COMPANIONS aims to change the way we think about the relationships of people to computers and the Internet by developing a virtual conversational ‘Companion’.
This will be an agent or ‘presence’ that stays with the user for long periods of time, developing a relationship and ‘knowing’ its owners preferences and wishes. It will communicate with the user primarily by using and understanding speech.
This got me to thinking about the future of ePortfolios, and other tools built on the foundation of collecting student work that to exhibit learning and achievement over time. I think some of the ideas behind the Companions Project could effectively be built into eP tools. Here’s the kind of thing I’m envisioning:
The learner is presented with a simple question: What are you learning?. The learner responds with a topic of research, theoretical examination, fact-based inquiry, or whatever’s relevant to their current situation. The student-to-“eP agent” conversation continues:
agent: What resources have you been looking at?
learner: Book X, public lecture Y, thisURLhere.com
agent: Tell me more about thisURLhere.com, what did you take away from it?
agent: I see in your repository that 20 months ago, you uploaded a file called “ABC*5555_Final”. We’ve scanned that article, and notice that “Author B” is included in your bibliography. “Author B” is one of the contributors to thisURLhere.com. How has your thinking changed from when you uploaded this article? Would you like to read more about Author B’s work?
agent: We’ve scanned your digital images (with your permission, of course), and noticed some potentially relevant pictures of your trip to “Mount Wonderful”. Would you like to look at those now, talk about them on them, and include these images and reflections in your ePortfolio?
The learner could grant permissions to the eP companion to scan their emails, documents, web history, and data related to their academic activity (transcripts, past grades, library record, etc). The engine behind it would make inferences and connections between these digital artifacts, and then prompt then be prompted to comment and reflect on them. The natural extension from this would be for the companion to branch out to other learners’ eP repositories and make connections and suggestions between them.
Eventually, the eP agent could ask, “Would you like me to create a draft presentation based on your collected artifacts and reflections on this topic?” or “You’ve clearly demonstrated activity and growth in the subject area of Woodland Ecology, and I notice you’re in your fourth year of studies. Would you like me to assemble a presentation for future employers?”
Sign me up for the beta.