Vibrant Voki!

If you’ve ever played games or used forums on the Internet, then you’ve probably heard of avatars, which are icons that represent a person online. Avatars can be used for profile pictures on Internet forums or social media, or they can be used as your own character when playing online games or video games. I’ve loved creating avatars since I was in elementary school, and to this day I always spend a lot of time in the character creation parts of video games. However, I never really thought about using avatars for educational purposes until we learned about Voki.

Voki is a free website that allows you to create talking avatars, and the site is made specifically for education. There are plenty of options: regular people, funny cartoons, animals, monsters, anime characters, and even celebrities! You can record your own voice, or you can type in the dialogue and choose from a variety of voices. The avatars can be serious, goofy, or anywhere in between- whatever you need for your audience and subject material.

MY VOKI EXPERIENCES

For my own Voki avatar, I made a talking Siamese cat named Princess, who tells a short story about being adopted from a shelter. I made the avatar specifically for my final project, which is a website about adopting rather than shopping for pets.

Check out my Voki here!

I really like Voki because of the many customization options, and because you don’t have to record your own voice- as I’ve said before, I hate the way my voice sounds on recordings, plus my laptop microphone doesn’t work! The voices are not robotic and there are so many options- including different accents!

USING VOKI IN THE CLASSROOM

I would use Voki in my classroom for a fun supplement or introduction to a lesson, assignment, or teacher website. I could also have my students create one of themselves or of a literary character. Voki can be used with students of all ages, and I think that they would have a lot of fun creating their own avatars. I used to think that avatars were purely for entertainment, but now I’m really looking forward to using them as an educational tool in my future classroom!

CONFERRING WITH AN AVATAR: USING VOKI FOR PROOFREADING

Amazing Animoto!

Our tool for this week was Animoto, a website that lets you create cool video slideshows using pictures, videos, and text. It’s very easy to use; all you need to do is choose the theme and music, provide the pictures/videos/text in the order you want them shown, and Animoto will put them together for you! The themes are very vibrant and there are various types of music to choose from, so there is something out there to suit all of your purposes!

Here’s the bad news, though: you have to pay, which really stinks because Animoto used to be free. I first used it a couple of years ago for a different technology course, and even though we were limited to shorter videos and not as many themes, we were still able to make videos for free. Now, that’s no longer the case. To access Animoto, you can sign up for a pricing plan for either personal, professional, or business use. You can also sign up for a free trial if you want to try it out first.

But here’s the good news: if you’re an educator, you can get Animoto for free! All you need to do is apply as an educator and you can get free access to Animoto! It’s one of many reasons why being a teacher rules! 🙂

HOW TO USE ANIMOTO

USING ANIMOTO IN MY CLASSROOM

Animoto is one of my favorite tools that I have used in my technology courses. I love how easy it is to create engaging videos, and I can see many uses for Animoto in the classroom. Here are my ideas:

  • An “About Me” video to introduce myself to students at the beginning of the year
  • Having students make their own “About Me” videos at the beginning of the year
  • Introducing or reviewing a topic in an attention-grabbing way
  • Showcasing a club/extracurricular that I’m in charge of (I would love to run either an English-related club or something else fun!)
  • An end of the year video/showcase of student accomplishments
  • Assigning students to make their own video for a project or presentation

I could also use Animoto to make a video for my teaching portfolio, which I will be compiling next semester and using to (hopefully!) get a job.

I will definitely be incorporating Animoto in my classroom, both for my own use and for student assignments. It’s a fun and easy tool, and it’s a more engaging way to present material than a traditional PowerPoint or lecture. I think my students will have fun creating their own videos as well. Whether you’re an educator, a business owner, or just really like making cool videos, I definitely recommend Animoto!

MY ABOUT ME VIDEO

WordPress won’t let me embed from Animoto, so check out my About Me video here! I had a lot of fun making it, and I’m pretty proud of how it came out!

Adventures in Screencasting

This week, our topic was how to make video tutorials using Screencast-O-Matic. For my screencast, I made a tutorial on how to find a pet to adopt using Petfinder. I thought this was an important topic because a lot of people might want to adopt a pet but have no idea where to start. Petfinder is an easy way to find your perfect pet through adoption rather than shopping at a pet store, and “adopt, don’t shop” is a cause that is very close to my heart, so I want to show people how easy Petfinder makes it to adopt a pet. I also briefly went through the site’s other features as well because it has a lot of great resources on pet care, volunteering, and more. The objective is for viewers to be able to successfully find a pet to adopt using Petfinder.

THE PROCESS

  1. I ran through the site myself to get an idea of what I wanted to show my viewers. I’ve used Petfinder before (my family used it to adopt our two cats), but it’s been a while, so I needed a refresher.
  2. I made an original script and practiced it a few times.
  3. I got everything set up on my computer, went to test my laptop’s microphone, and… realized it doesn’t work. At all. Great. Cue me spending two hours playing around with settings, looking up help articles, and wanting to throw my computer out the window. I finally ended up using an external microphone that my professor graciously let me borrow. Moral of the story? PLAN AHEAD and don’t assume technology is going to cooperate with you.
  4. Once I got all of my problems fixed, I recorded my screencast! It took me a bunch of tries to get it right because I kept messing up. I still messed up a couple of times in my final take, but it was nothing that was detrimental.
  5. WordPress doesn’t support MP4 files, so instead of directly uploading/embedding the video here, I had to upload it to YouTube and then embed it.

Check out my screencast below!

Fun fact: I absolutely HATE the way my voice sounds on recordings, but I think most us feel that way about our own voices!

USING SCREENCASTS IN THE CLASSROOM

Screencast-O-Matic is a great tool to use in the classroom. It can be used for a variety of purposes, such as:

  • Delivering online lessons or tutorials for an online course or a flipped classroom
  • Supplemental material for your lessons
  • Extra help tutorials or reviews for tests
  • Delivering a lesson that students can watch at home when school is cancelled (snow day!)
  • Staying on track even if you’re out of school for the day and there is a substitute

Screencasting is a great way to make engaging lessons that students can go through at their own pace, and it can be used in any subject area. I can definitely see myself using Screencast-O-Matic in my future English classroom. Possible topics:

  • How to navigate the school library’s online database
  • Grammar lessons
  • The writing process
  • Character or plot maps
  • How to use a specific tech tool that we will be using in class

Want to learn how to use Screencast-O-Matic? Check out the tutorial below:

Creating My Digital Accessibility Website

The biggest assignment that we had to complete for our Webpage Technologies class was making our own eight page digital accessibility website in WordPress. These eight pages are:

  • Welcome page (homepage)
  • The history of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and digital accessibility
  • Legal issues (policies and lawsuits)
  • Strategies for including/supporting accessibility
  • Needs of web users with disabilities
  • Assistive technology
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Funding and costs for web accessibility

I’m not going to lie, it was a LOT of work. My website is packed with information, links, videos, and images relating to digital accessibility. It took a lot of hard work, especially making sure that my site was well organized and ADA compliant  (imagine a digital accessibility site that ISN’T accessible! Oh, the irony…). However, after doing so much research and learning about the many struggles that people with disabilities go through when using the web, I know that my own struggles when making my website can’t compare and are absolutely worth it. I’m definitely proud of my website and I did enjoy creating it. I think that it’s a great source of information about digital accessibility and the fight for equal rights for people with disabilities. I can see myself using this website for teaching in the future, whether that is by showing it to my students, using it as a resource, or showing it to my colleagues/administrators for professional development.

Still not convinced about the importance of web accessibility? Just want to know more? Check out this video by David Berman.

Evaluating Web Sources: BE SMART!

If it’s on the internet, it has to be true, right?

 NO WAY!

It’s easy to assume that the information that you find on the internet is accurate, especially if it’s presented in a way that appears professional. Sites like Wikipedia may seem trustworthy because the contributions are monitored, but some things do slip through the cracks. If you just can’t let go of Wikipedia, use the references section to do your research instead; that way, you can access the original sources, make sure they are accurate, and use them directly. Other sites might have a lot of information but not a lot of clear sources, or they are presenting the information in a way that is biased. There are quite a few criteria that you should use to evaluate a web site:

  • What type of domain is it? (.com, .org, .edu, .gov…)
  • Who wrote the page/site? Is it someone’s personal page/site?
  • Who published the site?
  • What are the author’s credentials?
  • How recent is the site/page?
  • Are the sources documented with links and/or notes? Are they accurate?
  • Are there working links to more resources?
  • Why was the page/site put on the web?
  • Is there any evidence of bias?
  • Is the site/page appropriate for your purpose?

You might also want to run the site through Alexa, a tool that provides a site’s statistics, activity, popularity, and more. Internet directories such as DMOZ are useful tools for finding out how well rated a site is.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it will save you the time and energy you would be spending redoing your research because the sources you found were unreliable. Use those guidelines to make informed choices about what sources you use on the web. If you make it a habit to stop and evaluate your sources, it will become second nature and will make your research infinitely stronger.

Check out this video for more information on how to evaluate websites: