I came across this interesting article on “Avatar Pedagogy” from The Technology Source Archives at the University of North Carolina written by Joel Foreman. The piece interested me from a few standpoints: it was written in 1999 while discussing virtual environments for avatars that could be in place by 2010 and it discussed harnessing the educational potential of using avatars in the teaching and learning process. It was instructive to see what people were thinking over a decade ago, before the avatar refinements that have occurred in the 21st century.
Foreman writes that there are three features in avatar pedagogy:
- avatar worlds are suited to develop actionable knowledge as opposed to knowledge for knowledge’s sake
- avatar environments are leveraged effectively when they support learner centered team work
- an avatar world endowed with diverse learning resources supports a discovery approach to education
Based on these items, it appears that avatars are ideally suited to constructivist learning environments. It would be worth developing some learning scenarios to test out the effectiveness of avatar-facilitated learning tied to these three items. Consider a Virtual College in which avatars (like non-player characters in computer games) function as tutors to help students through the courses. This is something that can be executed now, given the current state of game programming technology.