Champaign, Ill. -- Animation is a proven vehicle for biting comedy, a la "The Simpsons" and "South Park."
But some of the same qualities that make it work for comedy make it valuable, too, as an outlet for victimized children and for a new research method that tests the empathy of teachers who may deal with them, says Sharon Tettegah, a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Tettegah believes so strongly in the value of animation specifically "animated narrative vignette simulations" that she sought out a computer science professor at Illinois, Brian Bailey, to help develop her concept for a child-friendly program for producing them.
The program that resulted, called Clover, gives children, as well as adults, a tool for making and sharing their own vignettes about their personal and sometimes painful stories.
According to Tettegah, the program is the only one she is aware of that allows the user to write the narrative, script the dialogue, storyboard the graphics and add voice and animation, all within one application. Those four major aspects of producing a vignette gave rise to the name "Clover," the plant considered to bring good luck in its four-leaf form.
A paper about Clover, written by Bailey, Tettegah and graduate student Terry Bradley, has been published in the July issue of the journal Interacting With Computers.
In other research, Tettegah has used animations as a tool for gauging the empathy of teachers and others who might deal with children and their stories of victimization. One study with college education majors, or teachers-in-training, showed only one in 10 expressing a high degree of empathy for the victim, she said.
A paper about that study has been accepted by the journal Contemporary Educational Psychology (CEP), with publication slated for later this year. The co-author of the study is Carolyn Anderson, a professor of
Contact: Craig Chamberlain
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign