By Margaret Vaughan
Two online-tools in the world of educational technology allow participants to create sound bites spoken by creative characters or to crowd source ideas using multi-media. Using Voki.com, you create a video of a talking character (a “talking head” or a talking, semi-animated portrait). Using Padlet, you can create an interactive place to pin information or make a static poster. I have used both, and they might be options to explore for interpretation work and working with all age groups that have comfort with technology.
Voki is a site that features creating talking avatars and characters that your participants can make in response to a prompt or question that you pose. You can even create a classroom and generate usernames and passwords for the students or participants. There is an option for you or your participants to create a slideshow almost like Power Point, except that you can insert different characters who can speak a short monologue, creating a longer presentation than just a regular one-character monologue.
Participants or users can choose characters that are close to their own or vary far from their own identities. Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama are character choices, for example. Participants can use their own voice-over or choose among ones provided through “fon-net-ik-ly” typing out the script, calling in by phone, or uploading a recording. Voice choices include Martian, Giant, and Troll. The Voki characters can speak their pre-arranged message for 90 seconds. Participants choose different backgrounds, clothes, and features of the character. When done, there is a sharing capability for using the Voki artifact outside the Voki site.I found a few drawbacks for the site. For some participants, the site poses a medium-level of difficulty in actually creating the video and would require an alternative activity for participants who require screen-readers. If encouraging remote use of the Voki website, it is best that you make your own tutorial showing how to use the Voki tools. Sometimes the characters are difficult to understand (which would mean the best practice is to encourage uploading the script to the character). In other examples, students have made inexplicable decisions in their characters and background, such as a capuchin monkey in the ocean or a horse in a coral reef. In an educational setting if things get too crazy you can ask for a re-do. I usually just chalk such decisions up to creativity. Looking back at some of my Voki videos, I did the same thing, such as putting a dolphin in a thunderstorm, a garden, or in front of a fireworks display to mark the season.
You may want to stay more authentic, depending on the purpose of the Voki video. This is a site worth playing with and exploring if, for example you want short answers to things like science or history-based questions or reflections on what your already technologically-comfortable audience has just seen. Better yet, you can also use the Voki videos as learning objects. In one learning experience, I kept utilizing a video of a talking dolphin for informational videos and to make quick reminders, including the video and the actual script for accessibility. In the future, I plan to use Voki.com only for this purpose, as participants have run into technical difficulties in their video-making. There is another learning tool that contains even more interactive possibilities.
Interpreters might want to set up a padlet for an interactive activity or if they are doing remote work they could offer short Voki videos for brief informational sound bites. Maybe a computer site is part of an exhibit where a Padlet could be used to reflect pre- or post-experience. Both tools have a free version with the option of a paid upgrade. Explore Voki at Voki.com if your curiosity has been piqued. Explore Padlet at padlet.com.
Margaret Vaughan teaches in the Ethnic and Religious Studies Department and the Master of Liberal Studies program at Metropolitan State University in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.