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Educational Gaming Avatars

Educational Gaming Avatars
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Author(s): Colette Wanless-Sobel (Inver Hills Community College and University of Phoenix, USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 8
Source title: Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Patricia L. Rogers (Bemidji State University, USA), Gary A. Berg (California State University Channel Islands (Retired), USA), Judith V. Boettcher (Designing for Learning, USA), Caroline Howard (HC Consulting, USA), Lorraine Justice (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong) and Karen D. Schenk (K. D. Schenk and Associates Consulting, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch106


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Avatar (abbreviated Av) in online educational gaming refers to a virtual self or agent who, immersed in a real-time distributed, synthetic environment, vicariously collaborates and learns-by-doing, using virtual artifacts and peer networking to construct knowledge (Walker, 1990; West, 1994). Avatars can also be embodied agents, which are mathematical or computational formulae designed to accomplish specific goals in the online environment. Avatars, which can be 2D, 3D, or animated, are not limited, then, to humanoid or life-form representations in education; avatars can also be embodied in multimedia representations (Guynup, Broglio & Demmers,2004) and in computer software processes, such as bots and AIs (artificial intelligence). Technically speaking, an avatar simulates or embodies the human mind of the computer user onscreen, making the computer mouse the first occasion when a user’s body enters the online environment (Biocca, 1997). No longer limited to a computer mouse, avatars in 2007 have varying degrees of photographic and behavioral realism, which can take the form of a talking head, such as Ananova, or can entail the physiognomy of a human being or other life forms, such as aliens, robots, and animals (furries), who possess various kinesthetic abilities, such as walking and flying; communicative features, such as voice, eye contact, gesture, and attitude; and even the sense of hearing when an avatar is situated in a soundscape. Avatar capability and sophistication vary greatly, depending on the software and the user’s knowledge base and creative persistence.

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