Computer Science
Affiliations: Psychology, Volen Center for Complex Systems
Brandeis University
Waltham, MA 02454
(781) 736-2703

  • University of California, Berkeley (1984-1986), Research Associate, Computer Science Division; Member, Cognitive Science Group, UC Berkeley 
  • University of Texas, Austin (1977-1982) Computer Science, Ph.D. 
  • University of California, Berkeley (1970-1974), Computer Science and Mathematics, B.A.

Research Interests:
  • Cognitive engineering; Educational technology; Computer Supported Cooperation; Learning sciences; Text, discourse, and communication; Cognitive Science
Abstracts of recent papers:
  • A more reflective form of joint problem solving (Alterman & Harsch, 2017), to appear in Int'l Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning
    This paper explores the emergence of joint problem solving in online environments where the participants work together but at different times and from different places. Collaborations of this sort have been referred to as loosely coupled collaborations. The focus is on venue which is the virtual substitute for physical copresence under these conditions. Venue is fundamentally a social construct. It functions to “localize” participation dynamics, communication and register, the creation and sharing of domain objects, and situation- 10 dependent knowledge. Within venue, the reflective parts of joint problem solving become more prominent. Within venue, small teams of students align their views, coordinate their efforts, share their understanding and work, and jointly problem solve.

  • Participation and Common Knowledge in a Case Study of Student Blogging (Alterman & Larusson, 2013, Int'l Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 1-39) 
    The interaction between participation and the emergence of common knowledge is the subject matter of this paper. A case study of a single class provides the focal point of analysis. During the semester the students participated in a blogging activity. As a result of their participation, the students create and distribute knowledge. The online efforts of the students can be described as participation in both a discourse and knowledge community. At one level, blogging is an activity composed of writing, reading, and commenting, and at a second level, the students share their thoughts in their own voices. At a third level, over the course of the semester, the student posts and commentary form a commons of information that can be mined later in the semester for other kinds of learning activities. Knowledge creation, distribution, and accumulation are analyzed in terms of student participation at both the level of individual events and from the perspective of an ongoing community. 
  • Understanding Promotions in a Case Study of Student Blogging (Gunnarsson & Alterman, 2013, Third International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge)
    Promoting blog content is a social activity; it is a means of communicating one student’s appreciation of another stu- dent’s work. This paper explores the feasibility of using student promotions of content, in a blogosphere, to identify quality content, and implications for instructors. We show that students actively and voluntarily promote content, use promotion data to select which posts to read, and with con- siderable accuracy identify quality material. We explore the benefits of knowing which students are good and poor pre- dictors of quality content, and what instructors can do with this information in terms of feedback and guidance.