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!

IMG_4999 IMG_4998 IMG_4997 IMG_4606 IMG_4605 IMG_4604 IMG_4595

COPs vs PLCs

COPs, also known as “communities of practice” are defined as, “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, n.d., para. 4). 

PLCs, also known as “professional learning communities” are defined as, “a group of teachers who meet regularly, setting goals and committing to a shared educational vision” (Adams, 2009, para. 3, p. 28).

From reading both definitions, it appears that COPs and PLCs are very similar in concept. Both groups support learning in a group environment and allow members of the group to speak freely and have their ideas and opnions heard.

COPs and PLCs also support teaching because depending on the type of group that somebody is in, teachers are allowed the opportunity to enhance their skills by discussing different techniques and situations. One of the positive things about being involved in COPs and PLCs in regards to teaching is that if you are in a group with teachers who are in the same content area or same grade level as you, you are given the ability to discuss different ideas and strategies with one another. 

It is difficult for me as a Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher in my district because I am the only teacher in both of my buildings and the other FACS teachers in the district do not get together for meetings….we do not even have a supervisor. The most exposure I have had to working in a PLC/COP was when I was doing my TEAM program for the state. My mentor was another FACS teacher in the city and we were able to bounce ideas off of one another.

 PLCs and COPs that are established via technology enhance the community and overall experience. When technology is used, it allows people in the PLC/COP to interact with other people throughout the world, making their PLC/COP that much more beneficial. It allows the “learners” to gather even more resources and make even more connections with others.

One of the PLCs that uses technology that I have found very beneficial is Twitter.When I first joined Twitter I was very skeptical of using this system, however the more I searched for different users and hashtags, I found more information that became valuable to me. Also, one of the things that gets me excited and fascinates me about Twitter is the fact that there are so many Family and Consumer Sciences teachers on Twitter. I keep getting notifications that I have a new follower and when I look, I find out that I am being followed by other Family and Consumer Sciences teachers across the United States! This is so exciting to me because I have never really associated/communicated with other FACS teachers because there are not many of us. It is so beneficial to be able to go onto Twitter and see what the other teachers are doing, re-tweet some of their activities, and tweet to them asking them questions, etc. 

COPs and PLCs can also be used in the classroom via blogging. There are various SAFE blogging sites for students that allows them to blog within their own class, connect with other classes in their building, and other classes throughout the state and beyond. 

Overall, COPs and PLCs can be very beneficial to all. In my past experience, I have found cooperative groups to be beneficial ONLY when I am able to control what groups I am in, what I am learning, etc. With the incorporation of technology, I am allowed the opportunity to do so and get better results.

What kind of COPs and/or PLCs are you using and how beneficial are they to you?

References

Adams, C. (2009). The power of collaboration. Instructor, 119 (1), 28-31.

Wenger, E. (n.d.). Communities of practice: a brief introduction. Retrieved from 

http://wenger-trayner.com/theory/