How to use Avatars with children

One of the benefits of working and communicating online is the ability to share information with others, but children (and adults) need to be careful about what they share and with whom. Some sites that they use, even child-friendly sites like Edmodo, will give children the chance to add a photo or picture of themselves to make their profile more personal. Now we don’t really want children uploading photos of themselves with their name displayed as well so it is useful to find an alternative solution and that is where the avatar creation tools come in.

An avatar is a graphical representation of the user and this can take many forms. There are sites that pop-up all of the time offering simple avatar creation and I have looked at a few below. Children will probably be aware of these tools already and will have found a variety of different sites already, so ask them for examples and ideas. They will probably be familiar with the idea if they have ever played on the Wii as they are asked to create a ‘Mii’ character to join the games.

Avatar Generator Tool
The first place to start is the Primary Technology Avatar tool which is simply a page that links a number of avatar tools together in one place. Both of the examples below are on this page as well as around ten others too.

Clay Yourself
This is an example of a simple tool to use. You simply work through the options choosing skin colour, hair type and clothes and then press finish to see your finished work. This can then be downloaded or saved to use elsewhere. An example is here:

Build Your Wild-self
This tool takes it a little bit further and lets you choose not only hair and eyes, but also wings, a tail and a whole host of other creepy features. Wild-self is an example of a tool that makes it a little harder to download your finished creation and to save it; there are a couple of steps. Firstly, once you are finished you will need to choose the Print option. There isn’t a download option but the right-clicking on the image will allow you to save it. From here, you may need to crop it to get the parts that you need.

There are many other tools out there but they all work in a very similar way.

One way of using these in the classroom is to explore a variety, maybe 5 different sites, and get the children to download their images to their computer. They can then create a gallery or composite photo of their different avatars. This will help to re-enforce many skills such as saving work and cropping and editing images.

Although this blog is aimed at the e-safety aspect, the avatars can be used in other ways too. Why not create some characters to use in a story or design a creature using Wild-Self and describe its diet or habitat?

These tools are usually free and take seconds to use. So give it a go, create some avatars!

Written by Ian Addison on March 25, 2013 14:58

School e-safety practice and the Unicef Rights of the Child legislation

I come from a Rights Respecting School, and part of the objectives of this accreditation is to ensure students are au fait with the responsibilities associated with such rights. Internet Safety ties in to numerous sections of the Unicef Rights of the Child legislation which can be used to prompt some useful guidance for conduct around e-safety in schools.

What do schools need to do against the articles of legislation?

Article 13: Freedom of Expression
What schools need to do: Encourage safe practice to share & express views, while reiterating responsibility for the effect this may have on others. Ensuring expressions are shared in safe format, working against cyber bullying.

Article 15: Freedom of Association
What schools need to do: Ensure children are aware of safety and security issues involved with online friendships, chat rooms, virtual worlds games, dangers of alternate realities and paedophilia, what to look for.

Article 16: Right to Privacy
What schools need to do: Ensure children are aware of how to employ privacy settings for online media (particularly social networking), link to cyber bullying.

Article 17: Right to access information & mass media
What schools need to do: Ensure students aware of how to search online safely, danger signs, potential scamming / phishing / virus mails.

Written by Jo Debens on March 25, 2013 14:58

The Teacher View - using technology in the classroom

So following on from my recent post on how students perceived e-safety, I’ve also done a survey of staff in school, in order to find out how teachers perceive the current risks and how they use technology.

I'm a big advocate of online tools, I'm a sucker for signing up to find out what it's all about (then deleting my profile when I never use it of course), but as an ICT Teacher I’m also aware of the inherent risks of what I put online and how I am perceived. I think this is a big issue for teachers as pre-Internet you used to be a bit uncomfortable if a student saw you out at the weekend, now they can find out all they want an more with a bit of work on Google!

A lot of staff realise the use of ICT and social media tools and how they could be used in education to enhance lessons, however are very aware that the students probably know more than they do about how to interact with these media. There are some brilliant ideas out there of how to embed media into subjects like history, like this one from Fractus Learning, but there is a lot of mis-information and lack of training. Teachers when asked were really keen to use the media (65% of my school wanted ideas on how to embed social media in the classroom), but it was also felt that there was a trepidation and fear as to how to use it and "not get in trouble".

As an ICT Teacher, and tech enthusiast I feel like I have a bit of a leg up in this area, and I discuss how other schools have done work like this via my twitter account. Yes, I have a YouTube channel for uploading video, I have also set up a school twitter feed, but was very careful as to how I did this in order to make sure I was transparent in its use. Read about how I did it.

Recently I’ve been using the 360safe website in order to analyse how schools can embed social media technology in the school and as long as there is clear, laid out policies and advice on how to implement the tools, then this can avoid issues.

As one of my colleagues so brilliantly put it: "Technology should NOT be demonized as it is full of great good things for the kids - and I know they have to be aware and parents too - but I think we should fill their heads with the good it holds rather than be majorly focused on the bad that could happen! "

In this world of social media, schools must look to making sure that there is policy and advice for teachers using these tools to enhance student's education, but also to make sure that teachers and staff are trained to avoid issues that can come with using websites that are not developed and run by the school.

Written by Ben Gristwood on March 25, 2013 14:59


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