Voki for Education: Way More than Talking Heads

Would your students like to share information through the image of Abraham Lincoln, a space alien or a cat? Would you? How about through an avatar that looks something like you—or maybe the way you’d like to look! There are many technology tools that use avatars in very sophisticated ways. Creating this type of avatar can put unreasonable demands on most teachers’ technological skills or available time. But there are options available that are accessible even for young students. Unfortunately, Vokis can’t be embedded easily into WordPress blogs, but they are fun anyway. Check it out!

Voki is a website that allows you to create customized (if not totally original) avatars that can be made to speak through recordings or typed text. While they cannot manage long speeches, they can deliver basic messages via websites or e-mail. Voki for Education provides suggestions and features specifically for teachers, some free at the most basic level and (naturally) more elaborate options with a paid subscription.

I’ve used Voki with graduate students (and to send messages to colleagues!) but my most enthusiastic Voki-makers are young children. One of my favorite Vokis ever was created for a two-year-old, who, after watching her older brothers and sister plan Vokis, pointed out her choices and told me what to type. She even picked the voice! Here it is, not bad for a two-year-old. The next day the first thing she said when she saw me was, “More cats on the computer!”

I’ll admit, that’s kind of silly, but think of how motivating it would be to use Vokis in the classroom. The Voki website continues to develop new ideas for teachers, but you might start with some of these.

  • Have students create Vokis of introduction. These could be either beginning-of-the-year activities to introduce themselves to their teacher, or Vokis that introduce their classroom to visiting parents. Think how that would liven up your next open house!
  • Use Vokis to summarize the “top three” things learned about a topic. These could be used as the introduction or conclusion of a longer presentation. The analysis required to identify (and explain) the three most critical ideas—regardless of the subject area—provides exceptional critical thinking options.
  • Have students create a Voki to recite a short poem—either a poem being studied or an original work. Have them explain how the characteristics of the Voki reflect important ideas or characteristics of the poem.
  • Create “Dueling Vokis” to present alternate viewpoints. This could reflect a historical conflict, options for what a character in literature should do next, or a current political dilemma. Again, the brief nature of Voki presentations make these best if accompanied by an oral or written expansion of the ideas.
  • Create a Voki of a literary character who expresses that character’s point of view on a particular question.
  • Create an original Voki, then write a story about it.
  • Create a Voki several times, using several different backgrounds reflecting different areas of the world. Explain key ways the Voki’s life would differ the various locations.

And this is just the beginning. How would you use Vokis?

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