Basser Seminar Series

Scaling issues in intelligent learning environments for intercultural skills

Speaker: Dr. W. Lewis Johnson
President and Chief Scientist, Alelo, Inc.

Time: Friday 26 November 2010, 4:00-5:00pm
Refreshments will be available from 3:30pm

Location: The University of Sydney, School of IT Building, Lecture Theatre (Room 123), Level 1

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Intercultural competence – the ability to interact with and communicate effectively with people of other cultures – must be developed through practice. One way to provide such practice is in immersive virtual worlds, populated by artificially intelligent virtual agents that engage in culturally appropriate dialog with learners. Realising this approach to learning raises a number of challenging scalability problems. One is in the area of capturing and authoring the necessary linguistic and cultural knowledge. Solving this problem is critical for creating large numbers of language and cultures for a variety of learner communities, each of which includes virtual agents that behave in culturally appropriate ways in a variety of different situations. Another is modelling how learners acquire and lose communicative skills over long time scales. This makes it possible to create courses that help learners to maintain their communicative skills over time. These points will be illustrated in the context of Alelo’s language and culture courses, which are currently in use in Australia and a number of other countries around the world.

Speaker's biography

Dr. W. Lewis Johnson is President and Chief Scientist of Alelo, Inc. His particular research interests are in animated pedagogical agents (animated computer characters for interactive learning environments) and artificial intelligence technologies for education and training environments. Prior to that he was a Research Professor in Computer Science at the University of Southern California (USC) and director of the Center for Advanced Research in Technology for Education at the USC / Information Sciences Institute. Alelo realizes his vision of revolutionizing foreign language and cultural education via advanced computer-based learning technologies. He is a member of the Advisory Committee of the International Artificial Intelligence in Education Society, and is on the steering committees of the Autonomous Agents and Intelligent User Interface conferences. He is past president of the International Artificial Intelligence in Education Society. Among other awards, he received the DARWARS Transition Award in March 2005, and was co-winner of the 2005 DARPATech Technical Achievement Award. He is a frequent invited speaker at international conferences and workshops. Dr. Johnson received an A.B. summa cum laude in linguistics from Princeton
University, and a Ph.D. in computer science from Yale University.

A number of his publications may be found at