Having read this post on Joe Dale’s excellent blog for MFL teachers I was immediately enthused by the possibilites for using this excellent new (and free!) tool in the geography classroom and in online resources. Voki enables users to create an animated avator for expressing themselves online, either in their own voice or using text-speech recognition to bring their avator to life in order to deliver a message. The Avator can be completely customised with choices of ‘realistic’ people through to anime characters and speaking animals! You can alter their characteristics from hair through to clothing and even set your own chosen background from a large selection! The avators are purposefully designed for personal, non-commercial use and are intended to be embedded in blogs or social network profiles such as MySpace.
There are a number of potential fun, educational uses for such a tool. Voki has been created by Oddcast who are also responsible for SitePal. Whereas Voki is free, SitePal is designed for corporate use and is therefore a pay for use tool. Just like Voki, SitePal allows you to design speaking, animated characters for embedding in websites but with greater flexibility and choice (as would be expected) than the free version, Voki.
Rich Allaway on his superb website GeographyAlltheWay, has been making excellent use of SitePal characters for a while in producing excellent online resources for his Geography students such as this Niagara Falls activity and The Spiny Cactus Bar Murder. As you can see, these animated characters can really help to bring the tasks to life and add another dimension.
Having a free version of this which could therefore be made use of by both staff and students seems to me to have great potential! Potential educational uses are already being discussed on the internet and include amongst others reminders for students, recapping at the end of lessons , and the potential for putting a face to podcasts.
Having a real interest at the moment in the use of podcasts I thought I’d see if I could transform one of my Coasts revision podcasts into a simple ‘vodcast’ using Voki. Unfortunately a drawback of Voki at the moment, seems that like a number of other free gadgets it is difficult to embed in wordpress. I have however successfully embedded it in blogger and my example of a simple Coasts Vodcast can be seen here. Another limitation of Voki is that at the moment (I don’t know if this is likely to change?) there is a restriction on the length of audio that can be uploaded which seems to be about 60 seconds. There is however flexibility as to how audio is added, either by phone, directly by microphone, uploading an existing mp3 or even making use of text-speech recognition (this in particular makes it very quick to create).
Uses in the Geography Classroom?
- a fun way of providing feedback to students?
- making announcements / deadline reminders on websites?
- use in the creation of online resources, using animated characters to introduce tasks and to lead students through an activity (such as that already carried out by Rich Allaway with his SitePal characters)
- animating podcasts / use for creation of revision activities (although time limits use to some extent)
Of course as well as staff using the tool to create more media rich online resources and activities – surely this would be great for use by students, just as Joe Dale suggests for the MFL classroom. In Geography students could be given the task of creating a 60 second precis of a particular topic or concept for revision which could then be shared through a department website or blog. Students could also use these as a presentation tool for homework activities, particularly as more and more students start to create media rich outcomes. Can anyone think of anything else? It would be interesting to share any ideas people have (please use the comment facility)