About Keith

Keith Brawner currently works in the simulation industry for the DoD, before, during, and after getting a Masters in Intelligent Systems. Sadly, he is not yet a Doctor.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Investigating the Relationship between Presence and Learning in a Serious Game

Investigating the Relationship between Presence and Learning in a Serious Game was written out of the Institute for Creative Technologies in University of Southern California by Lane, Hays, Auerbach, and Core.  It can be found for free online here.

I am currently back in Orlando Florida for a bit of a short/relaxing week.  I am coming down with a cold, and my step-sister Crissie is getting married on Sunday.

Apparently when people experience 3D events they are actually able to change their frame of reference, and experience the event as reality (see: Narrative  impact : social and cognitive foundations).  Furthermore, fantasy concepts are found to be more helpful for teaching children (page 240).  However, studies with Crystal Island (a 3D immersive world) haven't shown that the 3D world helps.  This paper sets out to find out, and used BiLAT (a system for teaching Arabic culture).

One group of students will be tutored in a 2D interface, while another is tutored in 3D.  We see how well they did based on Pre/Post-Test results.  Additionally, the students will be asked various questions about how involved in the training they were.  I'll gloss over the results of the second part and just tell you that the 3D people were more involved;  no surprise here.

Posted here as a summary:
  • In-game, both groups made the same number of errors
  • With coaching (ITS), roughly the same number of errors were made
  • During post-test, the 3D students made less errors (but not statistically significant)
  • 2D students performed twice as many actions (clicks/responses) as 3D students
  • when coaching was not available, 3D students took more time to select answers than 2D students (suggesting that they treated it as a more real social interaction)
Conclusion: More Study needed

Why do you care? 
First, remember to teach your children with fairy tales, as they are shown to teach lessons better.  Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that your 3D video games make more of an impression than your older ones.  However, just because you are learning in 3D doesn't mean that you are learning more.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Affective Gendered Learning Companions

Affective Gendered Learning Companions was written out of the UMASS Amherst Comp Sci, Psych, and Education departments by Arroyo, Woolf, Royer, and Tai.  It can be found for free online here.

I am currently posting from New London, CT, the submarine capitol of the world. Work-wise, we have recently completely an installation of submarine training software for both enlisted personnel and officers.

The short version here is that the field of mathematics is having some trouble getting girls on board for the big win.  There have been a number of studies devoted to the subject, but the answer is blunt: girls think that they aren't any good at math (whether they are or not) starting in middle school.  You know what they say: "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't: you're right".  Shortly after this time, test scores plummet.  Later, girls become somewhat rare in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.  Ideally, we can improve these test scores by using an Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS).

Affective Tutoring
One of the core concepts in ITS development is the idea that people can get into a 'zone' where they are learning.  Hopefully you can sucker/bribe them into it and trap them.  This is usually an extension of the groundbreaking discoveries that "people don't learn well when they are tired" and "Little Timmy is angry right now, and won't sit still".  If you had a real tutor sitting in front of this person, they would try to calm the student down.  If the student is frustrated with a certain type of problem, you can switch problems.  If the student is learning a concept well, you let them.  Computer-based tutors are going to have to tackle the same issues.

Presumably, affective tutoring is better than non-affective and tutoring someone is better than not*, and there are a couple of challenges to managing student emotional state:
1 - Computers don't understand emotions
2 - People don't understand emotions
3 - People that program computers don't understand emotions
4 - It's not clear what the most beneficial response to "I hate math!" is for a math tutor (even when the emotion is clear).

Pedagogical Agents
Remember the little picture from the problem paragraph?  Yea, it's a little cartoon character that studies with you.  That's a pedagogical agent.

So, we don't know how people actually feel (emotional state), but we can ask them!  Then, when they say that they are anxious, we can make the cartoon anxious too.  This way the learners can feel like there is someone suffering along with them.  It's cheap, but it works.

So here is the big question that all of that background built up to: Do boys/girls prefer boys/girls for their learning buddy?  We'll test some with each and some without.

This paper did not inform on whether students performed better with or without a cartoon character (see Empathetic Pedagogical Agents by Arroyo, cartoons help) but had a rather important finding (below).  Girls who study with a girl character think that they are worse at math than when they started (they aren't, they tested better).  However, girls who study with a boy character think that they are better.

Why do you care? 
First, given that the character is a cartoon, and that they say the same thing, it is a bit surprising to find that there is even a statistical preference.  Also, even if there is a preference, the idea that the preference would affect self opinion, regardless of actual performance, is surprising.  Finally, if you have a daughter, make sure her tutor or study-partner is a boy.

* - Some studies show that you just want answers.  Here.

Administrative BS and Format

Yes, eventually this site will have some actual content.  Since I intend on doing this on a fairly regular basis, I figure that I will try to follow a formula.  If the formula sucks, I'll change it.  I'll try to keep it a bit on the snarky, and a bit on the short.

SECTION 1 - What is going on in my life.

SECTION 2 - Brief summary of what the paper is setting out to prove (Neural networks are an awesome construct of computing, etc.)

SECTION 3 - Any important field aspects of the paper (description of new Neural Network model that they are using, etc.)

SECTION 4 - What the paper accomplishes (Neural Networks changed the field of image recognition).

SECITON 5 - Why it matters, why you care (if it matters, if you care...)

Topic of the Day - AI in Education

It is no secret - I have applied for a job working for the US Army, in RDECOM Orlando.  As part of 'spinning up', I am reading roughly 1 paper/day on the subject of AI in Education hopes of starting work with an Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) project.

As such, I'm afraid a bunch of the research papers summarized after this post will be in the AI-ED domain, although I'll try to spice things up with the occasional Neural Networks paper.

More information on AI in Eduction can be found below:
Journal of AI in Education
AI in Education 2009 Conference
Tenth International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems

My personal keep-track of AI-EDU papers, here.

Founding Post, Mission Statements, and answers to basic questions

"If a man were to commit himself to bettering himself in his profession 1 hour per day, he would be a leading expert in his field within 2 years" - Unknown

The above quote was shared to me during a training class that I took quite some time ago, but I believe that it still holds true today.  So, let's get down to business and do what business people do: Make Mission Statements.

Why am I creating this blog?
To document the research that I am reading and make it more accessible to the public, for their benefit, in a timely manner.

Also, apparently when I don't have any homework, I assign myself some.

How often do I intend to update it?

That's an awful lot of updating, what are you going to talk about?
I am going to review research papers of my interests (AI, AI in Ed, AI in Signal Processing/Control, etc.).

Who the hell is going to read that?
Anyone who wants a quick summary on the absolute-latest-state-of-the-art, without necessarily wanting to get an advanced degree.

What about other things you are interested in, like Caving, Personal Finance, RPGs, or Travel?
They will either get another blog, or I'll do what I've always done: not post information on the Internet about them.

Do I have a PhD?
No, and I have currently stopped at my MS.  If I continue down my current path, however, I will have one before the end of 2013, but I've not started.

If you don't have a PhD, why did you call it Dr. Brawner's Research Blog?
Because it sounded catchy, brawner.blogspot.com and brawnerblog.blogspot.com were taken, and as a tip-of-the-hat to Joss Whedon.