One of my favorite things to do as an educator is to mix the digital and the analog for students. I see this as a necessary challenge. In a high-tech world, sometimes students miss out on the many benefits and social interactions that can come from non-screen activities, such as board games. On the other hand, we have so many amazing tech tools today that allow students to interact and express themselves, as well as collaborate and share with the world. I propose that mixing the two can be a powerful combination.
That is why this school year, I’m going to try…
The Ultimate MatchUp!
I first heard about Rory’s Story Cubes when we received a set as a family gift for Christmas. They’re simple…you roll all 9 dice, then use them to tell an imaginative story. However, you can use them in endless creative ways like having each person take one die and tell their part of the story (collaborative storytelling) in turn! Each roll reveals new and exciting turns in the story. After having met Rory in person, and utilizing The Creativity Hub’s other game in my schools (The Extraordinaires), I see the company’s vision and potential of using these analog games to engage and drive deeper learning.
I first heard about Voki through a graduate course taught by John Smith (@theipodteacher on Twitter). Immediately, I saw the power and potential of Voki in the classroom. As a STEM teacher, I am always on the lookout for tech tools that hook students and allow them to have voice and choice in their learning. Specifically in giving students a voice (different from their own), Voki makes sharing in front of peers easier because an individually-created avatar does the talking for them. Voki’s characters are unique and engaging, as well as funny and strange. Students adapt right away to the easy-to-use platform and are busy creating their characters from the start.
Primary Voki Moments in the Classroom
My first attempt using Voki with students was to have the first graders create characters that could share a welcome message for the next year’s first graders. We brainstormed ideas of advice they could give their peers about what it’s like to be in first grade and then they wrote several sentences down on paper. Afterward, we spent an entire class period (45 minutes) exploring how to make and create Voki characters…just for fun. The time for students to simply “play” with the site was so valuable. The next class period, since they had had some experience, we logged in with our official Voki student accounts. This way, projects could be worked on and saved for later. The students then began creating their Voki avatars and using the typing feature to give their Voki a voice.
Once their Voki was complete, they had to “present” it to me by hitting the play button. They were instructed that if I gave them a thumbs up or a thumbs down, I would show them if I could understand what their Voki was saying or if something needed improving. If you’ve never played around with Voki before (What are you waiting for?! http://www.voki.com/site/create), you need to know that sometimes you have to spell words phonetically. This can take a bit of problem solving and manipulating of the text on the student’s part. Honestly, I love this part about Voki. Your students are so engaged that they actually WANT to make their Voki say things correctly and so they will sometimes persist and show resilience until their Voki is perfect!
When students finished their “final draft” of their avatars, they submitted them to me for review and I then embedded their Vokis on a class webpage for the following year’s first graders to receive some Voki advice! Here is a sampling of what they created:
Spinning Stories with Voki
So, I want to use Voki again this school year. I also want to utilize Rory’s Story Cubes to have students make creative stories. The plan is to have each student roll the cubes and a picture be taken of the dice for that student to reference. (See pic below)
Then, the students will use their creative writing prowess to spin a tale for their Voki to tell later. In the example picture above, a student might tell a story about a paratrooper turtle on a mission in Ancient Egypt. Or, their story might begin, “Once upon a time, there was a young girl who loved to read…”. The students will use their unique dice roll to write a brief story. Then, they will create a unique Voki character to tell the tale and share it with the world! I may use the Voki Presentation feature to show a picture of students’ dice rolls as well as their Voki character telling the story as seen in the example below:
Story Cube + Voki Example
Another extension would be to partner with a class in the school or across the world and have students pair up with the same dice roll but create two very different stories they could share with each other. To finish it all off, make each presentation a page in a student-created iBook so the world can download!
Jason Hubbard is a K-5 STEM educator in Perrysburg, Ohio. There, he trains around 1200 students at two elementary schools in the martial arts of creativity, innovation, and edtech. Jason received degrees from The University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, and also teaches a graduate course through Communicate Institute at Walsh University. Jason is a husband to one amazing wife and six incredible children.