As an Instructional Technology Specialist, I love it when teachers find easy ways to incorporate technology into their everyday lessons. Technology shouldn’t be separate from what you’re doing in the classroom – it should be woven into what you’re already doing in the classroom. Voki is a tool that we use in just about every grade level and subject area in my district. It’s versatile, easy to use, and the kids (and teachers!) love it!
It was no surprise when Staci Stephens, 6th grade math teacher at Brenham Middle School, emailed and asked if I could help her with a Voki lesson in her classroom. Our school got a new Chromebook cart this year and we were brainstorming ways to use the cart in her math class. Staci decided to let her kids draw a math problem from the “problem paper bag” – like they had done a dozen times before – but this time they would have to script how they solved the problem. With a little help from Google Docs, the kids worked through their math problems and typed out every single step.
Normally students would groan about this kind of activity – math AND writing?! However, when you hold a flashy tool like Voki in front of them, all of a sudden writing about math looks like fun instead of work! Staci and I were amazed at the detail the students included in their writing and we marveled at the level of engagement and deep thinking that was going on in the classroom. You could have heard a pin drop – until the avatars started speaking!
Watching the students light up as their writing came to life in the form of a Voki avatar was priceless. In a single class period, the students had created virtual speaking tutors for dozens of fraction problems. In the process, not only did they ask meaningful questions about math and writing, but also about technology. Voki got the students to really THINK about how they solve a math problem, but in a fun and non-threatening way! Even struggling learners can feel successful with an activity like this. Here’s what some of the students had to say about this lesson and using Voki:
- Katherine: I think it helped me because if you are visual learner or you need to hear it it helps you. You can hear the problem and it helps you work it out. The Voki was very helpful to all students whether they know it or not.
- Rylie: Voki really helped me in Math. It brought the math problem to life. I now understand math a lot easier.
- Estefania: Well Voki taught me how to cut short sentences for only the important things. Voki also is very fun to create your own character, to express who you are on your Voki.
- Jesse: I like Voki because it is fun to do. It helps me learn because when I hear about stuff it gets stuck in my mind. It is fun to do because you help other people learn.
- Arreyus: It’s technology and technology is well known in our century. It’s fun, but we still learn while having fun. Voki is a wonderful way for kids in this century to learn things.
Staci published the completed avatars on her teacher website with images of the problems being solved. Publishing completed work gives the students an audience which makes the learning real and more meaningful. See the completed avatars here: http://goo.gl/kDjbU. Here’s what Staci had to say about this lesson:
I like that Voki motivates students to communicate their thinking in a new and exciting way. Instead of solving 20 addition and subtraction of fraction problems, I learn much more about their problem solving process by having them explain 1 problem step by step. It is so difficult to hear the voices of each of my students on a daily basis, especially my shy students, but Voki enables each student to explain what they were thinking without the fear often involved with speaking up in class. I’m a big believer that learning mathematics is more than just solving problems- it is a problem solving process, but often when I ask students to write about or explain the process my students are very hesitant. Generally, they do not like writing, and do not feel they are good writers, but Voki gives them a way to communicate their thinking in a way they enjoy!
If you are looking for an easy (and FREE!) tool to use with any age students in any content area, I can highly recommend Voki and I know my staff and students would say the same. Brenham ISD loves Voki and I am certain your organization will, as well!
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