Teaching at UWL

My teaching plans for the School of Computing at UWL are becoming more concrete. I’ll be teaching the „Knowledge-based Technologies“ module together with Dr. Thomas Collins. For the next term I am currently developing a module on „Case-Based Reasoning„, which can be seen as an advanced topic of knowledge-based technologies. I have also plans for courses on „Explanation-aware Computing Systems“ and „Computing in Context“. I am looking forward to my future students. Feel free to ask.

London calling

To be more precise, the University of West London (formerly Thames Valley University) is calling. I was offered the position of Professor in Computing at the School of Computing and Technology .

The University of West London (formerly Thames Valley University) offered me the position of Professor in Computing at their School of Computing and Technology, starting on 1 September 2011. Of course, I accepted 🙂

Going to London is a dream come true for my wife and me, and it’s absolutely fabulous that it is in sync with the publication of our first novel Lux Domini.

New job

This winter term I will give the following courses (in German): Database systems (3 h, lecture with exercises and practical course) Explanation-aware computing systems (3 h, lecture) Reading, writing, presenting (seminar) Explanations in knowledge-based systems (seminar) For the time being I stay involved in the software cluster project „EMERGENT – Grundlagen emergenter Software“ where I co-lead a task on explanation-capabilities for production processes and supervise the phd work of Björn Forcher . I also continue to work on the design of the open-source case-based reasoning tool myCBR , which is now further developed at the newly founded DFKI Competence Center Case-Based Reasoning headed by Klaus-Dieter Althoff.

It is official. I am now visiting professor at the Institute of Computer Science at the University of Hildesheim, where I follow Klaus-Dieter Althoff who continues to work there as professor of artificial intelligence. As head of the newly founded research group Explanation-aware Computing Systems I will continue my research work on explanation. This winter term I will give the following courses (in German):

  • Database systems (3 h, lecture with exercises and practical course)
  • Explanation-aware computing systems (3 h, lecture)
  • Reading, writing, presenting (seminar)
  • Explanations in knowledge-based systems (seminar)

For the time being I stay involved in the software cluster project „EMERGENT – Grundlagen emergenter Software“ where I co-lead the task on explanation-capabilities for production processes and supervise the phd work of Björn Forcher. I also continue to work on the design of the open-source case-based reasoning tool myCBR, which is now further developed at the newly founded DFKI Competence Center Case-Based Reasoning headed by Klaus-Dieter Althoff.

Short attention spans? I don’t think so … anymore

I admit I believed very much in that youths today have a much shorter attention span than us „older people“, i.e., people over thirty, and that they needed to be entertained more and more. … I was asked to limit my talks to about an hour, but I enjoyed the presentations so much that I extended the first a bit.

I admit I believed very much in that youths today have a much shorter attention span than us „older people“, i.e., people over thirty, and that they needed to be entertained more and more. Media repeat this over and over, and I spotted this lack of attention in all of my classes. But, the last two weeks showed to me that this might be also some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy: If one expects some behaviour, one will get it.

DFKI’s knowledge management department keeps good relations to several secondary schools, one of it Hugo-Ball-Gymnasium (HBG) in Pirmasens. A few years ago I was involved in re-establishing the contact with HBG. We did a small project there on eLearning. Since then DFKI researchers regularly give talks on Artificial Intelligence and related topics.

Like last year, Benjamin Adrian organised a two weeks internship with the computer science and math teachers of HBG. Five 11th grade students participated in the programme, which consisted of a presentation each day accompanied by exercises. Two DFKI management interns joined the talks. The presentations ranged from such topics as „Semantic Desktop“, „Web 2.0 and the ALOE platform“, „Intelligent Text Processing“ to „Computer-generated explanations“. I contributed an introductory talk on AI and second talk „Case-Based Reasoning and Explanations“.

During my first talk I already noticed the rapt attention of the students. I have to admit that I felt a bit uncomfortable at first as I was not used to that level of attention. These young people did not only listen closely to what I had to say, they participated and answered questions that typically became rhetorical questions in university lectures. They even asked questions on their own.

I was asked to limit my talks to about an hour, but I enjoyed the presentations so much that I extended the first a bit. When it came to the second talk I extended it to nearly two hours. I hurled a lot of stuff at them, but they seemed eager to learn and understand. I am sure a lot went right over their heads, but they did not seem to tire (unlike me).

Of course, one could say the students chose this internship and, thus, were very much interested in what we presented. On the other hand, they could have chosen to lounge about during the two weeks. But no, each of them stayed tuned until the very end of my presentations (I heard the same from my colleagues, mind you). I do not think of myself as being a very good or pedagogically gifted teacher who could motivate even the dead. So it must be their fault. They have just a normal attention span, if they are interested in a topic. Just like us „older people“.

I try to be a little bit less prejudiced in this regard when the next lecture at university starts. Instead of looking out for signs of lacking attention I will look out more for signs of attention and interest.

Gute Lehre(r) an der TU Kaiserslautern

Schön, wenn man so gute Kollegen wie Achim Ebert am DFKI bzw. am Fachbereich Informatik der TU KL hat: Am 28. 4. 2009 wird der Fachbereich Informatik zum vierten Mal in Folge auf dem Tag der Lehre ausgezeichnet.

Schön, wenn man so gute Kollegen wie Achim Ebert am DFKI bzw. am Fachbereich Informatik der TU KL hat:

Am 28. 4. 2009 wird der Fachbereich Informatik zum vierten Mal in Folge auf dem Tag der Lehre ausgezeichnet. Mit J.-Prof. Ebert erhält zum vierten Mal ein Professor des Fachbereichs einen persönlichen Lehrpreis des Landes.

[From FB-Informatik (TU-KL): Newsletter FB Informatik, 1/2009]

So, my teaching is not that bad :-)

The course was rated amongst the best 25 % of the computer science department’s courses at the University of Kaiserslautern. This is quite nice feedback and surely was a team effort between us lecturers, our tutor, Jörn Hees, and this year’s students.

My recently finished class on Case-Based Reasoning, which I held together with Armin Stahl again, was rated quite high. The course was rated amongst the best 25 % of the computer science department’s courses at the University of Kaiserslautern. This is quite nice feedback and surely was a team effort between us lecturers, our tutor, Jörn Hees, and this year’s students. Motivated students motivate teachers.

Note: The rating results are only accessible on the university’s intranet and are in German. So, if you do not have access you have to take my word 😉

Sunny Social Semantic Desktop Summer School Successful

The students were eager to learn—something one would like to see at university in one’s own courses a bit more from time to time. … A highlight for me were the mini-projects where students worked in groups on topics they had chosen to their liking.

Participants, lecturers, and tutors of the the first Nepomuk Social Semantic Desktop Summer School on Malta
Participants, lecturers, and tutors of the the first Nepomuk Social Semantic Desktop Summer School on Malta

I have spent last week on Malta where I had co-organised the first Nepomuk Social Semantic Desktop Summer School. The summer school was a great experience and, from what we learned from the participants, a great success. (Read more about the summer school in general here.)

The working atmosphere was enthusiastic from beginning to end. The students were eager to learn—something one would like to see at university in one’s own courses a bit more from time to time. The summer school students indeed wanted to be there. They had had to apply for a seat on the summer school. They worked for their success and they did so wholeheartedly.

Having so much time together at hand for talking and discussing alongside with a lot of fun (and sun!) helped tremendously to concentrate on the topics and to deepen one’s knowledge. There surely was knowledge and experience transferred both ways, from lecturers and tutors to students and vice versa.

A highlight for me were the mini-projects where students worked in groups on topics they had chosen to their liking. Until deep into the night one found groups sitting in different places discussing and programming towards their self-imposed goals. On the last day the student groups presented their impressive results. I was amazed by how much they achieved in so few days.

I surely would like to organise another summer school in the future.