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Series ended

Learning Through Virtual Role Play

About the series

W. Lewis Johnson, Alelo Inc.
Tammy McGraw, Virginia Department of Education

12-1pm Distinguished Lecture (NSF Stafford I, Room 110)

2:30-4:00 pm Interactive session with Virtual-Role Play technologies (NSF Stafford I, Room 110)

Communication skills are critical for the 21st Century workforce, and an essential foundation for global competence. Effective cross-cultural communication requires more than knowledge of foreign-language grammar and vocabulary, cultural facts, or of what "dos and don'ts" apply. It requires the ability to interact smoothly, effortlessly, and with confidence. Virtual Role-Play has proven to be surprisingly effective at promoting effective cross-cultural communication. In Virtual Role-Play learners can practice in simulated encounters with artificially intelligent virtual role-players that behave and respond to the learners in a culturally accurate manner. Learners develop and practice their cross-cultural skills in a safe environment, without fear of embarrassment. When learners then engage in a real cross-cultural encounter it feels familiar to them, which instills confidence.

Alelo has partnered with the Commonwealth of Virginia to develop and test Virtual Role-Play learning products for conversational practice in Chinese. The first Web-based course was tested in Virtual Virginia, a statewide virtual school program, and received overwhelmingly positive ratings from the students. Our current project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is taking RoboKind's lifelike social robot and giving it the ability to converse in Chinese. This technology has potential for transforming foreign language education, by giving learners abundant opportunities to practice their conversational skills and lowering the entry barrier for difficult languages such as Chinese.


Dr. Lewis Johnson co-founded Alelo in 2005 as a spinout of the University of Southern California, where he previously was Research Professor. Under his leadership Alelo has developed into a major producer of innovative learning products focusing on communication skills. Alelo has developed courses for use in a number of countries around the world, all using the Virtual Role-Play method.

Dr. Johnson is an internationally recognized leader in innovation for education and training. In 2012 he was keynote speaker at the International Symposium on Automated Detection of Errors in Pronunciation Training in Stockholm. In 2013 he was keynote speaker at the IASTED Technology Enhanced Learning Conference and the SimTecT conference, and was co-chair of the Industry and Innovation Track of the AIED 2013 conference. He is associate editor of the International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education and co-editor of the Special Issue on Culturally Aware Educational Technologies. When not engaged in developing disruptive learning products Lewis and his wife Kim produce Kona coffee in Hawaii; he also distils single-malt whiskey in Tasmania.

Dr. Tammy McGraw is Director of Digital Innovations and Outreach at the Virginia Department of Education. In this role, she helps shape legislation, regulations, and policies to encourage and support educational innovations. She also provides oversight for virtual school programs. Prior to her current position, Dr. McGraw held a number of other leadership positions including Director of Educational Technology at the Virginia Department of Education, Senior Research Associate in the Office of Educational Research and Outreach at Virginia Tech, Vice President and Executive Director at IDD, Inc., and Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Emerging Technologies in Education at AEL, one of the nation's ten regional educational laboratories funded by the U.S. Department of Education. During her tenure at AEL, she directed the national leadership specialty area in emerging technologies, served as AEL's Director of Technology and Innovation, and was Director of the Southeast and Islands Regional Technology in Education Consortium (SEIR¨TEC) at AEL.


The Webinar will be held from 12:00pm to 1:00pm Eastern Time on Wednesday April 30, 2014.

Please register at: https://nsf.webex.com/nsf/j.php?ED=253436532&RG=1&UID=0&RT=MiMxMQ%3D%3D by 11:59pm Eastern Time on Tuesday April 29, 2014.

After your registration is accepted, you will receive an email with a URL to join the meeting. Please be sure to join a few minutes before the start of the webinar. This system does not establish a voice connection on your computer; instead, your acceptance message will have a toll-free phone number that you will be prompted to call after joining. In the event the number of requests exceeds the capacity, some requests may have to be denied.


Past events in this series