Friday, December 15, 2017

Gamifying a course, phase 5: Voki tour guides



Have you ever tried using a Voki? If not, give it a try - they are lots of fun!

I was using something similar to Voki years ago when they were called animated agents.  At that time, I needed a computer programmer, a professional recording studio, and a computer engineer to make everything to talk to each other.

Now, I just need Voki.

Voki is an education tool  - an animated avatar - that allows users to create their own talking character. Voki characters can be customized to look like historical figures, cartoons, animals, and even yourself!
 

Why Use a Voki? 

Nick, introducing students telling their stories about access
My original purpose behind using a Voki was to have Tour Guides to escort my students around their virtual community campus as part of a narrative device in a gamified course. The more I worked with Voki, the more I started to experiment with having the Voki also deliver some of the content, providing  students with a break from reading.

I am also seeing a lot of other possibilities for using Voki in higher ed. I teach  several courses in leadership theories, and students could demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a specific theory through building a presentation using several Voki, having them interact with one another to work through a conflict or another work site issue.

Students could use a Voki for a presentation - using their own voice, of course .....  They could create a Voki to use for discussion forums....Instructors could use a Voki to describe an assignment or to demo a process.

All sorts of possibilities exist!

Positives 

I have found some definite positives in using Voki. First, I create a lot of videos for my courses. I use videos to welcome students to their course and to provide overviews of specific assignments. Sometimes these are screen captures, sometimes it is just me on a screen. I tend to use Snag-it and Camtasia to create theses videos, but then have to edit out clicks...and background noises...and start over when the phone rings or dogs bark or I start coughing...AND I have to re-record them again each semester with updates.

Janey describes community college athletics
If I use a Voki, I create a script, copy and paste it into the script text box (chunking text, of course), select a voice, and it's ready.  I don't have to worry about someone knocking on my door while I am recording or editing out a lot of noise. If I discover I need to make an edit or update a Voki, I do not have to re-record or re-design.  I just return to the script box, make the edits, save it, and the Voki linked or embedded in the LMS automatically updates, making revisions effortless.

Staying 508 compliant, I close caption all videos, again a time consuming process whether id do this in Camtasia or in YouTube. With Voki, I craft a transcript a first and use the transcript to paste into the script text box.  this means I already have a transcript of the entire content the Voki delivers, so I simply provide a link to a shared google doc for those who need to review the transcript while listening to and/or watching the Voki.


Not-so-positives 

I have had to learn to type phonetically because of the text-to-speech (TTS) function. Just because I know how a word is pronounced does not mean the Voki will pronounce it that way. When TTS works well and pronounces everything correctly, no one cares. When it mispronounce common words – or worse, names – it becomes annoying and possibly offensive.

I tend to create the complete transcript, then load it in a little at a time, listening to each screen...then trying to figure out how to make what I wrote sound correctly.  I am still struggling with the word gamification, for example.  Is it " game ah fuh K shun"? or "game-uh fa kashun?" I am working on this one.

Some of the voices are great and easy to understand.  Others almost mumble.  There does seem to be a way to slow down the speech, but I need to experiment with that a little more.


I prefer to embed a Voki rather than providing a link for students to click. This means, however, that the Voki begins playing immediately any time that page opens...which can become annoying. It's a great way of catching their attention, but...

Simulating a conversation is possible, but takes some planning as only one Voki can be used on a slide. his means that when the speakers change, the slide must change.

Lessons Learned

Stuart describes housing
Creating transcripts are very important as they guide the creation of the Voki .I learned quickly to prepare the entire transcript before beginning to design the Voki. The content of the transcript dictates the background to be used for each slide.

Prepare a background designed to mesh with Voki.  Some graphics lose perspective when uploaded into Voki, so I started uploading my graphics into Canva, then adjusting them to fit a presentation size. Those graphics uploaded easily into Voki without distortion.  Another issue regarding background design is to chose a background where the Voki  can look as though it belongs. This makes the presentation much more realistic.  No floating Voki here!

Chunk the content. When crafting the script, I started thinking about how to chunk content, how to break it down into parts to fit per slide. In Voki Presenter, each slide can have up to 90 seconds of audio....and that's a lot, particularly when delivering content. Keeping text to brief paragraphs is very helpful.


Listen to each slide for pitch, pronunciation, and speech speed. Listening to each slide is a form of proofreading. You will hear if you typed in the wrong word or repeated words.  Voki speech can also be a little fast you will want to follow the suggestions in the Style Guide  to learn how to slow the tempo. It is also possible to change the voice pitch to either high or low. I am an English teacher by trade, and I tend to automatically punctuate according to good, old fashioned grammar and punctuation rules.  Voki does not care about such rules. If a speech seems to run on, throw the rules out the window and use a comma to make the Voki "take a breath." Spelling no longer counts.  "Read" should be written as "reed"  or "red" for past tense.

Go easy on the Voki. Despite the ease of using them, Voki should not totally replace instructor videos and should be used sparingly, used thematically or a part of a scheme.  For example, use Voki to deliver announcements...or to introduce modules ...or to explain assignments....but not all of these in the same course.  Students still need to see us and hear us, and Voki can serve as an emphasis to assist us,not to replace us.  For example, I teach a course in Leading Change in Organizations and would like to share information about power-based workplace games.  I want to deliver this in a novel way, not as part of a forum or as an assignment.  I am thinking about  creating a Wednesday Workplace series of announcements where each Wednesday would take on a different power game, give examples, explain the detrimental impact of the games, and demo how effective leaders can handle the game. My thought is the Voki can really add a dimension to this series.

How might you use Voki?

Next steps - the early weeks of class.....