Voki….Changing the Way my Students Learn

Problem: There are 16 different topics to cover in Family and Consumer Sciences. Beginning of the school year. 80 new 6th graders. How do I grab their attention and immediately get them interested in Family and Consumer Sciences, other than the idea that they get to eat when we have Foods Labs?

Answer: One word….Voki.

Currently, I am a graduate student at Post University in CT, pursuing my M.Ed in Instructional Design and Technology. Over the summer I took a course titled, “Integrating Learning and Technology”. One of the new learning tools that was introduced to us during our 8 week module was the program Voki (www.voki.com). In July, I explored the program and it seemed like something that was definitely different. I did not get too in depth with the website at the time, but kept it in my ‘Favorites’ for future reference.

In my 6th Grade classes, the first unit we tackle is an “About Me” unit, where students learn about personality, self-esteem, and what it means to be true to themselves. At the end of the unit, students answer specific questions about themselves that they present in collage form. As a teacher who teaches about 900 students in the district (I teach K-8 at 2 schools in the district….MP 1 and 3 at one school and MP 2 and 4 at another), I do not have a lot of room in my classroom or on my bulletin boards to display work. With that being said, this year I decided that Voki would be the best way to get my students interested in the project, it would allow me to get to know them even better, and it would cut down on paper. It was a project that was definitely different for them and capture their attention immediately.

I created a Voki Classroom account for myself and I was then able to input my students’ names into the program. Voki automatically created a username and password for my students which made it so much easier! I was also able to print them out so if the students needed to finish at home, they had the opportunity to do so. The Voki Classroom program allowed me to create the assignment which my students were then able to see. I gave my students the questions ahead of time so they could prepare their responses.

One of the things that is great about the Voki avatars is that you can type your speech if you do not have a microphone, however, it is extremely important that students write their speech in COMPLETE SENTENCES!!!! This was a great way to show my students how Family and Consumer Sciences connects to English Language Arts and emphasized the importance of good grammar!

Once the students completed their Voki projects, they then submitted it to me for review. I developed my own rubric to grade the students on their answers to the specific questions I gave them, however, I did give extra points for creativity. Some of my students got really into it, changing the background and voice effects of the avatar. Voki was so successful first marking period at my first school and was just as successful second marking period at my second school. Here we are in March and my students are STILL talking about it!

I am so thankful that Voki has come into my life and I am excited to keep using Voki in different capacities in my teaching throughout the various grade levels I teach. I am also extremely excited to be a Voki Ambassador! Voki has changed the way I teach and the impact that it has had on my students is unbelievable! I would be a fool not to spread the word and teach others about how this can change their educational worlds as well!

Below are some photos of the students working on their project and a video of a sample project!

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EDU 625: Educational Games successful for learning?

Games in the classroom, huh? Seriously? Education is not what it used to be so open your eyes and get ready because gamification is changing the way students think and learn!

Apostol, Zaharescu, and Alexe (2013) define gamification as, “using the mechanics of games to make learning more engaging” (p. 67). The NMC Horizon Report (2013) stated that, “educational gameplay has proven to increase soft skills in learners, such as critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and teamwork” (p. 21). Furthermore, Shaffer, Squire, Halverson, and Gee (2004) assert:

Classroom work rarely has an impact outside of the classroom; its only real audience is the teacher. Game players, in contrast, develop reputations in online communities, cultivate audiences as writers through discussion forums, and occasionally even take up careers as professional gamers, traders of online commodities, or game modders and designers. The virtual worlds of games are poweful, in other words, because playing games means developing a set of effective social practices (p. 5).

I am a big advocate for incorporating “games” into my learning activities with my students. I have been very successful implementing various games/simulations in my classroom. Some of the games that I have used in my classroom are Jeoparady like activities, Driveofyourlife.org, vocabulary scavenger hunts, and have even recreated the entire game of “Sorry”.

From incorporating these games into my instruction, I have been extremely successful in teaching my students key concepts, vocabulary, and overall ideas about the world. Although we never want to rely on test results, I have found that scores are much higher in my classroom when I use these tools over not using them.

In a way, I like to think that I redesigned the vocabulary activity as a “game”. Rather than just having my students copy down vocabulary and study it, I put the words and definitions on flash cards (this was for a careers unit). I then created a corresponding worksheet that was the base of the scavenger hunt. The worksheet had clues, definitions, and/or vocabulary words. The way I ran the activity so the kids did not go crazy around the building and so they were supervised but still had free roam of what they were doing was I set up flash cards in the room and had every group work only in the room. Once everybody was done in the room, then we went out into the hallway. There were two clues that were nowhere near the classroom- one was at the gym and one was in the main office. I, of course, made sure that the PE teacher, the secretaries, and my principal and vice-principal were well aware of what was going on so they did not think that my students and I were being reckless. We have a strict set of school rules regarding behavior in the hallway and I told my students before we even began, if they got out of control and showed me that they could not be mature enough to handle this activity, I would stop it completely or they as a team would be disqualified.

I found this strategy to be most effective in my classroom because students were absorbing the information. There was no prize at the end other than a good grade. My students were fully engaged and motivated and that is why I love incorporting games in my classroom. I have not used Sorry yet in my middle school classroom, but I used it in my Culinary classes when I was teaching high school and that was SO rewarding. It took me FOREVER because I had to recreate the cards and the rules but when my students played it…..wow. I can’t even explain the feeling of how great it was.

Here is a picture of what I created with the SORRY! Game!



In this week’s unit, I learned that there is more to games and gamification then just Jeopardy, Sorry, and other games. I must admit though, I am super excited for my Eggspert to come in ().

This week I explored the program Inklewriter (www.inklewriter.com). Inklewriter is all about interactive storytelling which I love. With this program, you are able to create your own stories, however, the way the story ends is a result of what the reader chooses. These options definitely bring creativity to the surface for the reader and in a way, tests the reader’s imagination. In a way, I compare Inklewriter to life, filled with choices and the choices we make we must take responsibility for.

I created a very basic story that I can potentially use for my 6th Grade Money Management unit. This is a great activity for students to use to create their own stories, testing their knowledge in whatever unit of mine that I would like them to use. Read my story here… https://writer.inklestudios.com/stories/gh54

If you take anything away from this post, I ask that you please watch this lengthy but FANTASTIC Google Tech Talk on Gamification. It gives great insight to what we are missing and what we really need in our classrooms.