Avatars in Education


80% of the worlds active Internet users will be in a virtual world by the end of 2011 (Gartner,2007). According to analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2013, 70% of companies will have issued their employees guidelines on how virtual avatars involved in company business should act and dress.

Avatars and virtual interactions are becoming more and more mainstream. In Suffern, N.Y., 2,500 middle and high school students have logged into a virtual world known as Teen Second Life for lessons in subjects including math and foreign languages. Eighth-grade health students fashion avatars to challenge media and social perceptions of beauty. A social studies class visited a recreated Ellis Island to go beyond historical facts and empathize with immigrants and immigration officers through role playing.

According to this article in Elizabeth, NJ the district approved the use of Spill, a virtual game where students act as avatars to put their knowledge to the test. Students designed their own avatars from a menu of options. They assumed on-screen identities as avatars to run cleanup efforts for the mayor of New City. The game, devised to help students sharpen their business acumen and skills, was rolled out in more than 750 schools across the country as part of a business contest in March and April.

It was required in two economics classes at Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy in March after a teacher discovered it online; the district is considering whether to expand its use next year. The game is available at no cost to schools through a contest sponsored by the accounting and consulting firm Deloitte and BrandGames.

Schools are increasingly offering lessons in the virtual world as an alternative to textbooks and PowerPoint presentations. Teachers and students say the use of avatars and virtual worlds in classes from health to economics pulls in even reluctant learners, and encourages problem-solving and higher-order thinking as classroom knowledge is applied to real-life situations.