1. D. Fox Harrell
  2. EBP: Toward Using Virtual Identities in Computer Science Learning for Broadening Participation
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  1. Danielle Olson
  2. http://hellodanio.com
  3. Ph.D. Student
  4. EBP: Toward Using Virtual Identities in Computer Science Learning for Broadening Participation
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  1. Aziria Rodriguez
  2. EBP: Toward Using Virtual Identities in Computer Science Learning for Broadening Participation
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  1. Sneha Veeragoudar Harrell
  2. Research scientist
  3. EBP: Toward Using Virtual Identities in Computer Science Learning for Broadening Participation
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Alan Peterfreund

    Alan Peterfreund

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 11:48 a.m.

    Thanks for the video.  What evidence are you collecting on student impact?

  • Icon for: Danielle Olson

    Danielle Olson

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 03:41 p.m.

    Hi Alan,


    Activities were videotaped and audiotaped and all computer monitors were screen-captured. Avatar customization actions were logged by the AIRvatar system, a custom telemetry system to capture data about user avatar customization. All paper-based student materials were collected and photographed. In-game performance data and student survey data (regarding topics such as students’ dispositions toward computer science) were collected. Individual semi-structured clinical interviews were conducted roughly one month after the workshop.


    Various qualitative research strategies from grounded theory methodology which were employed to analyze student discourse data. Let me know if this answers your question!

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Researcher
    May 15, 2018 | 01:15 p.m.

    I am curious about the theoretical framing of your research — What makes you think that avatars can make a substantial contribution to students' interest and substantive engagement? 

  • Icon for: Danielle Olson

    Danielle Olson

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 03:44 p.m.

    Hi Brian,

    Great question. I've copied a section from our latest publication (which will be published as a paper for the iRLN 2018 conference this June) below for your reference to answer your question. Additionally, I'd recommend looking into the extensive research on Virtual Identities / Blended Identities by D. Fox Harrell and Dominic Kao for additional studies that have demonstrated the effects of virtual identities on students' learning outcomes.

     

    "The emphasis on avatar creation and customization within the workshops necessitates an understanding of the relationships between physical-world and virtual identities. Existing research on player-avatar relationships (PAR) is abundant, describing the human and non-human, physical and digital, material and immaterial parts which are “broken down and rebuilt” [10] throughout the process of avatar creation, customization, and use. A prior study on the relationships between underrepresented students in STEM and their avatars in learning games [11] characterized students’ perceptions of the construction and use of their avatars across three dimensions: (1) avatar appearance, with preferences ranging from everyday to extraordinary categories, (2) avatar ontological status, with perceptions ranging from first-person mirror representations to third-person external representations, and (3) avatar use, with uses ranging from deployment as instrumental tools to a means for imaginative identity play. Later studies have reinforced and broadened these three main dimensions more generally to PAR as a player’s (1) identification with their avatar, (2) attachment to their avatar, and (3) perception towards the avatar’s instrumentality [12][13], describing the degrees of self-similarity, affinity due to likeness, physical control, responsibility, and suspension of disbelief [14], and usefulness that players perceive their avatars to have [15].

    Given the broad range of possibilities afforded by avatar creation and customization systems, extensive research has also been performed to better understand the motivations and behaviors of players in their selection of character traits for their avatar across artistic, psychological, and technological factors. In seeking to better understand the ways in which players’ physical and virtual world identities are blended through the personalization process, Harrell’s notion of blended identity [16] provides a mapping between aligned aspects of a player’s physical identity (e.g.: actions, characteristics, capabilities), the virtual identity (e.g.: technical system affordances and properties), and blended identity (i.e.: the playable character which is under the scope of user control)."

    References from this excerpt:

    10. Haraway, D.: Simians, cyborgs, and women: The reinvention of nature. Routledge, New

    York (1991)

    11. Harrell, D.F., Veeragoudar Harrell, S.: Imagination, Computation, and Self-Expression: Situated

    Character and Avatar Mediated Identity. Leonardo Electronic Almanac. DAC 09: After

    Media: Embodiment and Context. Vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 74-91 (2012)

    12. Banks, J.: Object, Me, Symbiote, Other: A social typology of player-avatar relationships.

    First Monday, vol. 20, no. 2 (2015)

    13. Rehak, B.: Playing at being: Psychoanalysis and the avatar. pp. 103–127. In: Mark J.P. Wolf

    and Bernard Perron (editors). The video game theory reader. Routledge, New York (2003)

    14. Lewis, M.L., Weber, R., Bowman, N.D.: ‘They may be pixels, but they’re MY pixels’ Developing

    a metric of character attachment in role-playing video games. CyberPsychology &

    Behavior, volume 11, number 4, pp. 515–518 (2008). doi: 10.1089/cpb.2007.0137

    15. Schultze, U., Leahy, M.M.: The avatar-self relationship: Enacting presence in Second Life.

    ICIS 2009 Proceedings (2009). http://aisel.aisnet.org/icis2009/12.

    16. Harrell, D.F., Lim, C.-U.: Reimagining the avatar dream. Communications of the ACM,

    60(7), pp. 50–61 (2017). doi: 10.1145/3098342

  • Icon for: Angie Kalthoff

    Angie Kalthoff

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 01:28 p.m.

    Are students able to create a video game around any issue they choose? Is there a framework to model types of issues such as the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals?

    What type of background information do students have coming into this workshop? 

    What happens with the game once a student has created and identifies that it is complete?

  • Icon for: Danielle Olson

    Danielle Olson

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 05:21 p.m.

    Hi Angie,

    Are students able to create a video game around any issue they choose? Is there a framework to model types of issues such as the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals?

    Yes, students were led in a design thinking exercise in which they were asked to independently / silently write ideas on sticky notes about topics / themes / issues of their choosing. Once all notes were collected, the themes and ideas were clustered into similar topics and students chose to form teams around these ideas. The sustainable development goals were not explicitly noted in the exercise, but many related topics (from education equity to improving police-public relations) of consequence were ideated by students.

     

    What type of background information do students have coming into this workshop? 

    Students were assigned 4 readings / videos with accompanying written responses as homework related to the 4 topics addressed in discussion during the workshops: Stereotypes in CS/Engineering, Social Media and Social Connections, Online Privacy and Surveillance, and Monetization and Advertising. These reading ranged from academic papers, to pop science and tech policy articles, and the videos were YouTube clips of various representations of computer scientists (from everyday to extraordinary).

    What happens with the game once a student has created and identifies that it is complete?

    The students participated in an iterative design process. First they did paper prototypes of the games, then digitally implemented them, then had their peers give feedback on their games, then they finalized these creations by end of workshop. Once these were complete, we held a student presentation session in which the student teams presented to their peers and also reflected on their learnings and thematic ideas from their creations.

  • Icon for: Angie Kalthoff

    Angie Kalthoff

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2018 | 09:28 a.m.

    Thank you for your response!

    Are you able to share the 4 readings/video that students were required to complete? I would love to explore them as well.

  • Icon for: Danielle Olson

    Danielle Olson

    Co-Presenter
  • Icon for: Karthik Ramani

    Karthik Ramani

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 11:51 p.m.

    I can see why use of avatars can create a personal engagement for the learner. But in terms of best practices was not able to distill the principles for doing so. Could you shed some light into this part as to why avatar use can trigger excitement? Is this true of all personality types? Also some comments of going beyond was made such as HCI - but no other examples were provided. Any more? And Why only restrict to make what exists? (comment at towards the later part).

  • Icon for: Danielle Olson

    Danielle Olson

    Co-Presenter
    May 21, 2018 | 03:18 p.m.

    Hi Karthik,

    The following fundamental concepts from the Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum were incorporated into the workshop:

      • (1) Human-Computer Interaction (especially connections among social, economic, and cultural contexts),
      • (2) Problem Solving,
      • (3) Web Design (including social responsibility), and
      • (4) Programming.

    Beyond these CS concepts, students engaged in homework/readings/writings and discussions to critically reflect on these topics of technology and society:

      1. social connections, self expression, social media
      2. Stereotypes about computer scientists
      3. Privacy and surveillance online
      4. Advertising and monetization

    Regarding your question on principles for using avatars in immersive learning: please find the below academic papers published by our research team which validate how avatars specifically trigger learning outcomes and engagements for students:

     

    A few places where principles can be found are: Abstract vs. Likeness Avatars: Toward Evaluating the Impacts of Virtual Identities on STEM Learning [ paper], Dominic Kao, D. Fox Harrell, Foundations of Digital Games (FDG 2015), Pacific Grove, CA, June 22 – 25, 2015.   Role Model Avatars: Exploring the Use of Role Model Avatars in Educational Games [ paper], Dominic Kao, D. Fox Harrell, Experimental AI in Games (EXAG 2015), Santa Cruz, CA, November 14 – 15, 2015   Exploring the Impact of Role Model Avatars on Game Experience in Educational Games [ paper], Dominic Kao, D. Fox Harrell, Computer-Human Interaction in Play (CHI PLAY 2015), London, England, Oct 5 – 7, 2015.   Toward Avatar Models to Enhance Performance and Engagement in Educational Games [ paper], Dominic Kao, D. Fox Harrell, Computational Intelligence in Games (CIG 2015), Tainan, Taiwan, August 31 – 2, 2015.   A good summary of principles is in: Researching and Developing the Impacts of Virtual Identity on Computational Learning Environments, Dominic Kao, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2018.   An excerpt (http://people.csail.mit.edu/dkao/pdf/dominic-thesis-excerpt.pdf):

    "1. Using avatars that resemble users when they are doing well, and appear more

    minimally or abstractly otherwise, is encouraged whenever possible. The research

    in this dissertation, which defines these as successful likeness avatars, has shown

    that they result in improved user performance and engagement [13]. For example,

    applied to a mail client or a social network like Facebook, your icon would change

    between a likeness of yourself or abstract depending on the positivity of your news

    feed, or a message you received. The essence of this principle is selectively promoting

    detachment and identification at key moments of the digital experience.

     

    2. Using avatars that resemble role models is encouraged whenever possible. The

    research in this dissertation has shown that role model avatars increase both the engagement

    and performance of users [10–12, 17]. For example, playing as an admired

    and positively influential scientist, politician, business person, artist, or doctor depending

    on context. The criteria for an effective role model is perceived competence,

    similarity, and success, therefore role models should represent successful figures with

    demographic overlaps with users.

     

    3. Use embellishment with trade-offs in mind. The research in this dissertation has

    shown that embellishment increases engagement, but decreases performance and

    self-efficacy [16]. For example, in an educational context, embellishment can be

    reduced to promote performance and self-efficacy, while in an entertainment context

    embellishment can be used more liberally.

     

    4. Using positive or neutral encouragement is encouraged whenever possible. The

    research in this dissertation has shown that positive (e.g., “Keep it up!”, “Don’t give

    up!”, “You’re almost there”) and neutral (e.g., “You are doing standard work”, “You’re

    doing average”, “You’re doing typically”) encouragement text increases engagement

    [15]. For example, encouragement text can be spoken by a game character, or simply

    appear at the bottom of the screen periodically.

     

    5. Promoting avatar identification is encouraged whenever possible. The research in

    this dissertation has shown that avatar identification promotes higher engagement,

    self-efficacy, time spent, and even quality of created artifacts [17]. For example,

    giving users the ability to customize their avatars is one simple way of increasing

     

    identification."

     

    Dissertation References:

    [10] D. Kao and D. F. Harrell. Exploring the Impact of Role Model Avatars on Game

    Experience in Educational Games. The ACM SIGCHI Annual Symposium on Computer-

    Human Interaction in Play (CHI PLAY), 2015.

     

    [11] D. Kao and D. F. Harrell. Exploring the Use of Role Model Avatars in Educational

    Games. In Proceedings of the AIIDE Workshop on Experimental AI in Games, colocated

    with Artificial Intelligence in Interactive Digital Entertainment, 2015.

     

    [12] D. Kao and D. F. Harrell. Toward Understanding the Impacts of Role Model Avatars

    on Engagement in Computer Science Learning. In The annual meeting of the American

    Educational Research Association (AERA), 2016.

     

    [13] D. Kao and D. F. Harrell. Exploring the Effects of Dynamic Avatars on Performance

    and Engagement in Educational Games. In Games+Learning+Society (GLS 2016),

     

    2016.

     

    [14] D. Kao and D. F. Harrell. Exploring the Impact of Avatar Color on Game Experience

    in Educational Games. Proceedings of the 34th Annual ACM Conference Extended

    Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2016), 2016.

     

    [15] D. Kao and D. F. Harrell. Exploring the Effects of Encouragement in Educational

    Games. Proceedings of the 34th Annual ACM Conference Extended Abstracts on

    Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2016), 2016.

     

    [16] D. Kao and D. F. Harrell. Toward Understanding the Impact of Visual Themes and

    Embellishment on Performance, Engagement, and Self-Efficacy in Educational Games.

    The annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), 2017.

     

    [17] D. Kao and D. F. Harrell. The Effects of Badges and Avatar Identification on Play and Making in Educational Games. In CHI, 2018.

     

    Thanks,

    Danielle

     

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.