Mini-Projects I: Online Activities for the Classroom

This week, we were asked to choose two projects from a list to complete and upload to our online Web Portfolio.  Among the possible assignments were podcasts and comic strips.  I chose to create an avatar, and a lesson plan based around the website Wordle.  Each project had a different purpose in relation to the Web Portfolio, but both could be used in the classroom, particularly the English classroom.

The first project I completed was making an avatar on Voki.com.  This website allows users to create a “voki” that can move and speak.  You can add audio, code it to a blog, or upload it other kinds of websites.  The assignment for the course asked for a Voki to instruct visitors on my online portfolio.  I first picked out an avatar and personalized it so that it looked a bit like me but also looked professional.  I didn’t want to use a Voki that had fairy wings or vampire teeth!  There weren’t many choices for professional-looking avatars because only those paying for an account could use certain avatars.  I was left with the free ones, but found that I was still able to create a somewhat “normal” Voki.

I then added audio.  At first I wrote it out for the Voki to read, but the dialogue sounded stilted and very artificial.  To fix this, I called a number provided on the website and recorded my dialogue over the phone.  This worked out much better.  The dialogue sounded much more natural and I wasn’t distracted by the Voki mispronouncing my name.  The hardest part, however, was uploading the Voki to my Google site.  I was using Google Chrome as my browser, and the Voki did not show up on my portfolio.  I switched to Internet Explorer with greater success.  To try to fix the problem with Chrome, I added a link to my Voki just in case.  I am still working on trying to get the Voki to show up on Chrome, but I’ve come up with a little bit of difficulty because I am still getting used to a new laptop and figuring out where everything is!  Hopefully in the next week I’ll be able to fix it.  The Voki on my portfolio acts as a guide that briefly tells visitors to my site how to navigate the left-hand tabs.

This activity could be used in the classroom for a variety of activities.  In the English classroom, students could create a Voki based on a literary character and add audio that gives background on that character.  This could be a fun and engaging way to get students to think about the characters they encounter in class.  Another use could be for a class collaborative website.  The Voki could act as a guide that instructs students on how to use that particular site.

The second project I completed was a lesson plan using Wordle.  This website allows you to enter words into a box, and the website then creates a graphic image composed of those words.  I had a harder time with this assignment because I had to figure out how to install Java onto my laptop and allow ActiveX to work.  Once this was finished, I was able to create an image using words that describe the character Harry Potter, from the popular book series.  The lesson plan attached to that Wordle asks students to think of a fictional character and create a Worlde using words that describe that character.  Physical appearance, relationships to other characters and the setting, and the character’s goals  are asked for when the students create the Wordle.

In my own classroom, I would use this activity as an introduction to a book we would be reading in class.  The Worlde would be a way for students to think critically about a character and describe that character.  For a creative writing assignment, students would be asked to think about their own characters in a three-dimensional fashion.  According to the Virginia SOLs for ninth grade (2011), “The student will develop narrative, expository, and informational writings to inform, explain, analyze, or entertain, a) Generate, gather, and organize ideas for writing.”  Because students should be able to write a creative, original piece, they need to be able to create characters that work within the story’s environment.  This activity could be used instead of or in conjunction with a Voki avatar.

According to Chapter 7 of Using Inquiry in the Classroom (Coffman, 2013), when creating an online activity, the teacher has to “identify what types of computer hardware and software are necessary to participate and make sure your school has the necessary tools” (p. 111).  I definitely agree with this statement because while I enjoyed the activities and would use them in my own classroom, I did not originally have the software required for the Voki or Worlde to work.  I needed Java and ActiveX, and I became frustrated while trying to download this software. Before assigning these projects, I would inform students what software they would need at home (if necessary) and I would check with the school’s computer lab to make sure the downloads needed were there.  Despite my initial frustration, I do think that these two activities would be beneficial to students in an English classroom by getting them to speak (using a Voki) and analyze (using Worlde).

References:

http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/english/review.shtml. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/english/2010/stds_english9.pdf

Coffman, T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: Developing creative thinkers and information literate students. (2nd ed., p. 111). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

 

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