Figure 8.1 shows a sample screen from the program. The top portion of the screen is devoted to the program's output. Here the program shows explanations, invitations to view video, and questions posed to the students. The middle section of the screen is used for student's input. The students click on the options provided to respond to the system. If they select a partial sentence containing an ellipsis ("..."), they have the opportunity to complete the sentence by typing in their own text. At the bottom of the screen are "user control" buttons that allow the student to exert control over the interaction, (e.g., "skip this", "change animal") or to ask for assistance (e.g., "What's the point?", "Big Picture").
The following sections describe a recorded session of a fourth grade boy using Creanimate.
Choosing an Animal
The first step in the program is to select an animal from a list of options on the screen. These animals and modifications were selected by the designers according to the interests of children as determined by surveys and matched according to available video sources. The students are free to type in anything they like if they choose the last options, "A ..." and "Something else."
If you could create a new animal by taking an existing animal and changing it some way, what would you make?
(Pick one animal from the list on the left and one change from the list on the right.)
A Fish (pike) With a big nose.
A Frog With a beak.
A Bear With wings.
A Bee That can dance.
A Butterfly That can hide.
A Dog That can hunt.
A Bird (robin) That can fight.
A ... Something else.
Student: A FROG THAT CAN FIGHT
Posing a Question
The system immediately responds to the student's proposal by posing a question about that animal. In this case it selects the question, "Why fight?" after determining that the video library includes clips showing reasons that animals fight. The questions the system asks are intended to teach students the basic relationships that underlie animal behavior. In this case, the question emphasizes that animals do not engage in behaviors unless they help the animal to survive.
That's a good idea, is there a reason why you want your frog to fight?
So it can ...
Give me some suggestions.
Student: SO IT CAN PROTECT ITS SELF
The student clicks on "So it can..."and then types in "protect its self [sic]" (the parser corrects the misspelling).
The computer is able to determine from its knowledge base that "protecting itself" is a reason for fighting, and that it has a video that illustrates that. The student asks to watch the demo.
That's a good idea. Bees protect themselves by fighting enemies. Would you like to see that?
(The student watches the video titled "BEES EXPEL WASP")
The system has another video that shows a very different animal doing the same thing. This helps to show commonalties across the wide spectrum of animals.
Bees are not the only animals that fight enemies. For example, jawfishes fight enemies. I have a good video about that. This has battles in it. Would you like to see a video about that?
(The student watches the video titled "JAWFISH DEFENDS TURF")
Committing to an Answer
Once the student has seen examples that illustrate the answer he has proposed to why his frog might fight, he has the opportunity to commit to that answer. If he commits, he goes on to other questions about his frog. Otherwise, he can consider additional answers to the current question.
So your frog can fight to protect itself.
You can commit to that now, or we can look at some other reasons why animals fight and you can decide later.
Why would you like your frog to fight?
To protect itself.
Show me more reasons.
Student: TO PROTECT ITSELF
Creanimate: OK, your frog will fight so that it can protect itself.
A Second Question
Now that the student has decided why his frog will fight, the program raises a new question: how it will fight. This question emphasizes the fact that the high-level behaviors of animals are composed of more basic actions. In this case, there are several things animals can do in order to fight.
How you would like your frog to fight?
Give me some suggestions.
Student: BY JUMPING UP ON HIM
The student clicks "By..." and types "jumping up on him." The system does not know the action "jumping on an animal", so it interprets the student's input as "jumping". The partial sentence "By ..." helps the student to understand what type of answer the system is looking for. In this instance, an action would be appropriate, but a physical feature would not. However, within that constraint, students have the full range to express themselves.
Cases for Incorrect Answers
The program does not know of any animals that jump in order to fight. In the absence of knowledge about animals that jump to fight, the computer takes the opportunity to show the student some reasons why animals do jump. In this way, students learn from their incorrect answers even more than they do from their correct answers.
I don't know any animals that jump to fight, but I do know why some animals jump. Salmon jump. Do you know why salmon jump? (I think this video is funny. )
So they can...
Show me a video.
What other videos can I see?
Student: Skip this
In the output above, the system introduces a video with a question. It does this to help make the students active viewers of the video. They watch the video looking for the answer. It also helps them to focus on the aspects of the video that are relevant to the question under consideration.
Instead of watching this video, the student asks what other videos he can see. So, the program displays pictures of four animals. The pictures are labeled with the animals' names. Each of these corresponds to a video that shows reasons that those animals jump. The student clicks on a picture to select a video. The student clicks on the picture of the whooping crane:
Student: WHAT OTHER VIDEOS CAN I SEE
Which would you like to see next?
Student: WHOOPING CRANE
To help "advertise" the videos to the students, they are labeled in the system's memory with information about what makes the particular video appealing. In this case, the video has been labeled with the attribute: "Contains: frantic dancing":
Whooping cranes jump to attract their mates. I have an interesting video about that. This video is for people who like frantic dancing. Is that something you would like to see?
(The student watches the video titled "CRANES DANCE")
This video shows cranes dancing to attract their mates by jumping, flapping their wings, and stretching their necks.
Take me to the outline for the book