After some technical difficulties and a lack of patience last night, I got mad and logged off. I didn't yell at my computer, however, because it isn't a human (or a highly intelligent agent) that would respond in a useful manner. So, to summarize what I think I wanted to say yesterday...
Agents in Education
A few concerns to consider before using an agent in school would be accessibility in both general and specific terms, and classroom management. When I first think of accessibility, I am considering whether a site can get through the network filters. Will it be blocked? Making plans at home and going to school to find "Access Denied" would be a shame. The second, sneakier issue has to do with the actual website you may use to create agents. Right now, gizmoz has free access that gives one enough features to make a final product. Should the concept take off, it could become a pay for play site. I think of Brain Pop when I speak of this. I loved that site when it first started out. It had free cartoon video clips that covered an insane amount of topics. Apparently, a lot of other people loved it too. Now a membership fee is required to view the clips. Bummer. My school district is not a big fan of spending money on... well much of anything. So, there went Brain Pop! It is important to consider that with new sites. Of course, you may be a fortunate individual who works for a wealthy school district who is free with their technology spending. Then, no worries! Of course, if money is no object, specific programs could probably be purchased that would have more advanced features. In short, network filters and lack of money could create accessibility issues.
My second point was about classroom management. After reading this module's articles, there is NO WAY I'm letting students using or creating agents out of my direct line of vision and hearing. They will not have the freedom to abuse the technology.
Since I work with gifted students, if I can overcome accessibility issues, classroom management issues should not be a problem. I can work with a small group of kids and watch their every move. : ) A potential use for an agent is to have students design them as part of their final product in a self directed project. Depending on the level of computer savvy and quality program a student has would dictate the complexity of the project. I could see students using this as an alternative to writing a paper or delivering a speech. Just like every new idea, it would have to be closely monitored and used sparingly to avoid it becoming mundane or even a toy that has lost its' academic punch. Knowing the students I work with, I'd have to put a definite time line on how long they could take on the agent part of a project. They'd have fun just changing the hair and wouldn't get their work done!! (I know because my bf and I have been sending silly gizmoz clips to our friends.)