A Bit About Me

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Voki (for teachers AND students)

Voki.com is by far one of the best Web 2.0 tools that I've used in the classroom. Not only does it serve as a great presentation tool for introducing a lesson or providing instructions, it also serves as a wonderfully creative tool, allowing students to create their own talking character to share information that they've learned in class. Recently, I've had the second grade classes conduct a research project on bats. When the whole class completed their research, I then had them log on to Voki to create a talking bat character in order to share their knowledge on bats with the rest of the class. Currently, I'm having 1st grade classes complete a similar activity where they work in groups of 2 to 4 students to create a Voki character that talks about what they have learned about different animal groups. The students LOVE this tool, and quite honestly, the only problem that I've noticed is how hard it is for them to log on to the Voki website.
Update: Voki Classroom has updated their website, so that the students' usernames are drastically shortened to 5 characters. The passwords remain the same, which is fine as the passwords were never really part of the problem.

How it works...
When you get to the website you will click where it says "Create".
From there, you can begin customizing your character. There is no one correct way to go about designing your character. You can start with the voice and work your way back if you like. The following steps are simply the ones that I have my students follow.

Customize Your Character
  1. Click on the manikin head to choose from one of several character genres:
    • holiday
    • digimon
    • dogs
    • cats
    • classic
    • toons
    • anime
    • animals
    • edgy
    • oddballs
    • randoms
    • VIP
    • politics
  2. Next, click on the hair to change the hairstyle for your Voki character
  3. Then, click on the lips to change the way the lips look for your Voki character
  4. Click on the mustache to change the style of your Voki character's mustache (*note: every Voki character is different, therefore, not all design options will be available for all characters)
  5. When you click on "Clothing", you're given the opportunity to change the clothing that your character wears, including its outfit and hat or headgear.
  6. By clicking on "Bling", you can add jewelry, glasses (and sunglasses), and other objects to your character. 
Colors and Tweaks
Located just below your Voki character, you'll find a toolbar that allows you to edit the color and size of several of your character's features, including its: mouth, nose, body, height and weight. This tool allows you to toggle back and forth between "color" and "tweak" with relative ease.

The background tool allows you to change the background for your character. You can choose from a variety of preselected backgrounds, or upload your very own. The following list provides an overview of the many genres of backgrounds offered:
  • holidays
  • obscure
  • sports
  • indoors
  • nightlife
  • city views
  • outdoors
  • travel
  • nature
  • animated
The player option in the bottom right-hand corner enables you to change the border that encases your Voki character. By clicking on the "player" option, you're given the following colors to choose from:
  • Black
  • Bright Blue
  • Red
  • Fuschia
  • Forest Green
  • Silver
  • Burgundy
  • Brown
  • Blue
I tend to have students create the voice only after they complete the visually creative portion of their Voki character. However, you can actually have them create the voice first if you choose.
There are three different ways to go about recording the voice. 
  1. Type to Text:  this feature allows you to type in what you would like the Voki character to say. The accent/language options are quite extensive
    • Arabic
    • Basque
    • Catalian
    • Chinese
    • Czech
    • Danish
    • Dutch
    • English
    • Esperanto
    • Finnish
    • French
    • Galician
    • German
    • Greek
    • Hindi
    • Hungarian
    • Icelandic
    • Indonesian
    • Italian
    • Japanese
    • Korean
    • Norwegian
    • Polish
    • Portuguese
    • Russian
    • Romanian
    • Spanish
    • Swedish
    • Thai
    • Turkish
    • *In addition to choosing the accent/language of the Voki character, you are also able to choose the voice for it, as there are options for male and female voices in each language.
  2. Record by Phone
    • This option gives you the ability to call a number provided to you from the website in order to record your voice onto the Voki character remotely.
  3. Record with a Microphone
  4. Upload an Audio File
    • This enables you to upload a prerecorded file to have the Voki character speak it. 
When you're done creating the Voki character, you simply click "Publish", at which time you'll be provided a link that can be used for publishing your Voki character to your website.

Voki in the Classroom
Voki is a fun tool for classroom presentation use. It only costs $29.95 for one full year, and with that you get 200 student accounts. The usernames can be changed at any time, however, the passwords are simple and pre-formulated. This is definitely one of the best, creative, Web 2.0 tools for an elementary school setting. 

Monday, January 2, 2012


Spicy Nodes is an online tool that allows students and educators to plot a road map presentation that magnifies a current destination while maintaining a background display of each previous and future topic to be revealed in the presentation. One could use SpicyNodes as a simplified version of Microsoft Powerpoint, or as a substitute for Prezi presentations.

SpicyNodes Tutorial

Below is a list of pros, cons and neutrals for using SpicyNodes:

  • Allows viewer to see a glimpse of each upcoming frame.
  • Very simplistic design, thereby allowing students to focus on simple statements for content, as opposed to the many features that Microsoft PowerPoint offers.
  • Ability to integrate media (youTube videos, music, images) into presentation.
  • The frames are never fullscreen, thereby making it challenging for visually-impaired individuals to see the information clearly.
  • The fact that future and previous frames can be seen at once tends to be slightly distracting for the users whose attention fades rather quickly.

Individual:       FREE

Organization:  $24/month
  • more options for visual styles
  • enables 25,000 views per month
  • SpicyNodes logo can be hid

Enterprise:      $149/month
  • enables up to 250,000 views per month

My two cents...
While SpicyNodes does present a nice, visual way to go about presenting information, the one thing that it does not offer is ample ease in setting up the presentation. I say this because there is a large amount of expanding and collapsing that takes place in order to create and order each "slide". One can however insert images with relative ease. Thus, I found that overall this website is best used for presentations that only supply basic information, as well as presentations that are very media heavy.