Common Sense Review
Updated August 2013

Voki Classroom

Fun vocal avatars engage, but learning potential can only go so far
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Common Sense Rating 3
Pros
Conversing with Vokis can add an extra level of fun to class projects or presentations, and kids will enjoy the colorful avatars.
Cons
It's not clear why using Voki would truly help kids communicate; use also isn't very intuitive.
Bottom Line
While fun and visually appealing, there isn't much meat to Voki Classroom's learning options.
Erin Brereton
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Voki gives homework assignments a twist, but it doesn't replace true teacher-student communication. The experience doesn't change much over time, so you may need to provide diverse assignments so it doesn't feel stale.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Kids get communication and tech practice, but the extent depends on how teachers use the site. Its lesson plans are a solid resource, but text and time limitations on responses restrict teachers from giving in-depth feedback. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

You can convert text to 25 languages. The Teacher's Corner features boards for new users on how to use the classroom site, submit ideas, and other topics. Teachers can also access 180 detailed, creative Voki-based lesson plans.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Lesson outlines, which include teacher ratings, offer a wealth of ideas and list the targeted grade level, objectives, duration, and required materials. One of Voki's best uses is as an instant playback tool; if kids type a sentence into the site that's grammatically incorrect or contains spelling errors, having it spoken back to them will let them hear and fix mistakes.

Vokis can also explain math terms, clarify word pronunciation, or clarify components of a larger concept. Vokis can relay a speech and illustrate a lack of movement and other elements to help kids understand nonverbal communication. Shy students can use Vokis to express feelings and share writing with the class, but make sure they don't get used to hiding behind an avatar. Vokis can provide scientific experiment instructions; teachers can also have politically themed Voki characters like Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin explain their party's views.

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What's It Like?

Voki Classroom is a subscription-based companion site to Voki, whose name is a blend of the latin word for voice -- vox -- and Loki, a god from Norse mythology who can change shape. You can create and alter a character's appearance on Voki and make it speak by adding a voice message recorded from a phone or microphone. Other options include using an uploaded file or one made with a text-to-speech function available in more than 25 languages.

The site doesn't have ads, and you can record 30 more seconds of content than on the free site. Students don't have to register; teachers just add their names and distribute site-generated usernames and passwords. After teachers set up a class, they can send students original assignments or ideas from 180 lesson plans, either using an avatar to explain the work or suggesting a project that involves Vokis. Students will see assignments and ones ready for review, along with approved coursework, when they log in. Kids complete assignments using their Voki, and the teacher reviews the response. Assignments are automatically shared with students after they're created; when kids complete the work, the assignment moves to the Ready to Review tab. Teachers can then give it a thumbs up or down, add a small amount of individualized feedback, and the assignment will be marked as approved.

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Is It Good For Learning?

You may need to spend some time reviewing the instructions before creating assignments; the process can be a little confusing. Voki Classroom's text limits may also pose a challenge. Teachers can include a field for students to contribute written content in each assignment, but it must be 500 words or less. Plus, reviews can only be 100 characters, which is just a sentence or two. Beyond these challenges, though, a question remains: Does Voki help or hinder communication skills? It seems like a lot of extra work for a limited benefit; while fun, speaking through an avatar could actually be creating more barriers for kids who have a hard time with actual public speaking or sharing in groups.

Using Voki Classroom to enhance learning requires some out-of-the-box thinking on the teacher's part, and the site does offer a lot of ideas, ranging from public speaking to point of view. Lesson plans cover more than 20 topics, including economics, language, math, reading, and social studies.

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