The Virtual Child

October 14, 2010 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

It is safe to assume this blog reaches a variety of different majors.  This diversity helps make Illinois State a successful university.  A faculty member outside of the technology departments at Illinois State has recently branched out of a comfort zone and implemented new technology to benefit the classroom.  Dr. Bill Anderson is a faculty member in the Family and Consumer Sciences department.  He received a B.A in music, a M.C.M in music, a M.S in Human Environmental Science, and finally a Ph.D in Educational Psychology.  His focus is on “family dynamics in the presence of parental chronic illness, principally multiple sclerosis,” which makes technology far from his interests.  So what technology did he introduce to his classroom? A Virtual Child.

The Virtual Child simulates raising a child from birth to age 18 with a student as its parent.  First, a personality test is taken by a student, and their traits combined with pre-programmed traits, creates the Virtual Child and gives it a personality and uniqueness.  Throughout the semester the Virtual Child grows up and crucial decisions by the “parents” alter its life path.  Some of the most important decisions faced by students are breastfeeding or using formula, whether or not to spank, concerns about alcohol, drug use, violence, and running away from home in the later years.  How situations are handled show the effects of parenting decisions over time.

The Virtual Child is an “interactive web-based simulation”.  The website, designed by Frank Manis of University of Southern California, makes each child specific to each user.  Dr. Anderson describes how “many students become emotionally involved with their virtual child.”  Ashley Gerber, a Family and Consumer Sciences major, found the website “easy and fun to use”.  She liked the immediate reactions and surprises the Virtual Child presented as one day her child “came home from school smelling like pot”.  The Virtual Child is only one example of new technology entering the classroom.  The students enjoy new opportunities and with very user friendly interfaces teachers even without lots of technical experience can enjoy them.  So even if you do not take any ISU tech classes, keep an eye out for new technology in the classroom and let us know!!

Cheers!  Take the quiz.


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