NPR Technology podcast (April 30, 2008) covers the work on Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab. The segment starts 18 minutes into the podcast. While I have long heard that athletes can improves skills, such a free throws, by seeing it in their minds, VHIL has shown that watching an avatar that looks very much like use can impact our real world reality.
One of the more interesting findings they observed was that when a person picks a better looking avatar from a set of possible avatars, the student will take on some of the attributes of the avatar. For example, subjects were asked to fill out an online dating form in which they picked people they thought they could reasonably date. The subjects who had selected a good looking avatar filled out an online dating form where they projected better possible matches. I should mention that the dating service form was filled out an hour later and that the avatar was not used or associated with the dating system.
What does all this mean? Behavior modification and building self-esteem are two obvious areas for students. Perhaps new teachers could practice in front of a virtual class room. This feels like an area rich with possibilities.