Friday, February 8, 2013

Encourage Children's Speaking with Voki

Encourage Children's Speaking with Voki
                                         by Susan Stephenson,

When I think about avatar generators, I tend not to think of Voki. And yet it IS a kind of avatar, one that adds the feature of an audio accompaniment. This makes it an excellent way for kids to present a short message to the world, via a Voki.

So often with children's literacy, there is much emphasis on reading/writing. We can actually run out of time for speaking and listening practise. Voki provides a vehicle when kids have a purpose for creating a short speech. They can use a microphone to read/say it aloud and record it. If there is no microphone, they can choose text and a voice to read it.

Once you log in to Voki, you are presented with a screen where you can customize your avatar. Choose from famous people (under World tab), animals, monsters, anime etc by scrolling with the right and left arrows under Customize Your Character. Once a Voki is made, you can get the code to embed on a blog or website, or get the link. I have embedded my Koala Voki above, and you can also see it online.  (You CAN make a Voki without logging in, and get a code to embed or a url to visit, but obviously your Voki won't be stored.)

Ideas for using Voki:

* The World characters mean kids could choose Lincoln, Ghandi or Queen Elizabeth 1 (I think) and demonstrate their understanding of that character's role in history by "speaking" through them.

* When children are writing a narrative, Voki could be an interesting way to start thinking and talking like a character. Kids can develop a character that looks like the one in their imagination, making it more "real" and helpful for their writing.

* Students could give a brief opinion of a book they've read via Voki. Listening to others' Vokis might even give them ideas for new books to borrow.

* Kids will love practising "voices" as they speak through some of the Monster Vokis - there's a wizard for Harry Potter Day, a pirate for Speak like a Pirate Day, and even a cool alien for Read Across the Universe in Children's Book Week, August 2013 (Australia). Great way to help develop reading fluency.

* Voki gives children's writing a purpose and vehicle for delivery, as they write a little about themselves at the beginning of the year.

I'm really impressesd with the support Voki offers. There are tutorials on how to use it,  a Voki classroom, where teachers can create and manage student accounts and there are stacks of great ideas in the Voki Lesson Plan page.

If you're interested in avatar makers, check out my articles Writing with Avatars (1),  Book Chook Favourites - Customize Yourself  and Writing with Avatars (2).  Gwyneth Jones, the Daring Librarian, has an excellent wiki about Web 2.0 Tools including avatars. There are more ideas about ways to use Voki at 21st Century Educational Technology and Learning.

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