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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Voki

by Odd Cast
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.75 stars
Reviewed: Mar 26, 2013 by World Languages Editorial Board
Overview: Voki is an online avatar creator that can be used to animate characters to speak in various languages. The program has strong implications for language instruction in that students can give the avatars passages to read or even add their own voice to the animations. Voki also offers free lesson plans on how the program can be used in the classroom. It is very useful in a variety of disciplines and has become particularly popular in the field of World Languages, where students can use it to produce oral assignments and to practice speaking in the interpretive and presentational modes.
Learning Goals: Voki is a speech tool particularly useful for language learners who are striving to perfect speech fluency and pronunciation in a second language. This is not to say that it could not be useful for theatre, speech communication or any other class where oral production is the focus. sers will gain practice with all three levels of the communication standard in the creation of a speaking avatar. They will be able to both design an avatar of their own and give it language to speak aloud, all of which can be built around an assignment requiring the student to both interpret and speak.
Target Student Population: All levels from K-12 to post-secondary.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Using a microphone (optional if using text or a phone to input content)
Type of Material: Avatar software
Recommended Uses: Voki could easily be demonstrated in class as part of a group exercise to cover vocabulary points or concepts, and then assigned as homework for students to continue practicing in the target language. It can be used for World Languages, ESL and Speech classes at all levels.
Technical Requirements: Users need Internet access and a microphone for voice recording.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Voki enables the recording of speech tasks for playback on the web. It is more of a tool that enables the production of content in the target language than it is content per se. Students choose the features and build their own avatars and then create the speech to be delivered by the avatars. This is a creative way to do second language role-play, eliminating the stress that goes into in-class presentations before a live audience. Students can simply choose a character, write a script and then record and re-record. Students can choose the ethnic origin, clothing and physical features of the avatar. Some celebrity avatars are available. The rich number of customizations that can be made to avatars allows for great potential in terms of teaching topics (i.e. family relationships, describing features, landscapes and locales). Best of all, students will be able to spend a good deal of time working on their avatar, thereby keeping them engaged in the assignment and focused on perfecting their presentation.
Concerns: Certain celebrity avatars are available at premium rates.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Voki has had longevity on the web and is used by many classes, because it relieves the tension of public speaking and allows the students to unleash their creativity free of all anxiety. Students spend time re-cording and re-recording the target language to get the best, most authentic accent possible. If a student is absent from class, he/she can still do oral reports and post them using their VOKI. Teachers can have VOkis to post assignments or give feedback on wikis and blogs. In addition to laying out clear instructions for what students will produce when creating a Voki, the web site also features a collection of teacher-submitted lesson plans with defined learning objectives and assessment activities.
Concerns: n/a

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: The high-quality animations speak with ease and are synched to both the audio and the mouse movements. Additionally, the process of building an avatar is explained succinctly and effectively right next to the creation space, making it easy for users who are having trouble to get help quickly. Voki has good tutorials and a wide variety of character types to choose from. The site has clear instructions and it is easy to use. There are a large number of World Languages lesson plans in a variety of different languages housed on the Voki website. Some topics include reciting the Alphabet, Grammar, Vocabulary, just to name a few. Students could do digital storytelling and breaking news reports using Voki. The sky is the limit.
Concerns: Some of the pages, particularly the home page, have entirely too much content, making it difficult to figure out where you need to go in order to start working on your avatar. Once you start to delve into the panels of features for your avatar, it is sometimes difficult to locate collections of free objects separate from the ones that require a teacher or pay account. Changing the term Foreign Languages to World Languages on the site would be an improvement.

Other Issues and Comments: Aside from the slight issues with having to wade through features that are not available to free users, the web site offers rich interactive animations that can be used for language assignments that will keep students excited about their language learning. Adding more support for lesser-taught languages other than Chinese and Arabic would be exceedingly useful to many instructors who are dependent upon typing out text phonetically. Overall, though, this is a fabulous program with great potential in the world languages classroom.