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Roger Schank

Learning occurs when someone wants to learn, not when someone wants to teach.

I was a professor most of my life. In 2000, after 32 years (at Stanford, Yale and Northwestern), I decided to quit.

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Online college? Good idea; but is it the beginning of the end?

Universities are deciding to go online these days. One has to ask what we lose if they do. Might students actually win?

Twenty years ago I was responsible for creating an online version of Carnegie Mellon University graduate programs which were run out of their Silicon Valley Campus. The courses we created, (100% learn by doing courses in masters degree programs in computer science) which were directed by CMU faculty in Pittsburgh, were only sometimes appreciated by the CMU faculty.

The students were initially surprised by the lack of a classroom and lectures. One of our TA's said at the time that as a graduate student in Pittsburgh he had an easier time in the traditional courses. He could sit back in class and chat with his friends and then he could cram for tests.

The CMU Silicon Valley students actually had to work hard and he felt sorry for them. The students stopped showing up on campus (because there was no need to) and they would meet with each other in Starbucks (because Starbucks had free internet.)

The students went from hating it during the first few weeks (because it was different from what they expected) to loving it (because they were acquiring real job skills and were getting hired by local companies.)

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What I care about

Making school less miserable for kids:

OECD should be ashamed; PISA scores announced; doing more damage

Back to School: A message to high school students who hate high school; Here is why you hate it

Why can't school be more like camp?

Pro choice (allowing students to make choices about professions in high school)

Out with the old and in with the new: a plan for redesigning high school so that it is fun and useful

Make School Meaningful - And Fun! (2015)

In Make School Meaningful-And Fun!, Roger C. Schank inspires high school administrators, teachers, and curriculum planners to bring creativity and relevancy back to the classroom. Traditional school structures and curricula are becoming less effective over time, yet they continue to frame instruction and testing practices. By promoting new literacies, globally connected technologies, and career-based curricula, Schank offers educators strategies to personalize school experiences and prepare students for the future.

Making Minds Less Educated Than Our Own (2004)

In the author's words: "This book is an honest attempt to understand what it means to be educated in today's world." His argument is this: No matter how important science and technology seem to industry or government or indeed to the daily life of people, as a society we believe that those educated in literature, history, and other humanities are in some way better informed, more knowing, and somehow more worthy of the descriptor "well educated." This 19th-century conception of the educated mind weighs heavily on our notions on how we educate our young. When we focus on intellectual and scholarly issues in high school as opposed to issues such as communications, basic psychology, or child raising, we are continuing to rely on outdated notions of the educated mind that come from elitist notions of who is to be educated and what that means. To accommodate the realities of today's world it is necessary to change these elitist notions. We need to rethink what it means to be educated and begin to focus on a new conception of the very idea of education. Students need to learn how to think, not how to accomplish tasks, such as passing standardized tests and reciting rote facts.

In this engaging book, Roger C. Schank sets forth the premises of his argument, cites its foundations in the Great Books themselves, and illustrates it with examples from an experimental curriculum that has been used in graduate schools and with K-12 students.

Fixing corporate training:

Corporate training needs to re-think its model; no to courses and assessments, yes to experiences

E-learning has failed. Time to get rid of it (or at least do it right)

Designing World Class e-Learning (2001)

The majority of corporate training programs are weak, ineffective, costly, and inconvenient for the time-pressed employees they are supposed to train. Designing World-Class e-Learning explores on-line learning--today's hottest business training topic--and explains the "learning-by-doing" approach that the author and his firm have used to develop effective on-line courses for Harvard Business School, IBM, GE, Columbia University, and other world-leading organizations.

Roger Schank, a leading E-learning guru and innovator, demonstrates steps and strategies proven to excite employees, make them want to learn, and decrease training costs while increasing productivity. Schank's approach to E-learning involves:

  • e-Learning by doing
  • Encouraging learners to fail--and learn from failure
  • Just-in-time storytelling from experts
  • Powerful emotional impact.


Lessons in Learning, e-Learning, and Training: Perspectives and Guidance for the Enlightened Trainer (2005)

From Roger C. Schank -- one of the most highly respected thinkers, writers, and speakers in the training, learning, and e-learning community -- comes a compelling book of essays that explore the myriad issues related to challenges faced by today's instructional designers and trainers.

The essays offer a much-needed perspective on what trainers do, why they do it, and how they do it. Lessons in Learning, e-Learning, and Training serves as a barometer to the issues that often perplex trainers and helps to illuminate three main points: what can and cannot be taught; how people think and learn; and what technology can really effectively provide. In addition, each essay is filled with practical guidance and includes a summary of ideas, tips and techniques, things to think about, checklists, and other job aids.


Getting the right information to people at the right time:

Massive delivery of just-in-time videos; a way to change education and build useful AI

EXTRA - Experts Telling Relevant Advice: A memory of expertise and experience

Conversation-Based Search: How to Build an Intelligent Corporate Memory

Human memory, conversation with computers, and just-in-time knowledge (and a short demo)

Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence (1995)

How are our memories, our narratives, and our intelligence interrelated? What can artificial intelligence and narratology say to each other? In this pathbreaking study by an expert on learning and computers, Roger C. Schank argues that artificial intelligence must be based on real human intelligence, which consists largely of applying old situations - and our narratives of them - to new situations in less than obvious ways. To design smart machines, Schank therefore investigated how people use narratives and stories, the nature and function of those narratives, and the connection of intelligence to both telling and listening. As Schank explains, "We need to tell someone else a story that describes our experiences because the process of creating the story also creates the memory structure that will contain the gist of the story for the rest of our lives. Talking is remembering."

The Future of Decision Making

Today's organizations face increasingly complex decisions that leave little room for error, but the process by which individual employees make these decisions is still rudimentary at best. Cognitive Science has made great strides in understanding how the mind works, learning not only that decision making is largely an unconscious process, but also that failure is an essential component to succeeding in the future. Most organizations, however, are unaware of Cognitive Science principles and still depend on the same statistics and data that fail to harness the full breadth and depth of an organization’s experience and knowledge.

But now, forward thinking organizations are combining the latest findings in Cognitive Science with today’s advanced software capability to guide their decision makers toward better choices. in The Future of Decision Making, a preeiminent researcher in the field of Cognitive Science, a software solutions advisor with over two decades of experience, and an expert in the field of software development explain how the new science of decision making will transform your organization and demonstrate how to fully utilize the technological tools now available. By utilizing the science of decision making, business leaders and managers will learn to better facilitate the right decisions, including how to:

  • Design software specific to your organization’s needs
  • Increase the odds of effective decision making during crises by providing just-in-time stories and advice from experts
  • Make better hires and promotions by matching people’s experiences with decision-making requirements of various positions
  • Give your employees the freedom they need to make the right decision without losing control of your organization.

In an increasingly competitive business landscape, these are the tools critical for guiding your organization to the best business decisions in even the most difficult or ambiguous situations.

Building the right kinds of artificial intelligence systems:

You are dying of kidney failure: A lesson about the current hype about AI and medicine

AI is not coming soon. Let's look at why. A look at babies

Key word analysis is not AI; one more time to get the point across to people building "conscious" computers

The fraudulent claims made by IBM about Watson and AI. They are not doing "cognitive computing" no matter how many times they say they are

Can a computer infer intent? Not yet Elon.

Intelligent Interactive Advisors: A proposal for the sort of AI we should be developing

Dynamic Memory Revisted (1999)

Roger Schank's influential book, Dynamic Memory, described how computers could learn based on what was known about how people learn. Since that book's publication, Dr. Schank has turned his focus from artificial intelligence to human intelligence. Dynamic Memory Revisited contains the theory of learning presented in the original book, extending it to provide principles for teaching and learning, and includes Dr. Schank's important theory of case-based reasoning and assesses the role of stories in human memory. Dynamic Memory Revisited is crucial reading for all who are concerned with education and school reform. It draws attention to how effective learning takes place and provides instruction for developing software that truly helps students learn.

The Cognitive Computer (1984)

This book has two purposes. First, its intent is to inform the public about the subject of Artificial Intelligence, not from the perspective of a science-oriented journalist, who may or may not understand what he or she has seen and read, but from the viewpoint of one who is involved deeply in the subject. Second, it seems important to ponder the reasons why this obscure field has hit the front pages. The public has discovered AI but according to the author, is not quite sure what it is. The book tries to address 3 questions

  1. What do we have to know about computers in order to live in a world that is full of them?
  2. What can we learn about what it means to be intelligent through our development of computers that can understand?
  3. How will intelligent computers affect the world we live in?

Empowering people to develop effective learning experiences:

We are being attacked! I want to help the US defend itself and attack back

Faculty putting their existing courses online is a bad idea: kind of like filming a play to make a movie

So, you want to build an online learn by doing course; now you can; our new GBS tool is free; build away

What We Learn When We Learn by Doing

Teaching Minds: How cognitive science can save our schools

From grade school to graduate school, from the poorest public institutions to the most affluent private ones, our educational system is failing students. In his provocative new book, cognitive scientist and bestselling author Roger Schank argues that class size, lack of parental involvement, and other commonly-cited factors have nothing to do with why students are not learning. The culprit is a system of subject-based instruction and the solution is cognitive-based learning. This groundbreaking book defines what it would mean to teach thinking. The time is now for schools to start teaching minds!


Virtual Learning: A Revolutionary Approach to Building a Highly Skilled Workforce

The majority of today's corporate training programs are weak, ineffective, costly, and hated by the employees they are supposed to train. Worst of all, they are boring. Visionary educator Roger Schank has a better way, one that has been proven to produce exceptional in all levels of employees. In Virtual Learning: A Revolutionary Approach to Building a Highly Skilled Workforce, this world-renowned professor and consultant demonstrates his "learning-by-doing" programs through actual examples and entertaining case histories. Schank’s computer simulation and role-playing scenario methods have helped companies as diverse as Andersen Consulting, Ameritech, AT&T, Target, and Bennigan’s to save training expense, not to mention the incalculable cost of poorly-trained employees; use computer-based training to escape "read-and-memorize" programs of the past; teach employees to make discoveries on their own and train themselves; allow employees to fail in training exercises and learn from those failures; and broaden training goals and objectives to keep from limiting what is learned. Whether you are a trainer, human resource manager, a department manager, or even a CEO or other executive struggling over ways to get more from your workforce, let Roger Schank's Virtual Learning give you a head start on your competitors in learning tomorrow’s computer interactive employee training procedures.

Understanding how the human mind works:

The word "cognitive" no longer has any meaning; I guess neuoroscience is next

Teaching Minds: How cognitive science can save our schools

Scripts, Plans, Goals, and Understanding: An Inquiry Into Human Knowledge Structures (1977)

This book reflects a convergence of interests at the intersection of psychology and artificial intelligence. What is the nature of knowledge and how is this knowledge used? These questions lie at the core of both psychology and artificial intelligence. The psychologist who studies 'knowledge systems' wants to know how concepts are structured in the human mind, how such concepts develop, arid how they are used in understanding and behavior. The artificial intelligence researcher wants to know how to program a computer so that it can understand and interact with the outside world_ The two orientations intersect when the psychologist and the computer scientist agree that the best way to approach the problem of building an intelligent machine is lo emulate the human conceptual mechanisms that deal with language_ There Is no way to develop adequate computer 'understanding' without providing the computer with extensive knowledge of the particular world with which it must deal. Mechanistic approaches based on light logical systems are inadequate when extended to real-world tasks. The real world is messy and often illogical. Therefore artificial intelligence (henceforth AI has had to leave such approaches behind and become much more psychological. At the same time, researchers in psychology have found it helpful to view people as 'information processors' actively trying to extract sense from the continual flow of information in the complicated world around them. Thus psychologists have become more interested in machine models of real-world knowledge systems. The name 'cognitive science' has been used to refer to this convergence of interests in psychology and artificial intelligence.

This working partnership in 'cognitive science' does not mean that psychologists and computer scientists are developing a single comprehensive theory in which people are no different from ma chines. Psychology and artificial intelligence have many points of difference in methods and goals, Intellectual history, like political history, is full of shifting alliances between different interest groups. We mention this because for many commentators, the blood quickens when computers and human beings are associated in any way. Strong claims for similarity  are countered by extravagant alarm. Enthusiasts and horrified skeptics rush to debate such questions as whether a computer could ever be in love. We are not interested in trying to get computers to have feelings (whatever that might turn out to mean philosophically), nor are we interested in pretending that feelings don't exist. We simply want lo work on an important area of overlapping interest, namely a theory of knowledge systems. As it turns out, this overlap is substantial. For both people and machines, each in their own way, there is a serious problem in common of making sense out of what they hear, see, or are told about the world. The conceptual apparatus necessary to perform even a partial feat of understanding is formidable and fascinating. Our analysis of this apparatus is what this book is about.

The Connoisseur's Guide to the Mind: How We Think, How We Learn, and What It Means to Be Intelligent (1991)

Roger Schank loves to eat and drink. He also loves to think about eating and drinking. Most of all, he loves to think about thinking about eating and drinking. And in The Connoisseur's Guide to the Mind he takes us on an idiosyncratic tour of restaurants and wineries in order to explain how we think and how we learn. By showing what we do when we read a menu, select a wine, sample a dish, argue with a waiter, or recall a favorite meal, this fascinating and accessible book illustrates what kinds of mental operations we perform, why we do what we do, and how we remember - in general, what it means to be intelligent. With wit and insight, Schank reveals the importance of stereotypes in learning, the role of stories in explanation, the significance of 'default fillers,' the problem of 'inference explosion,' and the relationship of expectations and predictions to understanding. Through lively anecdotes on topics ranging from three-star restaurants to Burger King, from vintage champagnes to jug wine, The Connoisseur's Guide to the Mind helps us comprehend the mental processes we have used throughout our lives without ever really thinking about them. Along the way, we learn where to find the best ham in Spain, how McDonald's differs from Lutece, what it means to be an expert, how to get by in a Korean restaurant without English menus, and how to learn by doing. Provocative, instructive, and amusing, The Connoisseur's Guide to the Mind is an adventure in learning for diners, drinkers, and readers.

Roger Schank

About Roger Schank

Roger Schank. Ph.D., is the Chairman and CEO of Socratic Arts, a company that delivers Story-Centered Curricula to businesses and schools. He is also the Executive Director and founder of Engines for Education.

Previously, Dr. Schank was the Chief Education Officer of Carnegie Mellon's West Coast campus, where he introduced the idea of master's degrees that use a Story-Centered Curriculum in lieu of the traditional course-centered approach. He was the founder of the Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University where he was John Evans Professor of Computer Science, Education, and Psychology, (now Professor Emeritus).

Prior to coming to Northwestern University, Dr. Schank was Professor of Computer Science and Psychology at Yale University and Director of the Yale Artificial Intelligence Project. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Paris VII, Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Computer Science at Stanford University, and research fellow at the Institute for Semantics and Cognition in Switzerland.

Dr. Schank is a fellow of the AAAI, the founder of the Cognitive Science Society, and co-founder of the Journal of Cognitive Science. He holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Texas. One of the world's leading Artificial Intelligence researchers, Dr. Schank is the author of more than 125 articles and publications. He has written more than 30 books.

If you'd like to contact Professor Schank, visit the Socratic Arts or Engines for Education website to find out how.

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©2024 Roger Schank