Guest Blogger: Sonya terBorg

Guest Blogger: Sonya terBorg


In our previous unit under the theme How We Express Ourselves my students were asked to create a Voki avatar to persuade people to send their kids kids to our school – essentially answering the question “Why Riverstone?” from their perspective. We had used Voki in the past, and I wanted to revisit it in a more formal (rather than optional) way to really see if this was something worthwhile to do.

My class has Voki Classroom accounts. This is different to the regular, free version of Voki. What it does differently, is that it allows you access to your kids work prior to publishing. As the teacher, you set the assignment and send this to each child’s account. They log in (with usernames and passwords that you have access to) and click on the appropriate task, read the instructions and carry out the assignment. When they are finished, they submit it to you for review. You can ‘approve’ it or send it back to them to work on it some more.
Here are what I consider the key strengths of Voki:

  • you get an oral presentation without the pressure of performing live in front of an audience. Yes, I know performing live is valuable, but so is hearing people applaud your clear, confident, expressive speech that normally may have been muffled and quiet and spoken into your armpit.
  • some kids will knock your socks off! I was crazy impressed with the majority of the Voki’s that were produced for this assignment and some kids really stood out from the rest – and not necessarily the kids you would expect either. I love that.
  • it is really intuitive. We had used it before but even then, all it took was one class lesson on the Smartboard and they were off. There were a few glitches along the way but that was my doing – not Voki’s or my kids!

Which leads me to my recommendations:

  • make sure you set the assignment up first! I know, this seems simple, but in all the organizing, actually sending out the last assignment to their accounts was missed off my to-do list. Major bummer.
  • keep a printed list of usernames and passwords – they are easy to remember but we use a lot of sites and so having them handy is a must so those who forget can quickly access them
  • start with some fun, non-assessed assignments – let them play with Voki! I started with a book review from a character’s perspective and each child introducing themselves.

Prior to beginning the assignment, I shared the following with my class. Click on the image to enlarge. Click to download a PDF version.

screen-shot-2013-02-24-at-1-59-36-pmscreen-shot-2013-02-24-at-1-59-23-pm

After you have approved their work, it is very easy to embed the finished Voki in your blog. I have found in the past that there are many embedding codes that don’t work with WordPress (the blogging platform we use at school) but Voki is not one of them. At the conclusion of the assignment I was able to easily export the Voki’s to our class website to share with the students and their families. Here are a couple of examples of our Voki’s:



When they were uploaded, each student was tasked with drawing five names from a hat, finding that Voki online, and reviewing their work using the following form. The grid of persuasive strategies is from the awesome website, ReadWriteThink.

screen-shot-2013-02-24-at-2-03-09-pm

In addition to this personalized, specific feedback, we watched all the Voki’s as a class and rated them ‘live’ using the online student response tool: Socrative. If you have not used Socrative before, please check it out! It is really cool – and as the byline says, “as easy as raising your hand”. Once you set up a teacher account, students log on with any device and plug in your ‘room number’. You control the pace of the questions or allow them to go at their own pace. As they answer your questions, their responses show up live on screen. We watched each Voki together and then rated them on persuasive effectiveness on a scale of 1-5. Check this video out for further information:


Socrative introduction video (new) from Socrative Inc. on Vimeo.

In Summary:

I would highly recommend the use of Voki in your classroom. I like the education version, Voki Classroom, mostly because of it’s editing/reviewing options and because your recordings can be up to 90 seconds (as opposed to 60 seconds in the free version). It is easy to see where each student is at on the project and feedback can be delivered instantly to them from your account to theirs. I love that you can embed the finished Voki’s and the quality of both the avatar and the voice options are excellent. In addition to the stock backgrounds, you can also upload your own images = the first Voki featured in this post actually has a photo of the front of our school as the background. This feature allows you to incorporate aspects of visual language into your curriculum by challenging students to come up with the most appropriate look to their Voki that suits their message.

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For Sonya’s blog, go here.

Follow Sonya on Twitter: @terSonya

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