Avatars have many applications in the classroom, for learners of all ages. Younger students will enjoy the fun and quirkiness of an avatar, but this may be the very element a teenager will NOT find amusing. For teenagers, the avatar needs to be ‘cool’ initially and engaging to hold their interest.
A wide choice of characters and voices are available and an avatar can be tailor made to suit the application. An avatar is a great method of introducing topics or giving instructions. They would be useful in online learning particularly to add a human touch to the course for students who are learning via distance education.
Research conducted by Baylor and Kim (2005) in which three distinct pedagogical roles (Expert, Motivator, Mentor) were created, found that the use of these roles led to significant changes in learning and motivation in university students. The Expert led to an increase in information acquisition, the Motivator led to students self belief in their abilities and the Mentor led to overall improved learning and motivation. It was also discovered that learners had a tendency to choose the virtual instructor who was similar in ethnicity to the learner and also that female avatars are more successful at motivating learners than male versions.
In the Northern Territory, a program has been created to facilitate the delivery of health information to remote Aboriginal communities (Australian IT Business). It features the world’s first three dimensional Aboriginal avatar, called ‘Uncle’, and it is hoped that the program will assist in providing crucial knowledge about diseases to remote communities, where language can often be a huge hurdle to health education. The avatar will provide information in traditional language to indigenous people in a form they can accept.
Here is an example of an avatar being used in an adult education circumstance, enabling communication and greater understanding between indigenous staff and the wider community.
I used Voki to create a couple of avatars for my blog and found it very user friendly and quick to create, with step by step instructions and plenty of choice for different characters and voices.
Baylor, A.L. & Kim, Y. (2005) Simulating Instructional Roles through Pedagogical Agents
Retrieved July 28, 2009. http://ritl.fsu.edu/_Website/publications.asp
Rothwell, N. Avatar Helps Heal Outback. IT Business. Retrieved July 28, 2009.