Review by Jason Shiroff, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2015

BuiLD YouR WiLD SelF

WiLD avatars have potential to teach adaptation and self-reflection

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Character & SEL
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Avatar creation is easy and enjoyable with fun animal variations.

Cons: Learning value is easy to overlook, and there are no teaching resources to help make these connections.

Bottom Line: A good place to introduce adaptations and to get students to create alternate selves and reflect on them, but it's not specifically designed to deliver learning outcomes.

Teachers could get students to self-reflect, explore identity, and build digital literacy skills with BuiLD YouR WiLD SeLF. Many learning management systems (LMS) and websites give students the options of adding an avatar; teachers might use BuiLD YouR WiLD SeLF as a great, safe place to build colorful avatars for their LMS or other online tools. Building avatars is a perfect time to introduce digital citizenship skills such as how to safely represent yourself online. Teachers can also use this site to build digital literacy and computing skills. Young learners can improve their mouse and trackpad skills while learning how to navigate a child-centric web resource. The site can also be used to introduce printing, saving, and sharing images via email. Finally, students learning about animal adaptations could use the website to do some initial research on specific traits. Teachers could encourage students to explore the site first and then assign various types of adaptations to research. Students could be held accountable for the information in the "What's wild about you?" text box as a formative assessment.

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BuiLD YouR WiLD SeLF invites students to create a self-portrait by mixing human and animal body parts. Users select their gender and then customize the avatar by choosing from numerous options. Various animal adaptations can be added, including tails, ears, head gear, and faces. Nine skin tone options are available, along with three eye colors. Each choice is rendered in watercolor style and added to the portrait. Animal sounds and animations are sometimes included with the choices, adding to the novelty. Six backgrounds are available, and students can email, print, or download their creation. A "Go Random" button gives students a chance to mix up their portraits. After students finish their work of art, they get a sentence or two about each animal adaptation they've selected and a link to the New York zoos and aquarium to explore more.

With BuiLD YouR WiLD SeLF, students can investigate each animal adaptation they choose; however, this feature is easily overlooked. This information is in a "What's wild about you?" text box displayed at the end of the experience, but the text may be difficult for some users to read, and there's no support for teachers to integrate the activity into a lesson. Weaving this information into creation rather than saving it until the end would be a more elegant approach. Adding audio narration options or short video clips and resource links would increase accessibility. There's also potential here to leverage the power of avatars to build important social and emotional learning (SEL) skills, specifically self-reflection. Students can imagine new identities for themselves, and explore what their avatars mean.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Students will like making both realistic and mythical avatars with storybook-style art and delightful sounds and animations. The website is easy to navigate, even for the youngest users, but light on interaction and dynamic presentation.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

The deeper science and SEL value is subtle and easily missed. Nonetheless, it's a clever gateway for learning more about animal adaptations and the New York zoos and aquarium.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Students could use some additional visual cues and optional audio support to increase accessibility. Teachers could also use a tip sheet with strategies to enhance learning.

Common Sense Reviewer
Jason Shiroff Classroom teacher

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