Wednesday, March 5, 2008

When Virtual Teachers Surpass Real Teachers

Despite fears that computer might replace teachers, some applications of virtual teachers have been found to help students with autism and specific kinds of language impairments. In addition, these virtual tutors have advanced the students' social skills. In fact, a virtual teacher, in the form of a virtual child, cartoon-character, has assisted autistic children in staying on task.

Virtual teachers are also being used to work with children with reading disabilities as well as second language learners. Children with hearing impairments have benefited as well .

Check this MSNBC report to learn more and post your comments.

Photo credit: The ArticuLab, Northwestern University with the note:
“A ‘virtual child’ is a cartoon about the size of an 8-year-old with whom kids can learn and play on the floor with toys via a plasma screen projection.”


mary beth said...

I love the idea of the virtual teacher for the special needs students and even for all students. If a teacher wanted to multi-task in the classroom, separating students into small groups and having them at different "stations", she could use a virtual teacher at one station while teaching in another. It would just take more prep time; I think it would be very helpful if the district were to have personnel to assist the teacher in the prep. work, or to buy ready-made curriculum that applies this kind of technology and multi-tasking to a lesson.

barbara jarosz said...

My first reaction to this article is that virtual teachers seem great for autistic children. They seem to help autistic students develop social skills through the interaction between the child and virtual teacher. But I have to wonder, how real are the social skills these children developing if they are generated from a digital image? Do these virtual teachers mimick real human behavior enough that students can transfer these learned skills to the real world when interacting with real people? I would love to see a virtual teacher in action to witness their mannerisms. I wonder how life-like they are?

If the virtual teachers do in fact resemble human behavior, I think the idea is a great one. Autistic students do need a great deal of attention and they would benefit from the around-the-clock availability of these digital teachers. Using them in the classroom would provide another way in which teachers can meet the needs of their autistic students.

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