The Pennsylvania State University, http://www.geog.psu.edu/people/downs-roger
Talk: More informtation coming soon
Bio: Roger M. Downs is Professor of Geography and former Head of the Department of Geography at The Pennsylvania State University. His research interests include the development of spatial thinking and spatial literacy, the history of geography education, and the design of curricula for geography and spatial thinking. His work on the development of our knowledge about the world focuses on the interplay among the developing mind, the environment, and the process of education. Currently, he is studying (1) the roots of geography (how and why some people become geographers); (2) the development of expertise (how and why spatial/logical abilities interact with experience); (3) the differential development of expertise (how and why gender interacts with geography); and (4) the development of graphic comprehension (how and why we learn to read the world through media).
University of Pennsylvania, http://www.psych.upenn.edu/epsteinlab/
Talk:From Landmarks to Cognitive Maps: Spatial Navigation Systems in the Human Brain
Abstract:Humans and animals use representations of where things are in space (i.e. "cognitive maps") to find their way from place to place. To implement this navigational strategy, however, it is not enough to have a map—one must also have a way of using external features of the world (“landmarks”) to determine one’s heading and position on the map. I will present results from several functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies that implicate two regions of the human brain—the parahippocampal place area (PPA) and retrosplenial complex (RSC)—in different aspects of landmark processing. Specifically, we find that activation patterns in the PPA contain information about landmark identity that is at least partially invariant to substantial visual changes, consistent with a role in landmark recognition. In contrast, activation patterns in RSC contain information about the location and heading of the observer relative to local environmental features, suggesting that this region uses local landmarks to anchor one’s sense of direction. If time permits, I will also discuss how the RSC works in conjunction with medial temporal lobe structures such as the hippocampus to mediate different kinds of long-term spatial knowledge. These results shed light on how landmark-based navigation is implemented in the human brain and show that fMRI can be used to obtain information about visual and spatial representations that complements and extends the information obtained from behavioral data and neurophysiological recordings.
Bio :Dr. Russell Epstein is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at University of Pennsylvania. His laboratory at Penn uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying human spatial navigation. He is best known for a series of studies that mapped out a network of regions of the human brain involved in the visual recognition of places, including the parahippocampal place area (PPA) and retrosplenial complex (RSC). His recent work focuses on using fMRI to understand the specific representational codes supported by these regions, with the aim of understanding their contributions to landmark-based wayfinding. He is a member of the Penn Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the NSF Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center.
University of Pittsburgh, http://www.lrdc.pitt.edu/schunn/
Talk: Spatial Mechanisms at Play: Thinking and Learning with Physical Robots
Abstract: As the virtual world become more and more common in work, education, and play, questions arise about what is lost, if anything, for thinking and learning in virtual experiences. On the one hand, the virtual world should have critical affordances, particularly with respect to abstraction, allowing for distracting realities to be minimized. On the other hand, many of our reasoning foundations may be grounded in embodied structures that are less well activated by the virtual. I explore a case in which these intuitions clash: learning to use mathematics (the most abstract) in robotics movement planning (the very concrete). I present a series of studies around educational robotics that systematically unpack the role of physicality in learning mathematical abstractions like proportional reasoning. This work highlights the role of mechanisms as an effective bridge between mathematics and the world.
Bio: Christian Schunn is a Senior Scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center and a Professor of Psychology, Learning Sciences and Policy, and Intelligent Systems at the University of Pittsburgh. He directs a number of research projects in science, mathematics, and engineering education. This work includes studying expert engineering and science teams, building innovative technology-supported STEM curricula, and studying factors that influence student and teacher learning. He is also a Fellow of AAAS and the American Psychological Association, and the current Chair of the Executive of the International Society for Design & Development in Education. He has served on two National Academy of Engineering committees, K-12 Engineering Education and K-12 Engineering Education Standards.
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