Putting your Best Face Forward- Using avatars
I uploaded the following post to our school’s TechConnect blog. It was spurred by the wave of avatar creations for ALL students across grade levels due to the participation of each class in the Egypt VoiceThread.
What is an avatar?
An avatar is a computer user’s representation of himself or herself. We need to be careful when representing ourselves in any form online. You do not want to use a photograph of yourself, that might identify you to others how you look, how old you are or where you live. You also do not want to name your avatar with your full name. First names are defining without being revealing, unless you have a very unique first name.
There are many different ways how you could create you own avatar. You will use them when you write on a blog, in a VoiceThread (digital storybook), or participate in a chat or discussion forum.
You can create an image on the computer using a drawing or illustration of yourself, use clip art or take a digital picture of an object, such as a guitar, football, that you identify with. Be creative.
Here are some examples of great avatars:
Before introducing the concept of an avatar to the kids, I ask each student to share something about themselves that most of the class did not know. We heard that one girl liked rodents, one had her own pet raccoon, another owned 5 turtles, etc. After each student shared a tidbit, I asked if a stranger would know who in this class had something to do with a raccoon? No! Do we (in the class) know, which student likes raccoons? Yes! It seemed to make sense to them now to use a representation, such as a picture of something else, to allow friends to identify them, but not strangers. In come the avatars…
I asked my Twitter network (thank you @murcha, @technoteach, @tmcgrath, @metaweb20, @karlyb) for more elementary school website that allow an easy and appropriate creation of avatars. The following links were suggested, but after a closer (remember I teach elementary students) I chose not to use them for the following reasons:
- WeeWorld– Ads with inappropriate and suggestive images and text. Once you choose a body part, eye color and head shape you are confronted with a Adam & Eve style leaves in appropriate places. I can just imagine the gasping among the students! You can create the avatar without having to register.
- Voki – Also with ads, geared towards the older crowd. Talking avatar, which would not work when needed in VoiceThread
- Portrait Illustration Maker– Google Ads on the side, which always make me nervous with the elementary crowd. Otherwise looks OK, except too outgoing links take you too streaming RSS feed. No control or idea what will be displayed if students happen to end up on the page.
In the end, I ended up suggesting to the students to use KidPix to create a portrait of themselves or to use Build Your Wild Self website, from the New York Zoo and Aquarium.
Once students had created their “wild self”, they saved it > as a Wild Desktop > then right clicked >Save Image As> and we had a copy of the avatar. Kids LOVED it. It was a lot of fun, in addition to learning animal facts from the different body parts they chose.
There is also a Avatar-Maker in Kerpoof. Children do need to register (no e-mail address required) There is no “save as” option in Kerpoof, but if you have a screen capture tool like Jing, you have a work around.