Fancy role-play in practicing speaking, teachers? But, how to make your Ss feel they were really in their roles? Stop wasting time wondering my friends! Here we got http://www.voki.com/! As you might see right at the head of my blog page, there is an avatar in representation of me and speaking with human-like moving. Really motivating right? Then you could believe Ss can't wait to have a try^^
1) What is the technology/ What does it do?
Voki is a website that allows you to create avatars in your preference. You can add voice to your avatars. You can post them in any social networks e.g. blogs.
The tool is fasinating for the reason that it is so real! I mean it visualizes you as a virtual entity in the network which is very different from only hearing your voice. To be explained, most of us had the experience in skype. Do you feel the difference between talking with audio and talking through video? That embraces the idea of virtual entity that I mentioned above. That is to say, when you see the figure, it creates a context that you are with a real interlocutor.
Particularly to this tool, you can choose an avatar with customized appearance and also set a background which you like. It concludes indoors, cityviews, travel and etc. Interestingly, you can embed your voice in. To conclude, two features that Voki embaces is cutting edge. One, the avatar is so "U" by choosing appearance and uploading voice. Second, contexts are socially diverse that almost including various aspects of your daily life.
2) Why is this particular tool or technology relevant to language learning? What approaches to language learning or research underpin the use of this technology?
The point that I put forward above is relevant to language learning, especally in a context where there lacks language context for example in China. Students would be motivated to witness those virtual speakers, which in a way bring them into a virtual social context.
This idea is closely related to social constructivism which suggests learning processing happens in the social interaction (Palincsar, 1998). For the reason that knowledge is socially and cuturally constructed, individuals create meanig through their interaction with others. Voki here provides a social context, where learners act their roles. Although learners do not actually have conversations with other avatars, it more or less takes an initiative to set themselves in a social community. In detail, they can act as people from different career by different speech and pretend to be in different places by choosing various Backgrounds.
3) How might you use it to foster language learning in class/outside class?
In the classroom, teachers can create tasks such as role guessing. Based on a created avatar, students guess roles according to their speech and appearance. These created avatars could be either by teachers or by students. I think, it would be more motivated if Ss participant themselves. By editing the speech before uploading their voice, by choosing a particular hair style, clothes and appearance, it is possible that Ss locate themselves in that role and act as real social beings.
Outside the class, Ss can edit their own avatars by which I mean create a CLONE of themselves. They can embed avatars into their social network online for instance facebook, blogs. In this sense, they can taste the interst of interacting with potential Internet friends.
4) What limitations can you see with the use of this technology?
However, it seems that this tool does not have a profound significance as a socially interactive tool. For example, in terms of creating an avatar to represent themselves, there is a risk this tool loses the function of soical interaction if learners do not receive feedbacks verbally by another avatar or textually by written comments.
Palincsar, A.S. 1998. Social constructivist perspectives on teaching and learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 345-375.