VOKI – new approaches – Geography Vodcasts?

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)

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10 Responses to “VOKI – new approaches – Geography Vodcasts?”

  1. Kenny Says:

    Rob, thanks for this, it’s excellent. I like the anime – we are doing Japan with s2 at the moment, but it looks really useful for having some kind of character debates, e.g rainforest, green revolution. I’m hoping this is not blocked by the school… Thanks again!

  2. geoblogbytes Says:

    Hi Kenny – thanks for the response. Yes I must admit I saw the anime and thought it would be good for our work on Japan – we spend a lesson looking at animee and it would be great to get students doing something with this. Great idea about the character debates, the only limitation is the 60 second restriction (it may be slightly more would need trialling – but with uploading mp3 I could only get about 60 secs worth uploaded) – however it would mean students have to practice being succinct in their arguements! Would love to hear how you end up using it – I am hoping to get the students using it at some point next year.

  3. Kenny Says:

    I wonder if using the mic or the text recognition would have an impact on the length of vodcast you could complete? As you say, it might not be a bad thing having a time limit anyway. If (and it’s a big if) the school doesn’t block the site, I’ll let you see the results of something I would like to try with s4.

  4. geoblogbytes Says:

    The text recognition is definitely limited as I actually tried copying and pasting a podcast script of mine but didn’t get past a few lines – I must admit I haven’t tried out the microphone yet (not brave enough to try the phone option not knowing costs!) but definitely worth a try. Would love to see anything the students produce.

  5. hannah Says:

    Hello all,

    I work with Voki and thought I could answer a couple of questions I saw on here. Firstly, the text to speech option goes by word amount which usually only allows for about 10-15 seconds of speech, whereas the mic and phone options allow for 60 seconds worth of audio. The phone option is not something you pay for, and you can even have us call your line! The phone is a really simple option and works like an answering machine.

    I love your ideas for classroom integration and would love to hear more about them. When your students start creating Voki, please send them to me @ talkback@accounts.voki.com and I will feature them on our site!

    Thanks again and I look forward to seeing more Voki!

    Hannah

  6. Joe Dale Says:

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for your kind comments about my blog. I’m really pleased you are finding it useful. Have you had a look at my colleague Richard Peace’s blogs? He teaches geography too. I told him about your blog today so he’ll probably be in touch. Here is a link about his blogging exploits to date.
    http://joedale.typepad.com/integrating_ict_into_the_/2007/06/its_all_geograp.html

  7. Kenny Says:

    Hi Rob, wondering if you’ve trialled the vokis in school yet. My class have no problems making their characters, but we are having problems recording sound in school-although my school seems to block/make difficult the use of just about anything. The file won’t save on a voice recording, there is not enough space for mobile phone digits to be entered, and we tried phoning from a pupils phone with no credit to see if this was free-the call was not allowed. I am probably going to use audacity and convert the audio to mp3, but just wondered if you had experienced any similar probs?

  8. geoblogbytes Says:

    Hi Kenny

    Was just wondering how you had got on with the vokis. Unfortunately I haven’t had chance yet and am unlikely to this term with all that is happening at the moment – but am hoping to plan in some ways to use it next year so would love to hear how it goes. Did you read Hannah’s post above about he phone option? I also posted on Effective ICT – and had a reply about a work round for the text-speech option – see here http://www.effectiveict.co.uk/forum/index.php?showtopic=1601&hl=
    I was planning to use Audacity and convert to an .mp3 – I used it to create some audio snippets for some language games (haven’t switched subject – am doing some training!) over the weekend and it was very quick to do – so hopefully that will work ok. Sorry I can’t be any more help – would be interested to hear if you solve the problems.

    Rob

  9. Joe Says:

    Vodcasts are a great idea but I have had difficulty finding material on New Zealand. Anyone have suggestions about possible resources. Thanks.

  10. voki podcast Says:

    Our students made voki podcasts about their upcoming spring break plans. It was a great activity and a wonderful way to integrate technology across the curriculum.


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