By: Emily Cook, TLS staff writer

Professor Jim Davies is re-imagining teaching, and it involves not wasting any student work.

Davies has been a professor in the Institute of Cognitive Science at Carleton since 2006. In 2015 he was awarded a Provost’s Fellowship in Teaching Award for sustained excellence in teaching.

He says his idea of not wasting student work came from over 25 years of his own formal education. He asked himself, “How do I get students working on things that are actually useful to somebody, rather than working on a project that’s just going to go in the garbage?”

Davies says he started looking for assignments with a purpose beyond the classroom, which led the creation of his Cognitive Science Summaries website. He has students summarize artificial intelligence and cognitive science papers or book chapters that no one has summarized before. Once complete, the summary is published on the site.

“Now anybody on earth can find that summary and read it and get some benefit out of it,” he says.

Davies also has students create educational materials for future students, such as making flash cards for lectures.

“Within one year, I had decks of flash cards online for every lecture that I taught,” he says, adding that he now has them in the syllabus for students to access.

Students can also contribute a chapter or part of a chapter to online textbooks such as WikiBooks, he says. Eventually, Davies says there may be a full textbook online so other students won’t need to buy it.

Davies is also the director of the Science of Imagination Laboratory, which focuses on creating models of how people create things in their visual imaginations.

“All of those decisions that your mind makes in coming up with that picture are done by processes that are very misunderstood,” he says.

The laboratory, which he says is largely run by students in undergraduate and graduate studies, is looking to discover the processes the mind uses and get computers to envision and reproduce them.

Davies says one goal of the lab is to create a computer system where someone could type in an object and the computer could imagine it and show it on a screen.

Through the laboratory and finding meaningful and practical use for student work, Davies says he is trying to build better scholars.

“It’s with the hope that it would be more motivating, but also just because it would be good for the world,” he says.

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