Logic made fun online

November 16, 2006, Volume 37, No.6
By Diane Luckow

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Frustration over access to an accurate logic textbook led SFU philosophy professor Ray Jennings to write his own — with accompanying software, called Simon, which both teaches students and marks their work.
“I wanted to improve introductory education in logic,” says Jennings. “Students find Simon addictive. Some say they play with it the way they used to play solitaire. It's a good time.”

Now, he says, instructors teaching natural deductive logic can have students purchase the text and then use the software for free over the Internet in an “open” course. Students have an accurate, serious text and instructors can use their time for student enrichment, rather than marking.

The software, created by SFU alumna Nicole Friedrich, has the best grading service available, says Jennings. “The only other one, at Stanford University, has been described as ‘very weak' by comparison with ours.” The server software, Simon Says, keeps all of the course records and can also run extensive statistical analyses on them.

Best of all, says Jennings, “because so much of the work from the textbook can be done independently of an instructor, we're able to offer this open course in logic over the Internet to anyone, anywhere in the world, who has the textbook.”

Students who take the open course submit their work to the Simon Says server at SFU. When they have completed the course, it reminds Jennings to send a certificate of completion and a report on standing.

“Although SFU isn't directly offering university credit,” he says, “the certificate provides a valuable credential for placement purposes.”

Jennings hopes universities will use the open course as part of their undergraduate requirements and says it's also suitable for advanced students in Grades 11 and 12.

The 300-page text/study guide, Proof and Consequence / Simple Simon, is published by Broadview Press. It's available from Amazon.com or can be ordered through any bookstore.

To learn more, visit www.sfu.ca/llep/Ara/openCourse.html.

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