Although few people would have ever considered my 5th grade classroom “traditional,” I did avoid technology for the bulk of my first decade of teaching! Nowadays, there are so many amazing tools out there that I wonder how anyone could avoid using technology with their students today.
Voki is one of those tools that I use in my classroom to increase motivation and encourage reflection with my students. One such way I use Voki to increase motivation is on the first day of school. Since it’s the first day, some of us don’t know everyone. A mixer is a nice, old-fashioned way of getting to know each other and building community in the classroom. Instead of the traditional walking around mixer, I decided to do a techie version that requires students to embed a URL on their blog & comment on each others’ posts. (I bet these 5th graders never expected this on the first day!)
The mixer is called “Two Truths and a Lie.” Students brainstormed two things that are true about themselves, but that might not be very believable to their peers, and one thing that is actually untrue that might be believable by their peers. They mix them up & record them on a Voki. After they are finished, they embed their Voki on their blog for others to listen to. When people listen, they post a comment with their best guess as to which one might be the lie. At the end of the period, the students post a comment on their blogs explaining which one was the lie for all to read.
I wanted to get technology into my students’ hands right away because we needed to establish some daily rituals, access some information online, and I needed my kiddos to pass on some details to their parents after school. I also wanted my students to access their Google Mail accounts to accept invitations to our Weebly site, and learn how to create blog entries.
Here is a link to one of my students’ blog entries where some peers listened to their Voki and posted their guess as to which one of the three facts was actually a lie: http://psolarz.weebly.com/58/post/2012/08/two-truths-and-a-lie.html
Not only is Voki motivational to students, but it also makes an excellent reflection tool. Rather than have my students complete written reflections after finishing an activity, I occasionally have them create a Voki explaining what they learned from the lesson.
For example, in our unit on the Oregon Trail, my students participate in a simulation where they each become individuals traveling westward in a wagon train. At the end of each period, I have my students summarize their learning experiences in several different ways, and one of those ways is through a Voki. The novelty and creative process engage them in the task and often improve their work far beyond traditional written answers. In addition, students who struggle with writing are able to explain their learning without being encumbered by the written word. Because they are able to record their voices, they often get into it much more so than when they are writing their reflections or typing them. Here is our “Voki Journal” of our journey west: http://paulsolarz.weebly.com/voki-blog
Finally, we like to use Voki to introduce ourselves to the other members of the crew headed to colonize Mars. This is another simulation that we do in our classroom where children learn about the U.S. Constitution and Government through the experience of settling the red planet. Due to overcrowding in the year 2150, we are forced to try to create a colony on Mars so that the human race can continue!
We are each from a different country and all have different backgrounds and occupations. I have my students create a Voki introducing themselves, telling us a little bit about where they are from and what their job will be on Mars. We then embed those Vokis at the top of our ePortfolios so whenever anyone visits our page, they can learn a little bit about our persona in the simulation. Here is an example (in the top, right-hand corner of the page): http://paulsolarz.weebly.com/6—kendall
Voki has provided my students with a tool that motivates them to try their hardest and have fun doing so! But be warned, once you teach them how to use this tool, they’re going to ask for it ALL THE TIME! :)
Paul Solarz is a 5th grade teacher in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He is a 2015 Global Teacher Prize Top 50 and author of Learn Like a Pirate.