Avatars . . . Building Community in Your Classroom

Edublog's Teacher Blogging Challenge was all about avatars in Challenge #4.  My avatar has always been a photograph of myself.  I explored shrinkpictures first and was impressed with how quickly and easily I could shrink any photograph to avatar size.
Prior to exploring this challenge, I knew what avatars were, but hadn't given much thought to how they might help me differentiate with technology.  So, I decided to explore how avatars could be used in the differentiated classroom. I began as most of my technology-based lessons often do, by exploring a variety of avatar makers.  Sites like FaceYourManga and BeFunky were easy to use and very intuitive. 

Building Community in a Differentiated Classroom:
An important component of a differentiated class is developing community. Avatars are a wonderful tool to help your students get to know each other.  Avatar makers like FaceYourManga can be used to have students introduce themselves.  Try this:  Have students make an avatar that represents themselves and upload it onto their blog.  Have your students share their avatars informally at morning meeting or more formally with presentations.

In a differentiated classroom, student choice plays a central role. Offering a variety of avatar makers ensures students will create an avatar that represents their personality and interests.  Some students may like the Lego based avatars available on a site like Reasonably Clever, while others may prefer to modify a photograph using befunkyBuild Your Wild Self, an avatar maker I discovered on My love/hate with packing lunches blog creates avatars that are part human/part animal.  Imaginative children will find this avatar creator is perfect for them. Picassohead is a great avatar maker for students wanting to create a more abstract avatar. Voki's animal avatars talk and will definitely be just right for some of the children in your class. Offering more than one option may seem like a lot to manage, but not if you use your students as peer helpers!  Many will have experience creating avatars and some are very tech saavy and more than happy to help!

While exploring, I decided to use this Voki avatar on my classroom blog, Looking Glass, because I could record my own voice. It welcomes parents and offers suggestions about how to use my blog to spark conversations with their children about what they're learning. Voki could be used in a similar way to FaceYourManga as a "getting to know you" activity, but has the added benefit of including the students' voices.  Students could add a personal message to the readers of their blog using this type of avatar.  Voki could also be used to create avatars for the fictional characters in their independent reading or a historical figure in a biography they are reading.  Avatars could be added to a blog or wiki page.

DI w/Tech in a NutShell:
Avatar creators are a terrific technology tool to help you develop community in your classroom and get to know your students' interests.  Offering several choices for avatar makers differentiates the product according to your students' interests and possibly readiness level (some sites are easier than others).

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Mieke said...

Hi Aimee,

Thank you for visiting my blog. I also enjoy reading your post about building an avatar. I like your Voki avatar. I visited your blog on "Looking Glass". It's great!

Aimee Boucher said...

Thank you, Mieke. I have a great time blogging about what my class is up to! I wasn't a big fan of avatars before this challenge, but I like the one on Looking Glass, too!

Anonymous said...

hi Aimee, Thanks for sharing this interesting post on avatars. I like how you describe what sites you experimented with and then how you could use them with students. Have you used this topic with students yet? I think that vokis or talking avatars could have a lot of uses.
All students that I teach have an avatar. However, I had an extra on Friday with a grade 5/6 class and as they did not have avatars, I got them to choose from a number of sites to create one. To my horror, some of them had a glass of beer in their hands and a cigar in their mouth. That made a teachable moment and we discussed why that was inappropriate. Then I got the questions about whether the mohawks and tattoos were okay. I said 'yes' to that. What do you think?

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