Doctoral Thesis: Empowering K-12 students in understanding and designing conversational agents

Wednesday, July 27
10:00 am - 11:30 am

via zoom

Jessica Van Brummelen


Interacting with technology through conversation has rapidly become prominent, and raises unique questions, including, “How do such human-like, relational interactions affect people’s trust of computer systems?”. Researchers have started to investigate such questions with respect to adults; however, very little research investigates these with respect to children—despite how conversational technology is uniquely positioned to appeal to children, influence them relationally and potentially spread misinformation.

Through studies with K-12 students, I have found correlations between students’ trust of conversational agents and their perceptions of personified traits. Nonetheless, these perceptions are not static, and can change through educational activities. For example, students frequently mentioned learning about agents’ sources of information, how agents’ programming works, and how agents manage data as reasons for changes in their trust of agents. Thus, I recommend agent designers create agents to be transparent in these areas. I also recommend educators emphasize these areas. Furthermore, I present a framework of twenty-four such design recommendations for agent developers and educators, forty fundamental agent concepts for students, and three online conversational agent platforms. These recommendations, concepts and platforms aim to foster accurate understanding and perceptions of agents in K-12 students.


  • Date: Wednesday, July 27
  • Time: 10:00 am - 11:30 am
  • Category:
  • Location: via zoom
Additional Location Details:

Thesis Supervisor: Prof. Hal Abelson

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