Nancy Hniedziejko, M.Ed.
Library Media Specialist
School District of Cheltenham Township, PA
After a six week course of study on Digital Citizenship, I was looking for a culminating activity for my third graders. Quite accidentally, I found Voki. I’m a teacher/librarian who relies upon my PLN (Personal Learning Network) on Twitter, and I saw a few tweets about Voki and I began to explore. I was quickly intrigued.
While I had seen a number of ways to create avatars, I had never seen one that included not only a voice feature, but an abundance of creative choices. I knew I had to find a way to include this in my library. I began by setting up a free account. Then, I tried to make a Voki that looked like me. I was thrilled by the feature that used my cell phone so I could record my own voice. Each step of the way was so user friendly. My Voki told the students about the genre of the month after I easily copied the embedded code onto my library website.
When my third graders arrived for their weekly library lesson, I showed them the Voki on our library website. They loved it. When I told them they would be creating their own Vokis… well, let’s just say the enthusiasm included applause and high-fives. In our district, the students all have a standard user name and password. Prior to each class arriving, I had created Voki accounts for each student using the Voki Classroom feature. This was a huge time saver. It didn’t take too long and it insured that each student had an account with their correct user name and password.
Once I showed them how to navigate to Voki using our library Symbaloo (an exceptional time saver), I created another Voki. I showed them how to choose a character style, and the multitude of customization features as well as the background and player features. (The bling was a huge hit!) One of the areas I didn’t stress strongly enough with the first group of third graders was the importance of saving their creations. Luckily, as a librarian I get to try each lesson three times. With each subsequent group, I modeled this vital step.
During this first introductory lesson, my goals for the students were to log on, create a Voki, enter text to make it talk, and save it. When the students returned the next week and logged on, they found the assignment I created. Not only does Voki have a place for teachers to share lessons, but you can create assignments for your students. Each third grader was required to describe what being a good digital citizen meant. Since we are always running short on time, creating the Voki the first week and focusing on the content the second week, made it much easier for the students.
Another great feature in the Voki Classroom is that the teacher can approve, disapprove and leave comments for the students. Once I approved their Vokis, my next step was sharing. While each lesson automatically creates its own Web page, where you can showcase your students’ work, I wanted all of the students in the school to be able to view the Vokis through my library website. When I clicked on the publish feature, I discovered that Voki had a feature for sharing the link on Symbaloo. As mentioned earlier, Symbaloo is a great time saver if you are looking to save all of your links in one place. I created a Symbaloo webmix that shared all of the third grade Vokis. Now, everyone (including parents) could view the Vokis. It didn’t take too long to copy/paste the Symbaloo Voki link for each link. It was worth the time and effort.
As a library media specialist, I’m always looking for ways to excite my students about technology in a meaningful way. Using the Voki as a culminating activity for our unit on Digital Citizenship was not only exciting and fun, it was meaningful. It meshed different apps, typing skills, writing skills, summarizing skills and creativity. An added bonus was when the teachers found out what the students were creating, they wanted to set up accounts and use Vokis in their classrooms.