There's a simple reason why computers have not taken over teachers' jobs: They're boring, unpersuasive, unattractive and soulless.
That may soon change if Amy Baylor can perfect the virtual professors she's working on.
... In a study funded by the National Science Foundation, Baylor employed non-stereotypical, virtual engineering mentors to challenge young women's stereotypes about the engineering profession.
Baylor had 79 female students rate a series of pedagogical agents on which were most like themselves, most like an engineer, and which they'd prefer to have as a professor.
The agents were identical except for age, gender, attractiveness, and "coolness" (differing clothes and hair styles).
"As anticipated, when the young women in the current study were asked to select the agents who were most like them and who they most wanted to be like, they tended to pick young, female, attractive and cool agents," Baylor writes in a recent report.
"However, they also selected the young, female, cool agents as being least like an engineer," the study found. "When asked to select who they would most like to learn from about engineering, the women in the current study were far more likely to pick male agents who were uncool but attractive. Interestingly, it was also the male, uncool agents that they tended to rate as most like an engineer."