A blog for teachers and learners who love technology

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Voki - Speaking Avatars as a learning tool

Voki - Speaking Avatars

What is Voki?

Voki is a simple to use tool, which can be accessed through your internet browser. It enables you to create speaking avatars and use them as an effective learning tool. To be able to start using Voki, you need to create a new account. Its main feature, which is the ability to create avatars comes free with the registration. However, to fully access Voki, a subscription is required. Those enable you to use 'Voki classroom' as well as 'Voki presenter'. You can either choose to buy a subscription which allows you to use one of them or a one that features both tools for a greater price.

Creating avatars it's pretty much straightforward. Students, as well as teachers, are able to create speaking avatars and choose from a wide range of different customisation options for the avatars. Concerning 'Voki classroom' and 'Voki presenter', even though I wasn't able to explore them because of the subscription need, I will try to briefly explain them using all the information I've got from reading the website. Regarding the former, it enables teachers to add their students into Voki classroom. By doing that, students do not need to register with a username and a password because those are automatically assigned when you add them into your Voki class. It gives teachers the ability to individually assign homework to the students which can be then reviewed by the teacher. As far as  'Voki presenter' is concerned, it is a tool which enables teachers to create presentations using a Voki avatar. What is interesting about this feature is the fact if students miss a lesson they van access it later as all the lesson are saved in a cloud storage.

Example activity

I have created an example activity for you to see the potential of this tool. In this example, the teacher as a part of the homework has created an avatar to deliver the instructions for a speaking activity. The teacher points back to an activity they've done in the class about a man telling a story in which he described what happened to him. Then a student responds, by recording his story and assigning it to his avatar.



While examining Voki and thinking  about its possible uses, I came to the conclusion that it can considerably help to increase student's willingness to communicate. It is an undeniable fact. that one of the teachers' greatest responsibility is to increase the meaningful as well as authentic language that their students' produce. However, that raises the inevitable question ' How Voki can do that with just an Avatar, The answer is that If we look back at traditional teaching and learning activities we can see that role-play activities work almost in a similar way with Voki.

In general, students' anxiety while speaking in front of a group may negatively affect their performance (Kongme et al. 2011) Therefore, as Harmer (2007:183) suggests, students who don't feel very comfortable to speak in front of a classroom, will be keener to speak when they take part in a role-play activity. The reason why this happens is the fact that in role-play activities students need to play a role and abandon their identity while the activity takes place. Similarly, Voki gives students as well as teachers the opportunity to abandon their identities and adopt a new one. What is more,  when teachers assigned a speaking activity for homework it is difficult for them to review the outcomes of the activity. Students might need to demonstrate in the next class how they cope with the speaking activity. However, by using Voki teachers are able to review speaking activities and consequently increase the actual time of the lesson considering the fact that there is no need to check the outcomes in the class.

So, who is Voki's target audience?

As far as the target audience of this learning tool is concerned, it can be appealing to a wide range of learning groups. In terms of age, I believe that young learners would find Voki very motivating because of the customisation options that exist. On the other hand. for older learners the fact that they have the ability to produce more output which can be reviewed by their teachers can be very motivating considering the fact that older students always look for more opportunities for language practice. Students who love technology will happily embrace a chance to use technology for language learning while at the same time students who find it difficult to keep track with the technology around them will be happy to know how simple Voki is in its use. Concerning the three main types of learning styles, it can be said that Voki could be appealing to both visual as well as auditory learners. Both, due to the fact that they enjoy watching or listening for example presentations, will be positively motivated by a teacher using Voki presenter. Last but not least, as it was mentioned earlier quiet student will also enjoy Voki because of its role-play characteristics.


However, Voki is not perfect. In my opinion, it lacks some key features that would make me use the tool on a regular basis . For instance, the fact that it lacks features of gamification found in other tools. In other words, I believe the lack of progression of the students' avatar might reduce learners will to use Voki. Progression of the avatar might include from new customisation options to the presence of 'Achievement' badges' which student would win when achieving particular goals. What is more, due to the fact that learners' avatars do not progress through continuous engagement with this tool, learners will not be able to establish a 'projective identity'. Gee (2007) identifies 'projective identity' as the ideal identity which learners want to identify with in this virtual environment. I believe that this is a well-established idea among gaming literacy and the benefits coming from this practise are numerous and therefore should not be overlooked. At this point, I would like to highlight that even though Voki is not a game, that does not mean that characteristics which are commonly found in video games should not appear in other on-line tools.  With Video games of all kinds becoming increasingly popular in our day and age, I believe that education and English language teaching can learn a lot from Video games.

What is more, if we go back to the example, even though I tried to imitate a language learner student by doing some mistakes in pronunciation, grammar etc. it is clear that there were no pauses in my speech. The reason for that is because I wrote down what I wanted to see beforehand and therefore reading from my notebook. This is something student might do even if we as teachers advice them not to. However, that doesn't change the fact that students will do mistakes even if they prepare they speech beforehand. Therefore, even though students might not be effectively practising their ability to produce spontaneous language, they will be still practising their ability to correctly produce the correct form of the structures as well as their pronunciation.


Gee, J., P. (2007) What Video Games Have to Teach us About Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. Essex: Pearson Education Limited

Kongmee, IsaraStrachan, RebeccaMontgomery, Catherine and Pickard, Alison (2011) Using massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) to support second language learning: Action research in the real and virtual world. In: 2nd Annual IVERG Conference: Immersive technologies for Learning: virtual implementation, real outcomes, 27-28 June 2011, Middlesborough, UK.