Understanding and Designing for Linguistic Variation in a Teachable Agent in the Philippines

Current Projects: SimStudent

Across the world, educators are dealing with how to better educate a growing and increasingly diverse populace. While not a silver bullet solution, educational software holds potential to strengthen instruction - when properly designed and used. One important development is software that engages students in dialogue about the content domain in order to support them in constructing their own knowledge. Studies have shown that children may learn more, however, when domain content is provided in students’ home language or dialect. Personalized learning technologies offer one opportunity to bridge the gap between the official medium of instruction and students’ home language, while adapting to individual students’ needs and preferences.

The Philippines has a complex language history and context that presents both challenges and opportunities for using natural language-based technology. There is a multilingual educational policy in schools and typically a large gap between students’ primary home languages and school languages. We conducted two studies examining a natural language-based technology which employed a virtual agent companion that engaged students in learning algebra topics, called SimStudent. We use these studies to illuminate the design issues that arise in this particular context, as well as prompt discussion about the generalization of cultural considerations within and across sociocultural contexts