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OTHER ITA SITES:
Meet Helen�your new online teacher
Stanley Kubrik�s HAL 9000 may have been smart enough to run the spaceship Discovery, but HAL lacked one thing today�s computers may soon have�a face. Computers, long plagued by the impersonality of a box with speakers and programmer�s graphics, will soon have a face and attitude compatible with their users.
A one-on-one teacher just for you
For simplicity�s sake, we�ll assign a name to our computer�s new face and call her Helen (of course, you�ll be able to name him/her anything you like). Helen will smile at you, move around, even make you laugh. She�ll have an angelic voice, calming hand gestures and more expressions than Marcel Marceu. But most importantly, she�ll encourage you to learn�everything and anything�from French to forensics.
Helen will have �soul�
Researchers in the areas of instructional technology, human-computer interaction and psychology have determined that computers can be more persuasive if they have a visual identity and �soul.� Thus, they have designed what they call an effective "pedagogical agent," an animated, three- dimensional character that serves as the "face" (and "interface") of the computer, one that can mimic human emotional expressions, nonverbal communication and interactions.
You�ll want to bring her an apple
Helen will be the perfect teacher. She�ll interact with you, adapt to your strengths and weaknesses, even provide emotional and cognitive feedback. Far better than Microsoft Word�s annoying and intrusive paperclip 'Clippy,' Helen will engage you and help you focus on the task at hand. And unlike a human mentor, Helen�s age, ethnicity, personality, mannerisms, and interactive style will be matched to your preferences to encourage learning. In short, you�ll have that �favorite teacher� who got you through math or chemistry.
She�ll do everything but send you to detention
Helen will evaluate your understanding throughout your �e-class,� just like a human teacher, and she�ll adapt the lesson plan accordingly. She won�t move on to more sophisticated concepts until it�s clear you�ve grasped the basics. If you don�t, she�ll continue with the basics until you �get it.� And if that means prompting you to ask questions, she�ll do that too, offering encouragement, memorable examples, even a clever joke or two to keep you interested. You�ll get to know Helen much like you would a really interesting teacher. She�ll have a colorful personality, reveal her life history and specific areas of knowledge and skills�in short, she�ll be really cool. Best of all, she�ll always be up to date on the subject at hand, tirelessly absorbing the latest research or historic tomes on the subject being taught.
Helen won�t make you stand in the corner
Helen will let you learn at your own pace in a low-pressure learning environment. She�ll project enthusiasm and support when you get the right answer; yet, unlike a real classroom filled with peers, you won�t be embarrassed if you fail to grasp a concept or answer incorrectly. Finally, teachers like Helen can be set up to act as coaches or disciplined instructors�teaching everything from the history of art to advanced calculus.
So prepare yourself for the brave new world of computer learning. Your favorite teacher will make sure you get an A in class and an E for effort. And yes, you can chew gum in class, as long as you give Helen your due attention.
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