Say More with Talking Avatars – Using Voki in the Classroom

vokibannerWith so many schools starting the year off with 1:1 Chromebook classrooms, why not put that awesome technology to use right away by having your kids introduce themselves with their own uniquely created avatar?  Using the free web tool, Voki, kids can do just that! Voki works perfectly with Chromebooks, PCs or Macs and is a great way to have kids practice their speaking skills! An email is required to register, so if you have younger kids, just create a single account and set up center so kids can work on making their avatars over the course of the week. Avatars can be shared with a web link, so consider having kids add their links to a Padlet wall!

Creating a Voki Avatarvoki_avatar1

To get started, login to Voki and choose “Create a Voki”.

  1. Select your avatar – TIP: Be sure to scroll through to see all available options . Some avatars are free, while others are only available with a paid subscription. Those will be flagged with a “Only in Voki Classroom & Voki Presenter” on the top left corner of the avatar preview (see example right).
  2. Customize your avatar’s features. You can scroll through hair, clothing, bling and more depending on the avatar you choose.
  3. Use the color and Tweek customize options located below your avatar preview window to further personalize your Voki avatar.
  4. Want to roll the dice and see what avatar Voki autogenerates for you, instead? You can click the undo icon if you don’t like what you see. Remember to avoid those with the premium banner in the top right (see example right) if you want to stick with the free version.voki-voice
  5. Give it a voice! Record your voice for up to 60 seconds using any of the following options:
    1. Calling a phone number provided & entering a passcode to record
    2. Type & use text to speech feature
    3. Record using your devices built-in microphone
    4. Upload a previously recorded audio file
  6. Select a background. Tip: As with step 1 above, be sure to scroll through the available choices.
  7. Publish your Voki avatar which can be shared via the link provided to you.


Learn more about using Voki by viewing THIS video tutorial which will walk you through the process of how to create a Voki from start to finish! It’s a simple way to use technology in your classroom and can allow students a creative way to share their ideas. If you haven’t used Padlet before, click HERE to access a free printable Cheat Sheet. Padlet is a great platform for your kids to share and view one another’s Voki creations!

Formatting Google Sheets for Readability

banner-sheetsSpreadsheets can be intimidating, and yet, as educators, we often need to collect, analyze and visualize data to truly understand trends in our classrooms, schools or districts. I’ve compiled some tips for Google Sheets newbies that will help you navigate sheets and make them easier to view.

Formatting Data for Readabilityalternating_colors

  • Alternating Colors: To increase the readability of data in a spreadsheet, turn on “Alternating colors” so that every other line is highlighted. Access this option by going to “Format” –> “Alternating Colors”. You can change the formatting style or create a custom style. Note: This option is also available through the “Explore” menu, which can be accessed by clicking the “Explore” icon at the bottom right corner of your spreadsheet page.
  • Text Wrapping: A common issue with viewing information in a spreadsheet is the inability to see all of the information contained in a cell. This is particularly true when the cell contains text that could be many words or even several sentences.  Turn on “Text Wrapping” to automatically adjust the cell height to accommodate information. Highlight the column (click on the letter at the top of the column) that contains the data you want to read. Click “Format” –> “Text Wrapping” –> “Wrap”.
  • Freeze Rows / Columns: When scrolling through large sets of data, it can be helpful to freeze rows or columns that contain header information that you want to be able to see at all times. To freeze rows or columns, click “View” –> “Freeze” and make your selection.
  • Conditional Formatting: To more quickly highlight data, such as low scores, you can set rules for conditional formatting, so that if certain criteria are met, cells in the spreadsheet will be highlighted in a color of your choosing. Highlight the range of data you want to apply the conditional formatting to, choose “

Sorting & Filtering

  • Sorting data: Adjust the order that rows appear in your spreadsheet by sorting. Sorting allows you to keep your column headers in place and sort by multiple criteria. The important thing to remember about sorting is that you must select the RANGE you want to sort. Most often you want to sort ALL of the data in the spreadsheet. To do this, click the empty cell in the very top left corner of the spreadsheet to select the entire sheet. Choose “Data” –> “Sort Range” & choose the sort criteria you want to use.
  • Filters: Using filters allows you to hide any data you don’t want to see. By enabling filters, you can easily click the filter icon at the top of any column and set the conditions you want for filtering to adjust what data you are viewing. Turn on filters by going to “Data” –> “Turn on Filter View”


If you’d like to see these features in action, take a look at the “Formatting Google Sheets for Readability” video tutorial HERE or view the embedded version below.


5 Google Classroom Tips & Tricks for the New Year

5 Google Classroom Tips

Welcome back to the new school year! Google Classroom has added some new features including parent/guardian email summaries as well as topics (tagging) for posts in the Stream to make finding related assignments easier. As you begin to set up your Google Classroom classes for the new school year, you might find these tips helpful:

1 – Archive Last Year’s Classes

Clear the deck for the new year by “Archiving” classes from last year. This will help your students from last year by removing the icon for your class from their Home Screen, too, but for you and your kids, all work will remain in Google Drive and all posts are available to “Re-Use” in your new classes. If students come to your room with classes from last year, they can “unenroll” by clicking the three dots at the top of the class thumbnail from the Home Page.

Archive Class

2 – Add New Classes in Reverse Order

Tiles for each of your classes on the Classroom Home Page, cannot be moved or re-ordered once they are added. If you teach multiple classes, create them in the REVERSE order that you want them to appear on your homepage. This way, they will appear in the order you want to view them, e.g., periods 1 – 7, should be added backwards so that period 1 appears FIRST on your Homepage.

Class Order

3 – Include the Class Year in Your Class Name

It’s best to archive classes from last year, but be sure to include the school year as part of the Class name to make it easier to identify classes over time.

Classroom Class icon

4 – Know Your Options for Keeping Parents in the Loop

Teachers will be happy to learn that Classroom now allows teachers to associate parent/guardian email addresses for students so that adults can receive email summaries of upcoming assignments as well as current activity and missing work. While this might be cause for celebration, given that teachers have to manually add these email addresses, many middle and high school teachers with 100+ students, will not find this a realistic option. It is worth noting that once a guardian email is added, ALL of the classes that student is in will be part of the parent updates provided teach of that student’s teachers have the guardian feature enabled. For those who aren’t ready or able to push the Guardian feature to all families, I’ve been suggesting to teachers three alternatives:

    1. Selective Use of Guardian Email Feature:  Utilize the guardian email feature for parents who request regular updates and/or students whose education plans may require daily or weekly progress updates.
    2. Make your Classroom Calendar Public: All assignments in Classroom appear on a Google Calendar as events based on the assignments’ due date. Since any Google Calendar can be made “Public” and public calendars can be shared via a link or embedded, this may be an option to make assignment information viewable for parents on your teacher website or by sending parents the link. For more information on how to make your Classroom Calendar public, check out an earlier post on this topic.
    3. Suggest Classroom App: Since most parents prefer text updates, they may prefer to download the Classroom app for students on their phone and have their student sign in so they can receive push notifications every time an assignment is posted. This will only require their child sign in once to their parent’s phone app.

5 – Make Sure You’re Using Classroom to It’s Potential!

Many teachers “use” Classroom, but are you using it to push out digital assignments and provide student feedback? Have you used the “Ask a Question” feature as an exit ticket to formatively assess students? Check out my Google Classroom Cheat Sheet for detailed information about the various menus in Google Classroom. This handout can be printed to serve as a helpful reference for those new to Classroom!

Classroom Sheet