Ever thought of building a robot and having it do all your dirty work in the classroom? At the end of August, I discovered a resource that could potentially replace us teachers.
I exaggerate: this resource could never replace you or me. However, I do use it on occasion to announce the nightly homework or give brief starter instructions, to offer pupils a break from the monotony of hearing my voice. The resource is a Voki from Voki.com. My Voki is a French-Canadian pink poodle named Julie.
The website allows users to create speaking avatars. What is particularly amazing about this resource for the languages classroom is that, after creating an avatar, you can give it a voice in more than 25 languages with surprisingly decent non-digital accents. I mostly use the text-to-speech option, which allows me to type in text that is then narrated. You can also upload sound files or record your own voice.
Book the computer lab and pupils can even create their own Vokis. I put a time limit on this, as the options to personalise characters - from their features, clothing and setting right down to their bling - are endless. Pupils can then type in a short paragraph in the target language that represents their character. More advanced classes can tie their Voki's narration into whatever objectives you set: subjunctive Vokis, rhyming Vokis, debate Vokis and so on.
You can create characters and publish them in a variety of ways - for example, embed them in a SMART Notebook lesson or access them via a URL. When using Voki.com you will be prompted to sign up with the site, but this step can be skipped, although users cannot then return to edit their Vokis.
Don't worry, a Voki could never be an avatar teacher. I read somewhere that teachers make more than 1,200 educational decisions every day, and though I have never counted, that number seems accurate to me. But although it won't make decisions or teach for you, a Voki can be a good use of technology in the language classroom. A teacher's Voki will insert an instant laugh into a lesson, while pupil Vokis can provide a fun activity with targeted writing and listening skills development.
Anna Winskill has taught French in Ireland and New York, and English in Germany. She is a member of the TES modern foreign languages panel
Create your own Voki at Voki.com and meet Anna Winskill's Voki, Julie, at bit.lyJulievoki
Focus on pupil speaking skills: use Blabberize.com to add voice messages to images.
For advice on creating a Voki, check out anyholland's guide.