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Nov. 12: CMU's Legendary John R. Anderson Named Franklin Institute Laureate

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Byron Spice / 412-268-9068 /

CMU’s Legendary John R. Anderson
Named Franklin Institute Laureate

Professor Honored for his Real-World Applications in Computer and Cognitive Science

John AndersonPITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University Professor John R. Anderson has been named a 2011 Franklin Institute Laureate — an honor given to distinguished trailblazers in science, business and technology. Anderson will be awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science “for the development of the first large-scale computational theory of the process by which humans perceive, learn and reason, and its application to computer tutoring systems.”
“What makes John Anderson’s tremendous achievements standout is how he has been able to take his complex theories and transition them into real-world applications that are widely used and help people,” said John Lehoczky, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “His research laid the foundation for a brand new approach to cognitive psychology, and, without him, our significant progress in brain science would not be where it is today.”
Anderson has been on the Carnegie Mellon faculty since 1978. His work combines cognitive psychology and computer science to understand how the brain works, how people learn and how computer-based instructional systems can be used as educational aids. In the 1990s, Anderson led a team that created an intelligent computer tutor to teach algebra to high school students. The program actually thought like a teenager and was so successful that Carnegie Learning was spun out to develop computer tutors as a commercial product. To date, more than half a million students in 2,600 schools around the U.S. have used the tutoring software.
“John Anderson’s cognitive modeling techniques have had a profound impact on the field of computer-assisted learning,” said Randal E. Bryant, dean of the School of Computer Science. “His ideas have spurred efforts at Carnegie Mellon to create educational materials in areas ranging from robotics and mathematics to philosophy and foreign languages.”
A notable example of Anderson’s impact is the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center (PSLC), a joint program of Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. The center, which will receive almost $50 million in grant support from the National Science Foundation, uses tutoring software to develop effective new means of teaching and to gather valuable information about the learning process from students in actual classrooms, not laboratory environments.
“John Anderson's research on learning and computer-based tutoring systems was a critical foundation for our Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center,” said Ken Koedinger, PSLC director, professor of human-computer interaction and psychology and a former student of Anderson’s. “I think it is fair to say that we would not have the center if it had not been for John's research.”
The 2011 Benjamin Franklin Medals will be given at a ceremony and dinner on April 28 in Philadelphia. Previous honorees of the Franklin Institute’s prestigious awards include Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marie and Pierre Curie, Orville Wright, Jane Goodall and Allen Newell, the late CMU professor and one of Anderson’s mentors.


Pictured above is John R. Anderson.