Avatar Tutors: The Future of Education Informing It’s Present Direction

The Future of Education Informing It’s Present Direction

By Roland Lucas

CUNY Graduate Center

Doctorate of philosophy

Urban Education Department

Science Math and Technology

March 10, 2010

Abstract

Global technological capacity is growing exponentially to increase human memory sense perception, data search, retrieval and processing powers. Our collective human power of analysis and synthesis supersedes that of any previous era. The problem is that individual human minds can hardly keep up with this exponential growth of data processing speed and knowledge production. Our current methods of learning are bottlenecks to the information explosion we face daily. We try to keep pace with portable devices, on demand Internet connectivity, powerful search engines, with all sorts of productivity tools and applications. The next phase of our learning evolution is to expand human capacity to process and comprehend the massive amounts of information that computer processing affords, on levels approaching the rate at which new information is produced. One means of doing his is by joining the best of existing collaborative technologies with powerful heuristic programming (expert systems) technology.

If you can’t beat them join them. AI Avatar tutors to the rescue!

Rule-based or expert systems are programs capable of responding to situations based on a given set of rules that defines an initial domain of action. The expert system is then able to augment its rule-base with new inputs gathered, and by combining existing information in novel ways (discovery). The expert system is capable of producing actions or new information utilizing it’s rule-base. This loosely describes the process of learning by artificially intelligent systems from an encountered environment. A solution to our learning needs in the face of exponential growth of information is to have heuristic Avatar tutors. As we look forward here to the flower of what Avatar tutors can do for us in the future, we can also be mindful of and nurture the present seeds that will unfold into this probable future.

Omniscience: Ready access to known and applicable information

Avatar tutors never sleep and are dedicated to searching, retrieving, organizing, deciphering, pre-digesting and presenting information on our behalf. They resolve conflicting information and screen out unnecessary sidebars, before presenting instruction to us in a variety of ways that agree with our learning styles and moods. Data is feed into the Avatar database from a wide variety of sources like RSS or XML feeds. All major information outlets will comply with this universal format for feeding Avatar tutor knowledge bases. Student profile and knowledge content is also feed to the Avatar knowledge base. This data is then used to synthesize and generate up-to-date rules in the rule-database, used for real-time heuristic processing. The Avatar tutors can then make more intelligent decisions based on up-to-date information on behalf of the student.

“I am who you want and need me to be”

These Avatar tutors are like various personalities that are expressions of one central personality, a central processing center and data store. The inputs and localized processing by one Avatar is instantly distributed across the assembly of related Avatars (a kind of colony). Each AI Avatar is responsible for teaching the student from a different vantage point. Each is tailored to a particular learning mode that is calibrated to the student’s multiple intelligences, yet is always addressing the same developmental needs. They can evolve along with the student as their common database and rule set gets updated.

“I know you better than your Mama!

Avatar tutors will be integrated into all aspects of a student’s electronic signature domain. They will know what the student’s overall development is in a selected domain, in real time. They can sense mood based on setting, recent experiences of success or failure, age, relationships etc. Based on this knowledge, Avatar tutors can dynamically assess a student’s receptivity to the lesson to be learned and defer to the most effective Avatar for a given situation. The student could also make requests of which personality to select as an instructor. Avatar tutors will be able to share their databases and rule sets with delegated real teachers, and any network of family and friends who are interested in furthering the student’s developmental experience.

“Every move you make I’ll be teaching you.”

Avatar tutors will be integrated into all aspects of a student’s electronic signature domain. They will the track in real time, the student’s overall development in a selected domain. Locations where Avatars can show up: personal hand held devices, home computers, home TV, Kiosk stations, Learning Cafes, classrooms, accelerated courses, game parks, schools, and the work place. Locations can be “sensed” by the Avatar based on communication device, GPS coordinates, and user input. Avatar data output would be adjusted automatically according to the device available and the privacy of context. They will have access to the latest developments, as well as a means of analyzing the developmental components of a topic, and deliver them just as a personal trainer delivers successive training routines to a subject.     Furthermore, any life experiences can be recorded visually by panoramic video feeds with audio. This raw data can be synthesized, formatted and loaded into the heuristic database for feeds into Avatar decision-making on how to deliver instruction.

The lines between virtual and real are blurred.

People can enter booths or dedicated rooms to get Avatar modeling experiences in more true to life forms based on the latest in 3D graphical interactive interfaces, holograms, and real time feeds from databases, satellites, and local sensors. These experiences will increasingly approach the Star Trek holo-deck conception. The overall effect is like a matrix, not because one’s internal visual cortex and mental faculties have been co-opted; but rather because one’s experiences are pervaded by the innumerable stations where students interact with and learn from Avatar tutors, situated in normal contextualized activities. Avatar tutors will seek to arrange for interactions between the student and real people in flexible as well as structured time arrangements.

“I can only point the way -you have to walk the walk.”

A person can become overly reliant on external knowledge, rather than on learning how to produce knowledge from internal inspiration (like Einstein). This can be remedied by specifying a tapering off of Avatar interactions. Avatars tutors then employ scaffolding instruction for the student and taper off their instruction as they “sense” a student becoming stronger in the subject taught based on assessment results. There will be a feature of the Avatar tutor experience where a summary of what has been learned during a period of time is catalogued. One can have assessments constructed, free of external hints or informational input, to determine if learning objectives were met.

What Avatar tutors can teach us about pedagogy in today’s classroom?

The pedagogical tool of Avatar Tutors places emphasis on delivering pervasive high quality education to students in ways that maximize relevancy according to student profiles. It integrates instruction into the moments of daily life, thus increasing the opportunities for learning and reducing the knowledge assimilation bottleneck spoken of at the beginning of this paper. It relies on theories of multiple intelligences by delivering instruction in modes that are preferred by students while also attempting to address developmental weaknesses. The tool also relies on concepts of “Cognitive Apprenticeship” that implement ideas of scaffolding, modeling and fading. We are already making web based applications that respond dynamically to personal input and “evolve” along with the changing needs and predilections of users. We need not reach too far into the future to convert this potential into positive learning experiences. Indeed we can take each future benefit of Avatar tutors and consider how its precursors can be applied forwardly in today’s classroom. This will be explored in detail in the next paper.

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