I have stumbled across a few web sites over the past several weeks that have had a rather fascinating and curious feature: a talking head. These little cartoonish-faces have blinked at me, and followed my curser with their eyes when it moved around the page. When I pressed the play button underneath the head, I found that I was listening to someone speak at me, via this “life-like” face.
I now know that these little speaking characters are called avatars. Avatars are a way of personalizing web pages. They can be used in a variety of ways; one being as a greeter or announcer on your web site. Podcasting can be matched up with an avatar to bring both sound, as well as a visual image to one’s message.
I was inspired by the Vokis found on the Disruptive Innovators’ wiki site, where Donna DesRoches and Carlene Walter (librarians) have used avatars to give brief greeting messages.
After reading through some of the blog discussion threads at the Classroom 2.0 web site, several ideas about how avatars (in particular, Vokis), could be used educationally started to emerge. One idea for application was describe by Paul Hardt (January 17, 2008):
“In an intermediate setting, students have been using VOKI to build similar characters to those in the book in which they are reading. Then their animated character verbally applies a skill such as theme, setting or cause and effect, or whatever.... Then when VOKI animates, we are presented with a 2.0 application that allows integration of appropriate skills along with some fun creative animation. Students love it.”
This application was a lot of fun to set up, so I can understand why teachers would want to approach this web tool carefully. Much time and effort can be wasted playing. Yet, when used as part of the finishing touches on a podcast, it creates an impressive looking final project. If I were setting up additional instructions or greetings on my school library home page, I would certainly use a tool such as this to make it more interesting and personalized.
It’s creative and fun! I have added it to my “bag of technology-tricks.”