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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Using Avatars to Teach Internet Safety

 Using educationally appropriate online tools with students opens up a world of possibilities, but it's important to communicate a clear and consistent message about Internet safety every time you introduce a new tool. If students hear about Internet safety often enough, hopefully they will start thinking about it themselves.

Creating an avatar is a really great way to teach students to protect their identities on the Internet. Avatars provide students with a safe way of representing themselves while also providing opportunities for creative writing experiences. So why not start out the school year with this simple but powerful learning opportunity?

A good idea for a lesson is to start by asking students to create an avatar of their own, complete with a pen name. After that, students can be challenged to write a narrative from the avatar's point of view, without giving out any personal information. The final student products can be published or turned into a podcast and the avatars and pen names can be  used when students contribute to wikis, blogs, glogs and more.

Suggested tools to choose from:

BuildYourWildSelf.com
This kid-friendly cool tool was certainly the most popular choice among innovative D97 teachers this summer. Users can release their creative spirits and go wild as the title suggests. As an added bonus, no login is required . Find out what some of our very own teachers had to say about this tool, see examples of avatar stories created by some teachers and a student, and also take a peek at the avatars themselves by viewing a VoiceThread they created.

ReasonablyClever.com
If your students are Lego fans, this tool is a good choice. This block-head iconizer is as simple as can be and it is appropriate for the youngest students.

DoppelMe.com
This popular tool provides users with plenty of choices to create a unique and attractive avatar; however, teachers this summer were a bit weary about the use of fig leaves as clothing on the generic model. This is bound to cause students to giggle and also spark some conversation, so please do check out DoppelMe for yourself before you decide to use it.

View VoiceThread: Using Avatars to Teach Internet Safety

Updated: 3/2011 - Get a complete lesson plan. Go to my Cool Tools wiki.

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