Pedagogical Agents in Virtual Worlds
It’s standard practice by now that each one of my publications gets its own blog post, not least to alert anyone interested of the availability of the paper and of the fact that they can access a pre-publication copy of it from my publications page.
Our latest paper, which was really fun to write, is:
Veletsianos, G., Heller, R., Overmyer, S., & Procter, M. (2010). Conversational Agents in Virtual Worlds: Bridging Disciplines. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(1), 123-140. [pdf]
This paper is part of a a BJET special issue focusing on Virtual Worlds that I edited with Prof. Sara de Freitas who’s heading the Serious Games Institute at the University of Conventry. In our introduction to the special issue we note that, “…over the last 30 years, academic disciplines have been encouraged to engage in, and have re-arranged methods that better facilitate, cross-engagement and cross-collaboration.”
Lots can be said about the value of multidisciplinary practice. Yet, due to various barriers that exists across the disciplines, such practice is often limited. Partly to highlight the benefits of multidisciplinary practice and partly to further understanding of issues related to pedagogical agent/avatar design, three colleagues and I engaged in a simple thought experiment: Suppose that you are designing a geriatric avatar with which medical students can hold conversations such that students engage in the diagnosis of certain conditions based on the avatar’s input. How would you design this avatar?
The paper therefore presents the perspective of researchers/practitioners from four disciplines: cognitive
psychology, computing science, learning technologies and engineering. Major challenges are identified, discussed and contrasted across all disciplines. Taken together, the four perspectives draw attention to the quality of agent–user interaction, how theory, practice and research are closely intertwined, and highlight opportunities for cross-fertilisation and collaboration.