avatar-man in hat June 8

Channel Your Inner Avatar and Add Interest to Your Online Content

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Have you ever experienced the eerie, but familiar, sensation that your students have not done the required reading and are not prepared for class? We all know that our class sessions would be a lot more enjoyable—for us and for our students—if our students were better prepared for class discussions. After one particularly challenging session, we discovered that while our students spend around 20 hours a week preparing for class, they spend about 10 hours a day using a variety of digital devices, such as smartphones, tablets, PCs, video games, and TVs.

After some contemplation, we decided to embrace our inner avatar! We found CrazyTalk Animator 2, which enabled us to put a face, body, motion, and a voice to the instructor. This program allows users, even those without any coding experience, to create short video clips using a selected avatar and voice. The avatars can run, smile, frown, dance, write, and do a number of other things. Moreover, the user can simply drop the avatar into any PowerPoint presentation to add an additional component of animation to an otherwise lifeless slide. We created the avatars to present short, focused discussions of course topics.

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cartoon word bubble January 4

Creating Cartoons to Spark Engagement, Learning

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As instructors, we are constantly looking for new ways to capture our students’ attention and increase their participation in our classes, especially in the online modalities. We spend countless hours crafting weekly announcements for classes and then inevitably receive multiple emails from our students asking the very same questions that we so carefully and completely answered in those very same announcements! The question remains, how do we get them to read our posts?



May 25, 2011

Using YouTube to Enhance Student Engagement

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Technology is everywhere. Some people are addicted to it and refuse to live without it. College students will say that their laptop, phone, and iPod are necessities comparable to food. So how can professors remove these technological items from the hands of the student and still keep them engaged in class discussions? Through another form of widely used technology: YouTube. Students view videos and upload them to experience visual content and to share the same. Visual tools create a connection between the content and viewer (McKenzie, 2008). Many videos on YouTube are academic and professional in nature and when used properly will reinforce classroom discussions and engage college students due to the images and audio used (Cardine, 2008).




August 2, 2010

Back to School Tools: A Shopping List for Faculty

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As the fall semester approaches, it’s time to restock my classroom teaching supplies. It occurred to me that other faculty might find useful these inexpensive tools that I regularly use in the classroom, so I’m sharing my shopping list with you here. The items on my list serve the purposes of creating a sense of community and promoting student engagement.


June 14, 2010

Using MP3s as a Teaching Tool for College English Classes

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My recent foray into using MP3s to teach college level English classes came out of my need to reach more of my non-traditional students. I saw a trend developing where more adults than ever were seeking a college education or even returning to college to change careers, and it only followed that I had a responsibility as an instructor to try and reach these students. It also became apparent in my classroom that I wanted to not only reach, but to retain these non-traditional students who seemed to become easily frustrated with the more traditional lecture and textbook methods.


May 21, 2010

A Creative Alternative to Boring Lab Reports

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Robert Badger, a professor of geology, describes the lab reports he wrote as a student in an introductory geology class. “I wrote tired, uninspired drivel, merely recounting a vague version of what the professor or teaching assistant had recited, without trying to analyze for myself what it was I had actually observed.” (p. 58) He promised himself that if he ever became a teacher he would not subject his students to “such tedious and pointless exercises.” (p. 58)


October 5, 2009

Using Shared Online Video to Anchor Instruction: YouTube and Beyond

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t was August 26, 2009. That evening I receive a phone call from someone in Japan looking to create free online math and science courses on mobile devices for youth in India using existing shared online video. The following day, I get an email from a colleague at a university in Canada who had just read my new book, The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education. Many points made in the book seemed to resonate with him except for my advocacy of YouTube videos in teaching. Like most faculty members, he was very reluctant to show the YouTube homepage to his class because an offensive video might be featured.