Systems Technologies (Principal Scientist), BBN,1974-1990

After three years as Assistant Professor at Rutgers in Computer Science, I became a Principal Scientist at Bolt Beranek & Newman (BBN) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Artificial intelligence

I first worked on the Speech Understanding Project, 1974-76, with a team led by Bill Woods and others, including Lyn Bates and Bonnie Webber.

I focused on the use of pragmatics in speech understanding, speech generation, information retrieval, and interactive dialogue.

Computers for learning to read and write

Later at BBN, I worked on various kinds of software in areas such as artificial intelligence and technology-enhanced learning.

An important project was Quill—a software package developed to foster an environment for literacy in classrooms. The software, teacher’s guide, and workshops were used widely.

Along with Andee Rubin, I helped implement Quill in village schools in Alaska. My three trips there offer a model for education reform in diverse settings. It also led to the book, Electronic Quills: A situated evaluation of using computers for writing in classrooms, which showed a generation of educators ways to apply computers in education and to evaluate their effectiveness.

Situated evaluation

The work with Quill, ENFI, and other projects led to a theory and practice of situated evaluation, a type of evaluation that assumes that the object of study is neither the innovation alone nor its effects, but rather, the realization of the innovation through use, 1982-present.

Science for the People

During my time at BBN, I was active with Science for the People, especially the Sociobiology Study Group.