We are delighted to be hosting ICLS-98, the Third International Conference on the Learning Sciences, and to be able to present to you the high-quality set of papers in this proceedings. This conference follows in the footsteps of ICLS-91 and ICLS-96, providing the opportunity for researchers and practitioners interested in cognitive aspects of learning and education and in the use of technology to address those issues, to share challenges, insights, and perspectives on important educational issues. Past conferences have brought together cognitive scientists, computer scientists, education researchers, educational technologists, and others, and this conference does the same.
Our theme this year is similar to the theme of ICLS-96: Learning in the Context of Real-World Situations. The conference focuses on two traditional questions related to this theme: (1) How can we take advantage of what we know about the ways people naturally learn and the situations in which they learn well, to create learning environments conducive to deep and lasting learning? (2) What new things do we need to learn about learning to allow us to create better learning environments?
This naturally leads to three areas of research, all of which are represented in this volume:
COGNITION: Models of the structures and processes of learning and teaching by which knowledge, skills, and understanding are acquired deeply and in ways that allow them to be used well.
SOCIAL CONTEXT: The social, organizational, and cultural dynamics of learning and teaching across the range of formal and informal settings and their effects on learning.
Of particular interest this year are issues pertaining to the learning of knowledge and skills necessary for real-world problem-solving: reasoning skills, communication skills, design skills, explanation skills, debugging skills. To promote learning, one must do more than place a computer system in an artificial setting; one must design an effective, natural environment that provides the cognitive challenges, social context, and scaffolding necessary to learn both facts and skills in a manner that extends naturally to "learning in the wild". Many of our participants are doing just that.
We have made several innovations in this year's conference that we hope will allow all of us to gain a deeper understanding of cognitive, social, and practical issues underlying effective learning and of the possible designs for the next generation of educational environments.
First, we have two plenary sessions that address "school" issues. One, our panel session on Administrative and Curricular Infrastructure Needed for Educational Technology-Based Reforms to Succeed, grapples with school reform issues and features members of our community who have been prominent in attempting to integrate the curriculum and software designs our community has developed into whole school systems. The other, a panel session featuring principals in the three NSF-funded learning-sciences centers and several local teachers, will address the ways in which our centers might apply their findings and products to the needs of real teachers in real classrooms.
Second, we've introduced poster sessions on "New Directions." We received many papers with interesting ideas that were either too new to be presented as mature research papers or were outside of the normal scope of what we generally consider the learning sciences, but that were nonetheless about topics of great interest and importance. We invited the people who wrote those papers to put short papers in the proceedings and to present their work in poster sessions. Poster sessions, we hope, will allow the kind of one-on-one interactions that will help move innovative projects forward in ways consistent with the learning sciences, will allow those of us in the learning sciences to find out about relevant work from outside of our field, and will allow all of us to see a larger range of potential new directions than could possibly fit into paper sessions.
Third, we have formally invited to the conference many leaders of the field. Our panels and plenary sessions are filled with those people. As well, we've asked several prominent leaders of the field to serve on a closing panel, giving us their perspectives on the directions we're moving in and new directions we might consider. We've also asked past and present members of the editorial board and review board of the Journal of the Learning Sciences (JLS) to attend the conference. Their badges are marked, and participants should feel free to query them about their perspectives on the learning sciences and what they look for in paper reviews. We will honor them at the opening reception. Indeed, we have much to thank these folks for. Many have put in yeoman's time to help the journal reach the quality it is at today.
We want to end by formally thanking the many people who have helped make the conference happen: the Program Committee and Conference Reviewers for their hard work in soliciting and reviewing papers and suggesting panels and plenary sessions; Barry Fishman for helping to put together the Doctoral Consortium and the faculty who are devoting their time to the development of these new Ph.D.'s; Turner Learning for contributing CNN tours to the banquet; Danny Edelson and Eric Domeshek, the previous organizers, for their sound advice; the EduTech staff -- Mamie Hanson and Sandra Key -- for administrative support for the conference, and EduTech for providing their support; the staff of AACE, particularly Gary Marks, for putting this proceedings together; GCATT (Georgia Center for Advanced Telecommunications Technology) and their staff, especially Bobby Jones, for accommodating our needs so well; the Continuing Education staff at Georgia Tech for their help with local arrangements; the many people in Georgia Tech's College of Computing who helped with the demo sessions; and the research scientists and students who have contributed time to taking care of details. Thank you to all.
We look forward to ICLS-2000 at the University of Michigan and ICLS-02 at MIT's Media Lab.
Janet L. Kolodner