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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Avatars for Learning

A great deal of research is being undertaken in the area of know, the lifelike animated people that inhabit Second Life and other online worlds.

One person doing work in this area is Amy L. Baylor at Floridia State University. She is the founder of The Center for Research of Innovative Technologies for Learning (RITL) which is creating these virtual trainers has found that learners tend to choose virtual trainer types that were similar in ethnicity to the learner. She has also found that female avatars seem to be better at motivating learners than male versions.

The customizability of these avatars means a learner can choose to learn from a wise old mentor or a hip young "dude" or "dudet". Gamers, who are used to building their own players in video games, can now construct their own online trainers, tutors or mentors. These trainers can then assist them to learn new information or be available from time-to-time when they detect that the learner is in trouble.

Sounds like an interesting way to have Einstein be your mentor. To learn even more, check out this article titled Attractive Virtual Professors Draw Student Attention. Research is begining to show that avatars can be an effective tool for online learning. If done correctly, the same "teacher" could appear as different avatars to different students. Regardless of who was teaching the class, you could have the look of the instructior you wanted.

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