earlier technologies (e.g., movies, radio, television) were touted as saviors for education, yet nearly all had limited impact, in part because they did not improve on prior educational tools but often only automated or replicated existing teaching strategies (e.g., radio and television reproduced lectures) (McArthur et al., 1994).

On the other hand, the confluence of the Internet, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science provides an opportunity that is qualitatively different from that of preceding technologies and moves beyond simply duplicating existing teaching processes. The Internet is a flexible medium that merges numerous communication devices (audio, video, and two-way communication), has changed how educational content is produced, reduced its cost, and improved its efficiency. For example, several new 3 teaching methods (collaboration and inquiry learning) are now possible through technology. Multiuser activities and online chat offer opportunities not possible before in the classroom.

What one knows is, in youth, of little moment; they know enough who know how to learn. Henry Adams (1907)

We do not propose that technology alone can revolutionize education. Rather, changes in society, knowledge access, teacher training, the organization of education, and computer agents help propel this revolution.

This book offers a critical view of the opportunities afforded by a specific genre of information technology that uses artificial intelligence and cognitive science as its base. The audience for this book includes people involved in computer science, psychology and education, from teachers and students to instructional designers, programmers, psychologists, technology developers, policymakers, and corporate leaders, who need a well-educated workforce. This chapter introduces an inflection point in education, discusses issues to be addressed, examines the state of the art and education, and provides an overview of the book.


In human history, one technology has produced a salient and long-lasting educational change: the printing press invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1450. This printing press propelled a transfer from oral to written knowledge and supported radical changes in how people thought and worked (Ong and Walter, 1958). However, the advances in human literacy resulting from this printing press were slow to take hold, taking hundreds of years as people first learned to read and then changed their practices.

Now computers, a protean and once-in-several-centuries innovation, have produced changes in nearly every industry, culture, and community. It has produced more than incremental changes in most disciplines; it has revolutionized science, communication, economics, and commerce in a matter of decades. Information technology, including software, hardware, and networks, seems poised to generate another inflection point in education. An inflection point is a full-scale change in the way an enterprise operates. Strategic inflection points are times of extreme change; they can be caused by technological change but are more than technological change (Grove, 1996). By changing the way business is conducted, an inflection point creates opportunities for players who are adept at operating in the new environment (e.g., software vendors and e-learning companies) to take advantage of an opportunity for new growth.

One example of a business inflection point is the Japanese manufacture of smaller and cheaper memory products, which created an inflection point for other manufacturers of memory products. Intel and others were forced out of the memory chip business and into the relatively new field of microprocessors (Grove, 1996). This microprocessor business then created another inflection point for other companies, bringing difficult times to the classical mainframe computer industry. Another example of an inflection point is the automated teller machine, which changed the banking industry. One more example is the capacity to digitally create, store, transmit, and display entertainment content, which changed the entire media industry. In short, strategic inflection points may be caused by technology, but they fundamentally change enterprise.

Education is a fertile market within the space of global knowledge, in which the key factors are knowledge, educated people, and knowledge workers. The knowledge economy depends on productive and motivated workers who are technologically literate and positioned to contribute ideas and information and to think creatively. Like other industries (e.g., health care or communications), education combines large size (approximately the same size as health care in number of clients served), disgruntled users, lower utilization of technology, and possibly the highest strategic importance of any activity in a global economy (Dunderstadt, 1998).

The future impact of information technology on education and schools is not clear, but it is likely to create an inflection point that affects all quadrants. Educators can augment and redefine the learning process by taking advantage of advances in artificial intelligence and cognitive science and by harnessing the full power of the Internet. Computing power coupled with decreased hardware costs result in increased use of computation in all academic disciplines (Marlino et al., 2004). In addition, technological advances have improved the analysis of both real-time observational and computer-based data. For example, the science community now has tools of greater computational power (e.g., higher resolution, better systems for physical representation and modeling, and data assimilation techniques), facilitating their understanding of complex problems. Science educators are incorporating these tools into classrooms to stimulate motivation and curiosity and to support more sophisticated student understanding of science. Learners at all levels have responded to computational simulations that make concepts more engaging and less abstract (Manduca and Mogk, 2002). Students who use this technology think more deeply about complex skills, use enhanced reasoning, and have better comprehension and design skills (Roschelle et al., 2000). Computers improve students' attitudes and interests through more interactive, enjoyable, and customizable learning (Valdez et al., 2000).

Formal public education is big business in terms of the numbers of students served and the requisite infrastructure (Marlino et al., 2004);during the 1990s, public education in the United States was a $200 billion-a-year business (Dunderstadt, 1998). More than 2.1 million K-12 teachers in 91,380 schools across the United States teach 47 million public school students (Gerald and Hussar, 2002; Hoffman, 2003). More than 3,700 schools of higher education in the United States prepare the next generation of scientific and educational workers (National Science Board [NSB],2003).

A major component of the educational inflection point is the Internet, which is now the world's largest and most flexible repository of education material. As such, the Internet moves education from a loosely federated system of state institutions and colleges constrained by space and time into a knowledge-and-learning industry. This technological innovation signals the beginning of the end of traditional education in which lectures are fixed in time and space.

One billion people, or more than 16.7% of all people worldwide, use the Internet (Internetworldstats, 2006). In some countries, this percentage is much higher (70% of the citizens in the United States are web users, 75% in Sweden, and 70% in Denmark) and is growing astronomically (Almanac, 2005). The Internet links more than 10 billion pages, creating an opportunity to adapt millions of instructional resources for individual learners.

Three components drive this educational inflection point. They are artificial intelligence (AI),cognitive science, and the Internet:

* AI, the science of building computers to do things that would be considered intelligent if done by people, leads to a deeper understanding of knowledge, especially representing and reasoning about "how to" knowledge, such as procedural knowledge.

* Cognitive science, or research into understanding how people behave intelligently, leads to a deeper understanding of how people think, solve problems, and learn.

* The Internet provides an unlimited source of information, available anytime, anywhere.

These three drivers share a powerful synergy. Two of them, AI and cognitive science, are two sides of the same coin—that is, understanding the nature of intelligent action, in whatever entity it is manifest. Frequently, AI techniques are used to build software models of cognitive processes, whereas results from cognitive science are used to develop more AI techniques to emulate human behavior. AI techniques are used in education to model student knowledge, academic topics, and teaching strategies. Add to this mix the Internet, which makes more content and reasoning available for more hours than ever before, and the potential inflection point leads to unimaginable activities supporting more students to learn in less time.

Education is no longer perceived as "one size fits all." Cognitive research has shown that the learning process is influenced by individual differences and preferred learning styles (Bransford et al., 2000b). Simultaneously, learning populations have undergone major demographic shifts (Marlino et al., 2004). Educators at all levels need to address their pupils' many different learning styles, broad ranges of abilities, and diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Teachers are called on to tailor educational activities for an increasingly heterogeneous student population (Jonassen and Grabowski, 1993).


The inflection point will likely produce a rocky revolution in education. Profound innovations generally lead to a sequence of disruptive events as society incorporates them (McArthur et al., 1994). An innovation is typically first used to enhance, enable, or more efficiently accomplish traditional practices (e.g., the car duplicated the functionality of the horse-drawn carriage). Later, the innovation transforms society as it engenders new practices and products, not simply better versions of the original practice. Innovations might require additional expertise, expense, and possibly legislative or political changes (cars required paved roads, parking lots, service stations, and new driving laws). Thus, innovations are often resisted at first, even though they solve important problems in the long term (cars improved transportation over carriages). Similarly, educational innovations are not just fixes or add-ons; they require the educational community to think hard about its mission, organization, and willingness to invest in change.


Excerpted from Building Intelligent Interactive Tutors by Beverly Park Woolf Copyright © 2009 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of MORGAN KAUFMANN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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