Welcome! I'll be your pedagogical agent this morning...

My eye was drawn to this LiveScience story about "virtual professors". The idea is that you could get young women more interested in engineering if they had cool, hip computerized mentors.

"Unlike a human mentor, we can control all aspects of a pedagogical agent -- its gender, age, ethnicity, personality, message, and interaction style -- to represent the ideal persona for facilitating learning," Baylor says. "This leads to all kinds of exciting possibilities for simulating and researching different teaching styles and instructional strategies."

Hopefully they won't replace me next, but this line doesn't help:

Baylor is focusing on friendly facial expressions, soothing hand gestures, and a "coolly intelligent voice" to create characters that are " both disarmingly lifelike and surprisingly persuasive.

I guess I'd better start working on that "coolly intelligent voice".

Now, you have to understand that my best friends in college were engineers, so I quote this out of love:

"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."

Male and uncool. Good thing I'm an anthropologist.