South Park Professors?

May 4, 2008 by

Sometimes I stumble upon something on the Internet that I just can’t resist sharing. There’s this great German site, SP-Studio, where you can build your own South Park character! I can see you asking, how the heck is this possibly going to be useful to me?

If you’ve ever had the need for a cartoon representation of yourself (thumbnail photos in IM software, gmail, etc.), this is a VERY easy way to build one.

I’m afraid I got a little carried away and built characters for most of my department (if you’re familiar with my campus, I’ll let you guess who is who).

Why is it so tempting to procrastinate when there’s only one chapter left to write?

Never fear, although the site ( is from a German Flash developer, you can build characters in English too.

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Technology Review: Voki

Mar 12, 2008 by

by guest blogger Robert Foth, from Pima Community College

What is it?

A free animated avatar (the parent company is oddcast – maker of SitePal). Check mine out at my college homepage. Voki avatars can be hosted on any html page (blog, wiki, webpage, etc.). The website will give you the code necessary to embed this little avatar. You can choose the type of avatar and the background used (some backgrounds are animated and may appear faster or slower than expected). There is options to add effects to the audio, but I have not had much success with that feature.

Cost? Free!

Technical Requirements?

You need to set up an account on the Voki website and be able to copy and paste html code. You can use a microphone to record your voice (text to voice never sounds great, but you can use it). Audio can also be imported from a file or called in with a cell phone. The audio limitation is about 1 minute on the audio.

How could we use this technology in the hybrid, online, or traditional classroom?

I can put up a greeting for my students for when they access my website/online classroom. I currently have mine on the course homepage in WebCT. I can see using these to make an online assignment more interactive by having some instructions given by the voki (you can do a talking moose if you wish Maria). The MathPlayground uses vokis in problems: students listen to two different arguments in a problem and then are polled to see who is correct.

How could we use this technology in our professional lives?

Impress your colleagues by having an avatar give announcements on the departmental web page. Put one on your website to stand out among the crowd (for those of us interviewing this year).

Wish list for this technology?

The ability to use an audio file of greater size (one minute is not always enough time). There are some bugs in the system (occasional errors in background image / audio updates) – hey it’s free though. The ability to add a polling feature at the end of the animation would be nice too.

Feel free to comment-in a link to your avatar if you’ve got one!

For more on avatars and other avatar software, click on the label “Avatar” in the right-hand column under “Labels” or click here.

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Playing with Avatars

Aug 12, 2007 by

Well, I’m trying to get my Online Calc class up and running this week and at some point I became obsessed with getting an avatar to make the announcements in the course. Why use an avatar? Let me tell you a story…

When I was in 8th grade, I took Geometry from a guy named Mr. Allison. He had the most bizarre colored pants (to this day I can still remember Mr. Allison’s famous red pants). Every day, it was worth it to go to class just to see what color his pants would be. As a consequence, I never missed a day of class and I really did enjoy learning from the guy.
My current thinking is that if the avatar changes pretty often, the students will at log in to class often just to see if the avatar has changed. Then, when they see the avatar, it will remind them out loud (in 60 seconds or less) what is about to be due or any other important announcements (“schedule your next test” comes to mind). Is that silly? Yes. Might it work? Also yes. It could. (Really… have you tried it? Can you tell me for sure it won’t work?)
So, all evening I’ve been experimenting with the avatars on SitePal. The only major problem I’ve encountered is that all the female avatars are pretty “busty.” I think they might have all been designed for naughty websites. Or I could have a giant moose for an avatar. Imagine learning calculus from a moose! “The integral of 3x^2 is x^3+C” says the moose.

So finding appropriate attire and “sexing down” the avatar requires a bit of work. But it is doable. Once I finally created a professional looking avatar (not like the live avatar to the right), then it was time to choose a background.

Imagine your calculus instructor teaching next to a sink drain with water and debris being sucked down the hole. Hmm… I feel a problem about rotational velocity forming in my brain…

OR you could teach in front of a police car with flashing lights… cue the word problem about velocity and acceleration.

OR you could teach in front of “the matrix” (it moves)… no word problems coming to mind for that one, but I’m thinking that having a contest to write the best word problem to go with the daily background would be awesome!

There is other avatar software out there (iClone for example). But this was quick and dirty and it will have to do for now (no time to learn anything else).

Before you dismiss me and my blog as completely ridiculous, let me ask… would your next department meeting be more enjoyable if it were led by a purple-skinned bald woman with sunglasses? Yeah… that’s what I thought.

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