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Meet Helenyour new online teacher

Stanley Kubriks HAL 9000 may have been smart enough to run the spaceship Discovery, but HAL lacked one thing todays computers may soon havea face. Computers, long plagued by the impersonality of a box with speakers and programmers graphics, will soon have a face and attitude compatible with their users.

A one-on-one teacher just for you

For simplicitys sake, well assign a name to our computers new face and call her Helen (of course, youll be able to name him/her anything you like). Helen will smile at you, move around, even make you laugh. Shell have an angelic voice, calming hand gestures and more expressions than Marcel Marceu. But most importantly, shell encourage you to learneverything and anythingfrom French to forensics.

Helen will have soul

Researchers in the areas of instructional technology, human-computer interaction and psychology have determined that computers can be more persuasive if they have a visual identity and soul. Thus, they have designed what they call an effective "pedagogical agent," an animated, three- dimensional character that serves as the "face" (and "interface") of the computer, one that can mimic human emotional expressions, nonverbal communication and interactions.

Youll want to bring her an apple

Helen will be the perfect teacher. Shell interact with you, adapt to your strengths and weaknesses, even provide emotional and cognitive feedback. Far better than Microsoft Words annoying and intrusive paperclip 'Clippy,' Helen will engage you and help you focus on the task at hand. And unlike a human mentor, Helens age, ethnicity, personality, mannerisms, and interactive style will be matched to your preferences to encourage learning. In short, youll have that favorite teacher who got you through math or chemistry.

Shell do everything but send you to detention

Helen will evaluate your understanding throughout your e-class, just like a human teacher, and shell adapt the lesson plan accordingly. She wont move on to more sophisticated concepts until its clear youve grasped the basics. If you dont, shell continue with the basics until you get it. And if that means prompting you to ask questions, shell do that too, offering encouragement, memorable examples, even a clever joke or two to keep you interested. Youll get to know Helen much like you would a really interesting teacher. Shell have a colorful personality, reveal her life history and specific areas of knowledge and skillsin short, shell be really cool. Best of all, shell always be up to date on the subject at hand, tirelessly absorbing the latest research or historic tomes on the subject being taught.

Helen wont make you stand in the corner

Helen will let you learn at your own pace in a low-pressure learning environment. Shell project enthusiasm and support when you get the right answer; yet, unlike a real classroom filled with peers, you wont be embarrassed if you fail to grasp a concept or answer incorrectly. Finally, teachers like Helen can be set up to act as coaches or disciplined instructorsteaching everything from the history of art to advanced calculus.

So prepare yourself for the brave new world of computer learning. Your favorite teacher will make sure you get an A in class and an E for effort. And yes, you can chew gum in class, as long as you give Helen your due attention.

About the Author: About the Author

Alex Kecskes is a former ad agency Copy Chief who has created effective copy and concepts for a wide range of ad agencies, Fortune 500 companies and startups. As owner of ak creativeworks, Alex provides brand names, as well as strategic copy for brochures, mailers, multimedia, articles, newsletters, PR and web content. He has published articles in a variety of publications about health, business and technology--this includes copy for over 130 different products and services. He has won such national awards as the Andy, Belding and One Show. For more information and samples, please visit:

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