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I declare September, Avatar Month (or who are you?)

If I had the power, I’d declare September Avatar Month.

As we break the classroom ice and get to know each other over the coming month, can you think of a better time for avatar building?

I was inspired by a recent blog post from Philly Teacher (mshertz) who shared her list of Free Kid-Friendly Avatars and decided to combine a few of her cool finds with some of the avatar-building tools I’ve been collecting.

If I let them, my students and my teachers would spend hours creating and perfecting their avatars. 

This is not a waste of time. 

Fact is, we really need to find a way to represent ourselves when we communicate from a distance. We want to be able to personalize our online presence and be instantly recognized by our posts and responses in wikis and blogs and Nings and on Twitter and other digital spaces. We’ve also tried creating avatars for fictional and historical characters.

(And personally speaking, avatar-building and dressing magically satisfies my compulsion to shop with no damage to my budget.) 

Not all of the avatar-making sites work well in every classroom.  Some that work well for my high school students, may not work well to represent elementary learners.  Classrooms and libraries have different needs or restrictions. My best advice is to try a few on your own. In addition to the features they offer, check out their options for saving, their requirements for user email, and samples that might be available in the site’s community library.

You may also want to create norms for your students’ avatars.  Some schools will want to consider nixing tobacco options, weapons, and overly provocative outfits.

But, enough with the warnings.  Here are a few of my favorite options:

Build Your Wild Self
, from the Wildlife Conservation Society of New York Zoos and Aquariums is a super- cool elementary and middle school option. I am wild about this one! Create a realistic face–if you like–and then add all sorts of animal parts. There’s huge variety here and the results are kinda beautiful, whimsical, and very appropriate. 

My favorite avatar tool use with high school students is Dream Avatar Creator.  The possibilities to customize are endless here! So are the outfits, accessories, and companions.  Create avatars as beautiful or as quirky as you like.  Warning: Set a time limit before students or teachers get started.  We’ve had to have gallery walks after some of our Dream Avatar sessions.

UNIQUE by Rasterboy, a much simpler interface, offers a satisfying number of customizing options, including accessories and moods.

Mii  creates a primitive cartoon-style avatar, very easy for young children. I had a little trouble saving and had to create a screenshot and edit this one in PhotoShop.

MyWebFace allows users to create an avatar from an uploaded photograph.  Because it doesn’t work for Macs, I could not mywebface myself tonight.  Darn!

With the Reasonably Clever Lego Avatar you can create a Lego-esque version of yourself by choosing hair, plastic body parts, and accessories.  Choose the Mainstream Version or use the Kid Safe Version version which eliminates guns, cigarettes, and other potentially nasty stuff.

Minimise-me, a very simple tool, produces little round faces, and offers options for facial features and accessories.

Face Your Manga, creates Manga-like avatars.  Because of the serious cleavage and tatoo options, and the requirement that the jpg be emailed, it may not be perfect for younger students.

I love the options and backgrounds of Yahoo Avatars, a virtual shopaholics dream, but your students will need a Yahoo! ID to play here. Nice library backgrounds too!

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If you like your avatars a bit more animated, try Voki.  Record your own voice, or type your text and have it converted to voice, or use your phone as a recorder. Voki is not only fun for kids, it  adds a personal touch to library and classroom blogs and wikis.  Language teachers might consider creating audio messages in their target languages.

_uacct = “UA-1833916-1″;

Blabberize is another fun option for an animated audio avatar presence. Upload a photo, identify a mouth, and have an create or human you choose, deliver an animated audio message. 

Gizmoz creates animated avatar stickers, video clips, and avatars that deliver answering machine messages.  This sample librarian speaking about Summer Reading, by dominiqueprice, is currently featured on the site. These audio avatar tools present opportunites for storytelling, and can easily move beyond their obvious avatar functions.

Explore BigHugeLabs for a multitude of options, including trading cards, motivational posters, magazine covers, and much more!

And finally, consider using Wordle to create student avatars.  If you were a word cloud, what words would best represent who you really are, what you stand for, your hopes and dreams?  This might be a truly powerful to get to know your students and for them to get to know you.

Check this wiki for more avatar options and please share your own favorites in your comments!

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Brittany Pack says:

    Oh my gosh, I love this idea! This would be a wonderful ice breaker in a class like mine, where we will be doing a lot of discussion. I always feel like those involved in discussions need to get to know each other as humans first, and that helps keep it respectful. I love the idea of building and sharing an avatar with the group!

  2. Hello,
    Super post, Need to mark it on Digg

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