I am very excited- I managed to add a Voki Avatar (a free version of SitePal avatars) to my blog. My son, who is five years old, has had an introduction on how to create a Voki Avatar. Of course, as soon as we made one, we needed to create another!!! It was a good feeling being able to explain the process to him and it reinforced what learnt the night before and made me feel confident with this new technology.
Creating my voki avatar was straight forward, once I accessed the Voki website. All the instructions are online and easy to follow. Setting up a Voki Avatar takes very little time. They are a fun and engaging learning tool for students. They are easy to link to blogs and wikis making them a useful tool for teachers.
For me, I will consider embedding avatars into my learning framework as a way to “hook” my students into the lesson content. This will be useful for new subject matter. I can see potential for maths teachers as many people still view maths as numbers, shapes, calculations etc. Being able to apply maths to the “real world” outside of the classroom is something I see as being vital for student engagement. It would also be useful for the parents of students to be shown the way their children are learning today and applying maths to the outside world.
I can see the benefit of using avatars for Science Practical classes- especially for year 8 and 9 students, who can be a little complacent at times. Using the avatars, incorporating laboratory safety in the first practical class of the year would be invaluable. Many students find safety instructions boring and they lose interest when a teacher is explaining them. Safety is often forgotten as students become excited and enjoy performing experiments in practical classes. (This part of science is very student-centred and students are away from their desk and using different forms of engagement, hence the excitement). I would base the lesson around Kearsley and Shneiderman’s Engagement Theory using the Relate-Create-Donate principles. Firstly, I would introduce the topic with my own avatar (see attached) stating what the students need to do. Secondly, the students would be in control of their learning, by researching information and creating their avatar to present to the class. Finally, each student’s avatar would be presented to the class so they can all learn the various safety aspects in the laboratory. This is where I would expect some students expand on their knowledge as their peers may have safety tips they hadn’t thought of.
Get a Voki now!
Avatars will be a useful presentation tool for students who are shy and/ or nervous about standing in front of a class. However, oral presentations should still be incorporated into the learning framework. This is a skill all students need to learn for the future.
They can also used for primary students who cannot read all the instructions a teacher may need to give for their homework. If using a wiki or blog for student homework an avatar could be embedded to communicate instructions verbally to students.
Kearsley, G & Shneiderman, B. (1999) Engagement Theory: A Framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Retrieved on 20 March 2010 from http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/engage.htm