In the foreign language classroom, it is important to bring in the four modalities (reading, writing, speaking and listening) every day. In speaking, I almost always assess students’ interpersonal skills by listening to them have conversations with others. For the most part, my students are very comfortable with these activities and are willing to try out their language skills.
Presentational speaking, however, always strikes a chord with them. We do it on occasion, but, like most disciplines it can be difficult to find the time with larger classes to do it as often as one would like. Voki.com is the perfect solution to that problem. Students can prepare short presentations and in part of a class period, record them in a computer lab or on another wireless device. Voki gives you the ability to create an avatar, or animated character and give your Voki a voice by calling in using your phone or by recording through your computer’s microphone.
There are several advantages to this program. First, students can record at home or in class all together and the teacher can assess them from anywhere at any time. In this particular case, there would be no need for each student to get in front of the room and one by one speak while the teacher sits at the back of the room and scribbles down notes furiously. Instead, the teacher can watch at another point in time and even has the opportunity to pause and rewind to offer more detailed feedback. In that regard, students can use Voki for short formative assessments in presentational speaking and then perform traditional ones for the summative assessment of that skill. There is no doubt it can be used in all disciplines to summarize articles, provide reflection, act out the opinions of characters in stories or to provide insight on a variety of other topics. Furthermore, these Vokis can also provide the rest of the class with a variety of listening prompts for them to respond to.
Another advantage to Voki, is that it appeals to a variety of different personalities. Granted, students that are creative will really like this program. It gives them the opportunity to customize the look of their character and personalize their presentation. If a student chooses to think outside the box and assume the opinion of someone else, he/she could customize his/her Voki to play that role. This program also appeals to shy students in that it is a lot easier to present through an avatar because you do not have a group of people “watching” you as you are speaking. As teachers, this allows us to assess whether a student can summarize, analyze or synthesize. How many times have we sat in on a class where a student has clammed up and was unable to say the things he/she planned to say? It sure has happened to me a few times in my life, and it was frustrating, because a lot of planning and thought truly did go in to those presentations.
That being said, in addition to being useful for students to present, Vokis can be a engaging tool for teachers to use as well. Vokis are easily embedded into Powerpoint presentations and can be a great way to introduce a project or activity. For most students, this is a welcome attempt at creativity and your students will thank you after the initial shock of the surprise. Overall, the possibilities are endless if one is willing to put forth the effort in utilizing it.