Ministry of Education / Ngee Ann Secondary (SINGAPORE)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 5459-5467
ISBN: 978-84-615-3324-4
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain
Students of today have a different cognitive learning pattern - they study, play and relax using digital gadgets. Having short attention span, these digital natives desire instant feedback when they interact with others. They also want to have a say in what they learn, why they learn and how they learn. Conventional teaching methods can only engage our digital natives to a certain extent. We need to find innovative and creative ways to capture their attention, so that they find learning meaningful and would eventually be self-directed learners with 21st Century skills and dispositions.

A Microsoft Mentor School, Ngee Ann Secondary School (Singapore) has created an Heuristic Online Learning Agent (HOLA) on Microsoft Network (MSN) Messenger platform to aid students’ learning of the Periodic Table in Chemistry classes. Using Artificial Intelligence, this chat bot is a virtual peer tutor that taps on the digital natives’ savvy usage of Instant Messaging on MSN Messenger. Unlike other chat bots which dispenses information in a cut-and-dry manner, HOLA is a lifelike, conversational virtual agent that provides a uniquely stimulating and interactive way for students to get answers in a fun, lively and personal manner; exchanging information like a buddy would and allowing students to learn at their own pace anytime, anywhere. Built primarily on a Socratic Questioning framework, the HOLA also incorporates thinking routines to scaffold students’ learning of The Periodic Table in Chemistry lessons.

This paper examines the effectiveness of adopting the HOLA in building students’ understanding of The Periodic Table in the Chemistry classes of a Singapore secondary school. The study will highlight the importance of considering the pedagogical approach on which the technology is based - by showing how the choice of a Socratic-like questioning approach as the pedagogical style of an animated agent is able to amalgamate both technology and pedagogy well.
Digital Natives, MSN Messenger, Artificial Intelligence, Socratic Questioning, Thinking Routines.