One of the major activities of this course will be keeping a reading
journal in which you will interact with our text, exploring your responses
to several questions about concepts and methods from the reading.
While improving your writing skills may be a beneficial side-effect,
the main purpose of the journal is to stimulate your thinking about
fundamental questions, problems, and issues raised by your study of
artificial intelligence. Thus, you will be rewarded-in terms of the
knowledge you acquire and the evaluation you receive-more for the
process of thinking than for written the end product. This
delightfully self-serving writing is called "exploratory" writing
because it allows you to explore your thoughts by "thinking out
loud," rather than being concerned with the effectiveness of your
writing for other readers. Features of formal writing, such as organization,
will be less important in your journal.
Such journal writing helps many students focus their thinking and
become more productive in their learning. By engaging in the process
of journal writing, you should become more accustomed to the view
that academic study is an arena for inquiry and wonder rather than
a passive, tentative, and often ephemeral acquisition of information.
Such a view can make college much more exciting, and it is very high
among the reasons I continue to love academic exploration. As you
ask more questions and question more answers you will truly be thinking
like a computer scientist.
What do I write in my journal?
You will be given a short set of questions (3-5) to answer. They will
usually require you to process the day's reading, looking for cues
to important concepts or relations among ideas. Most of the time,
you will be given clear instructions on what exactly it will mean
elaborate or explore your thinking for a particular question. When
you are quoting material from the textbook, please reference page
numbers and page location cues such as" top," "middle,"
How long do my answers have to be?
Like most real-life situations, the answer is "it depends."
Sometimes you will be asked to justify an answer in 3-5 sentences.
Other times you will be asked to explain a concept as you would to
your kid sister. Just how long do you think she is going to wait for
your description of the fundamental computational principle behind
...? Your answer length should thus be targeted appropriately.
How long do I have to spend on each journal entry?
Once again, the answer is "it depends." If you have faithfully
read and studied the assigned material (see the section on reading
preparation in the syllabus), exploring your thoughts on it will likely
take between 15-30 minutes. Some questions will take you longer than
others, and some sets of questions will take longer than others. One
main reason for the variance may include your need to react to, process,
and interact with some new and perhaps challenging concepts.
Do I get automatic credit for answering the questions?
While I have explained above that your main focus will not usually
be formal effective writing, I will be looking for evidence that you
are thinking seriously about the topics in the reading. Your responses
should clearly exhibit your wrangling with concepts, leaving no doubt
that you have done your reading and studying before attempting to
answer the questions.
Unlike an exam, your reading journal gives you the freedom to err.
Writing helps you to internalize new concepts; sometimes you may get
them mixed up and that is okay. A journal entry that shows a mind
struggling with an idea is often the most interesting for someone
else (including yourself later) to read.
How should I write my journal entries?
Log on to PioneerWeb and navigate to the page for this course. The
side menu has an entry entitled "Reading Journal." Navigate
there and you will be able to add new entries. You should create one
entry for each day's questions. The assignment for each days' questions
will have a title at the top (e.g., Philosophical Foundations)
that you will use as your entry title, so the instructor knows which
day's questions you are answering. You should separate your answers
with numbers indicating the particular question being addressed.
Adapted from "Engaging Ideas," John C. Bean, Josey-Bass
File translated from
On 27 Aug 2009, 11:42.