Educational Gaming Avatars

Educational Gaming Avatars

Colette Wanless-Sobel (Inver Hills Community College and University of Phoenix, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch106
OnDemand PDF Download:
$37.50

Abstract

Avatar (abbreviated Av) in online educational gaming refers to a virtual self or agent who, immersed in a real-time distributed, synthetic environment, vicariously collaborates and learns-by-doing, using virtual artifacts and peer networking to construct knowledge (Walker, 1990; West, 1994). Avatars can also be embodied agents, which are mathematical or computational formulae designed to accomplish specific goals in the online environment. Avatars, which can be 2D, 3D, or animated, are not limited, then, to humanoid or life-form representations in education; avatars can also be embodied in multimedia representations (Guynup, Broglio & Demmers,2004) and in computer software processes, such as bots and AIs (artificial intelligence). Technically speaking, an avatar simulates or embodies the human mind of the computer user onscreen, making the computer mouse the first occasion when a user’s body enters the online environment (Biocca, 1997). No longer limited to a computer mouse, avatars in 2007 have varying degrees of photographic and behavioral realism, which can take the form of a talking head, such as Ananova, or can entail the physiognomy of a human being or other life forms, such as aliens, robots, and animals (furries), who possess various kinesthetic abilities, such as walking and flying; communicative features, such as voice, eye contact, gesture, and attitude; and even the sense of hearing when an avatar is situated in a soundscape. Avatar capability and sophistication vary greatly, depending on the software and the user’s knowledge base and creative persistence.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

Avatar (abbreviated Av) in online educational gaming refers to a virtual self or agent who, immersed in a real-time distributed, synthetic environment, vicariously collaborates and learns-by-doing, using virtual artifacts and peer networking to construct knowledge (Walker, 1990; West, 1994). Avatars can also be embodied agents, which are mathematical or computational formulae designed to accomplish specific goals in the online environment. Avatars, which can be 2D, 3D, or animated, are not limited, then, to humanoid or life-form representations in education; avatars can also be embodied in multimedia representations (Guynup, Broglio & Demmers,2004) and in computer software processes, such as bots and AIs (artificial intelligence). Technically speaking, an avatar simulates or embodies the human mind of the computer user onscreen, making the computer mouse the first occasion when a user’s body enters the online environment (Biocca, 1997). No longer limited to a computer mouse, avatars in 2007 have varying degrees of photographic and behavioral realism, which can take the form of a talking head, such as Ananova, or can entail the physiognomy of a human being or other life forms, such as aliens, robots, and animals (furries), who possess various kinesthetic abilities, such as walking and flying; communicative features, such as voice, eye contact, gesture, and attitude; and even the sense of hearing when an avatar is situated in a soundscape. Avatar capability and sophistication vary greatly, depending on the software and the user’s knowledge base and creative persistence.

As an educational concept, avatar transverses many fields: computer and scientific modeling; artificial intelligence; informatics; graphic design; anthropology; theater; behavioral science, including the psychology of play (ludology;) sociology; and kinesiology. Avatar use in civilian education is a new venture with limitless possibilities for expressive communication and human development, entailing a paradigm shift in how education is conceived and delivered (Owen, 1991; Tiffin & Rajasingham, 2003). Avatars offer education platforms intense interactivity with simultaneous telepresence; dynamic pictorial simulations; collaboration of geo-distributed partners; and social presence to garner the psychological and emotional investment of the learner. Role-playing, case studies, and simulations are common uses of educational avatars.

Avatar applications in online gaming continue to develop and expand and are expected to be an integral component of 21st century education world-wide, although many educators are resistant to avatars and educational games. Avatar use in mainstream education also has other obstacles, such as high-end technological requirements, development cost issues, high learning curves for avatar platforms, and ethical issues entailed with mimetic behavior in online classrooms.

Top

Background

The word avatar is derived from Hindi philosophy and refers to the bodily manifestation of a higher being in some form onto planet Earth (Indopedia, 2004). Internet adaptation of the word avatar is attributed to science fiction writer William Gibson, whose book Neuromancer (1984) depicts a computer network where users project their digital representatives (avatars) into a simulated world.

Key Terms in this Chapter

JITAIT(S) (Just-in-time artificial intelligence tutor[s]): is an AI teacher-avatar who is available online whenever a student needs help or assistance. JITAITS are embodied agents, which are mathematical or computational formulae designed to accomplish specific goals in the online environment.

MORPG / MORPGs: is an acronym for massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and it is a type of game genre. MMORPGs are online role-playing multiplayer games that allow thousands of gamers synchronously to play in virtual world. EverQuest 2, World of Warcraft, and Dungeons and Dragons Online are three popular examples.

Instructionism / Instructionist: refers to a collection of educational practices that are teacher-focused, skill-based, product-oriented, non-interactive, and highly prescribed.

Authentic Learning: focuses on real-world, complex problems and their solutions, using role-playing exercises, problem-based activities, case studies, and participation in virtual communities of practice. The learning environments are inherently interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): is a general term for software and hardware systems that seek to mimic or extend higher order functions of the human mind, like cognition, vision or locomotion.

Immersible Environment: is an online learning environment that provides users the subjective impression that they are in a “world.” An immersive environment is comprehensive and realistic enough to prompt users’ willing suspension of disbelief as they interact with the virtual world through physical actions, such as walking and gesturing.

Telepresence Technology: such as a virtual learning platform, enables users to feel as if they are actually present in a different place or time. The goal of this technology is to produce a transparent link from human to machine; a seamless interface through which information is passed between user and virtual environment.

Simulation: is the representation of a system, organization or organism by another system or model, designed to have behavioral similarity to the original.

Bots (Internet Robots, Web Robots): are software agents programmed to interact with humans. Sophisticated bots in an avatar world are usually labeled artificial intelligence (AI).

MUD /MUDs (MultiUser Dungeon, MultiUser Dimension, MultiUser Dialogue): is an interactive game played by several people at a time on the Internet. MUDs, once mainly comprised of dungeons and dragon games with demons, elves, and magicians, have evolved into 3D virtual reality sites

Constructivism/ Constructivist: refers to a collection of educational practices that are student-focused, meaning-based, process-oriented, interactive, and responsive to students’ personal interests and need

Transformative Learning: is learning that engages students to question their own assumptions, beliefs, feelings, and perspectives in order to develop personally and intellectually (Boyd & Meyers, 1988).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset