Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A college course blog - The Biology of Mind course at the Univ. of Wisconsin

I began a course called "The Biology of Mind" at the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1993, cross listed between the departments of Zoology, Psychology, Anthropology, and Neuroscience. The links to my personal website in the left column of this blog describe that course, whose lecture notes generated the "Biology of Mind" book. On my retirement in 2001, I was very grateful that John Hawks of the UW Anthropology Dept. took over the course, putting his own particular stamp on its contents. He has tried a number of innovations, such as podcasts of the lectures, and now has set up a blog on which students post their writing and commentary. It makes a fascinating read. Here is John's description of the effort:
I am doing a unique experiment with my course this semester, "Biology of Mind." The course has a history of collaborative peer review on writing assignments, and the students do a lot of writing -- students who earn an "A" in the course will be required to produce 10,000 words of written assignments during the semester. In the past, I have used the university's online course system to administer the assignments, and the students have really benefited from their peers' feedback as well as my own.

This semester, I've decided to take it all public. The students are collaborating as before, except this semester they are doing it on a blog. The blog's name is "Biology of Mind", and it has been up and running for a couple of weeks. Right now there are over 200 posts over there, and the number continues to grow.

The students write weekly reviews of papers in psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, philosophy of mind, and naturally anthropology -- a broad scope. Many of the students have been following new research, others have chosen to delve more deeply into the history of one or more fields. In any event, if you're interested in the brain, you may like this site. I think the students (mostly seniors with some graduate students) are producing some nice work, and the site is open for feedback from the public as well.

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