Clippy and the History of the Future of Educational Chatbots

Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Sept 15, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Bots and chatbots have a long online history. I interviewed one that was running for president more than fifteen years ago. It went about as well as my exchanges with Clippy, Microsoft's Office Assistant. Audrey Watters tells us the story of Clippy and other failed bots in this article, and it's a good read. And she's sceptical about the ability of bots to take on a pedagogical role. "Clippy was a pedagogical agent that urged Office users to utilize a step-by-step “wizard.” It referred them to the software’s knowledge base. Templated knowledge. Templated writing. Templated and scripted responses based on key words not on cognition or care." And she's right - this approach is a failed approach. But is it true that "people preferred asking other people for help with Office than relying on the machine?" I don't think so. Oh, no, I would never depend on Microsoft for assistance; it's notoriously bad at it. I would turn to Google.

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