I have never had so much fun creating a virtual person/animal in my life. I created two Voki Avatar as I wanted to explore what other options I had in creating something fun and engaging for the students. After I had my fun I began to wonder how I can incorporate this fun technology into the classroom. Student would enjoy creating their own but what are the students actually learning from this technology and experience?
What is a Voki Avatar?
Deucher and Nodder (2003) describe Avatars as a computer generated graphic representation of a user within a 3D (3 dimensional) Virtual Reality environment therefore enabling the user to take on a visible persona. Voki’s enable users to express themselves on the web in their own voice using talking characters. You can customize your Voki to look like you or take on the identity of lots of other types of characters… animals, monsters, anime etc. Your Voki can speak with your own voice which is added via microphone, upload, or phone (Oddcast, 2008). Voki lives on your blog, social network profile and will soon be integrated in various instant messaging platforms. You will also be able to download it to most video supported phones (Oddcast, 2008).
Theory – Engagement Theory
Deucher and Nodder (2003) state that the greatest advantage in using 3D is the ability for individuals to immerse themselves in role playing by the use of Avatars. But there is a danger in using 3D as a teaching tool that students may become isolated, desensitised to the physical world and lost in a world of unreality (Deucher & Nodder, 2003). That is why teacher support and peer scaffolding must be interwoven into any 3D learning to maintain the humanistic element (Deucher & Nodder, 2003). I agree with this statement as teachers should use this technology only as a tool for engaging the students in their learning as these problems may occur if it is not used appropriately. It may hinder the students learning not assist them.
Technology provides an electronic learning environment that fosters the kind of creativity and communication needed to nourish engagement (Kearsley & Schneiderman, 1999). Students can create their own avatars, which will facilitate students in being creative and they also allow students to communicate using their own voice or that of someone else.
I believe that using avatars in the classroom is going to be more useful to students if the learning surrounding the technology is meaningful to them. There is no point using a technology in the classroom, whether it is avatars or some other form if the learning behind it is worthless. Kearsley and Schneiderman (1999) state that students are intrinsically motivated to learn due to the meaningful nature of the learning environment and activities.
All the students we teach have something in their lives that are really engaging- something that they do and that they are good at, something that has an engaging component to it (Prensky, 2005). This allows teachers to find out what really engages their students and how to utilise the resources they have in the classroom to get the best out of their students.
Using Voki Avatars in the Classroom
I found it very difficult to research how a Voki would engage students in the classroom and ways I could use the technology usefully. After researching I found a lot of ideas in how to use them within the classroom with language support.
Avatars use in education is boundless, open to research (Rogers & Howard, 2009).
If anyone has any ideas in how to incorporate this technology into the classroom I would love to hear it.
Has anyone used Avatars in the classroom before? How did it go?
Deucher, S & Nodder, C (2003) The Impact of Avatars and 3D Virtual World Creation on Learning: Accessed on the 8th August 2009, http://www.naccq.ac.nz/conference04/proceedings_03/pdf/255.pdf
Kearsley, G & Schneiderman, B (1999) Engagement Theory - A framework for technology-based teaching and learning: Accessed August 4th 2009 http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/engage.htm
Oddcast (2008) Voki: Accessed on the 3rd August 2009; http://www.voki.com/mywebsite.php
Prensky, M. (2005). Engage Me or Enrage Me - What today's learners demand: Accessed on 8th August, 2009 from, http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0553.pdf
Rogers, P & Howard C (2009) Encyclopedia of Distance Learning: IGI Global, United State of America.