Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Create Talking Avatars with Voki

What are Avatars?

Avatars are computer users' visual repsresentations of themselves. Many Web 2.0 sites ask registrants to upload photos of themselves when they create their profiles...although it's really not a great idea to post pictures of yourself publically anywhere on the web. Avatars are great alternatives--it's a picture of you, but it's not really you! (If you have ever played a Nintendo Wii, you've made an avatar. It's the character you use to play the game).

Voki is a website that allows users to create 3-dimensional avatars...that talk! It has some great features that allow users to design their own character (or browse through their premade avatars that include politicians, celebrities, creatures, aliens, characters, dogs, and cats!). Once you've created your character, you can give it a voice in one of 4 ways: using your cell phone, recording directly to the website with microphone, typing text that Voki will turn into speech, or uploading an audio file from your computer.

Social Studies teacher Mike Varney contacted me recently about a project idea he had that incorporated Voki. During his unit about the Vietnam War, Mike asked each of his students to write a speech as a “Dove” or “Hawk” stating whether they support The War. The students were asked to write from a first-person point of view and to provide reasons to support their opinions. However, instead of having the students recite the speeches in front of their peers, he helped them create avatars (digital representations of their War character) to “give the speeches for them”. Using Voki, Mike helped his students create their characters and record their speeches. The results were outstanding…and very entertaining. Check this one out:

What Else Should I know?
  • Voki is a free website, but it does require that users create accounts and register an e-mail address. Because Mr. Varney's students don't have school e-mail accounts, we used MailCatch to create enough accounts for each of the students to use.
  • There is a 60 second time limit for recording, so keep the narration short and sweet!
  • When they are finished, Voki avatars are embeddable. Mike's students embedded their avatars on his classroom website.
  • The entire project took 2 class periods: one to create the avatars, and one to record the speeches. It was definitely a quick project.

Please let me know if you'd like to try Voki with your students!

Good Luck!



  1. This, like many other web 2.0 applications, has some great classroom potential. However, Voki, like many others, restricts the app to user 13 and older. In my K-5 schools, that eliminates everyone. My district is pretty serious about following the terms of agreement. As a district level tech employee, I feel I can't just ignore the terms. Is anyone else in the same situation? Why is 13 the magic number for access?? It is quite frustrating!

  2. Thanks for the comment! Yes, we come across this issue quite frequently with elementary level students. You're right--ignoring the terms is not really a good idea. One of my colleagues passed along this blog post that answers your question about why 13 is the "magic #". It looks like it's part of COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act), that was written over 10 years ago. Maybe it's time to revisit/rewrite it?