Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Self visualisation - some sources for Moodle avatars

Once you've let your staff and students loose (or as loose as you'll let them) on your Moodle, one of the first things which they think about is how they are represented graphically in the virtual environment. To the rest of us, this equates to: "what's my picture gonna be?".
There are a few guidelines it's worth enforcing as best you can. Ideally these might include guidance such as:

  • your image should not be a photograph of yourself - this prevents other people using it in other circumstances - very important for staff!
  • it should not be pornographic or otherwise inappropriate - what counts as inappropriate should be decided locally - i.e. as a primary school would you object to pupils using images from "grown-up" films or cartoons?
  • it should be something that you feel represents you - a character from a book, film, a football club logo, a sport, or whatever you like, subject to the other guidelines.

One practical tip is that, if you introduce the idea of having a profile image (aka "an avatar") during a lesson or training session then it's almost a certainty that everyone will go off and try and find an image to represent themselves. This Can Take Hours. Better to introduce it at the end of a session, so that people can go and find their perfect image in their own perfect time.

Having said that, what about using actual images of pupils, since most schools hold these? At least one school in Buckinghamshire has done this, since all Bucks Moodles are closed to the outside world and therefore images are only available to those who can log in. This would require an admin to log in and upload each pupil's image to their profile - a longish process. It's also worth pointing out that some of the more individual (i.e. "self-chosen") images can give an insight into what pupils like and how they see themselves - as well as becoming easy to identify throughout the site in forums, choices and other activities.

So if you want some easy to use sources for avatar images, where can you go. Well, here are a few I've been browsing around recently - there are many, many more and if you particularly love one please add it as a comment to this post.

  • The Simpsons Movie site has a "generate your own Simpsons character" section - results are emailed to you but you must log in to save your character. There's an unofficial one here;
  • This site allows you to create your own South Park character - decide if it's appropriate for your pupils (and staff?) or not;
  • WeeWorld (not what you might think) allows users to create WeeMees;
  • If you've too much time on your hands, try this one (if you can get it to work properly);
  • There are lots of others...

An important part of the whole "what's my picture going to be?" question with pupils (and with some staff) is that your Moodle environment becomes a good place for new users to practice getting this sort of thing right in a safe environment. This particularly applies in primary schools, where many pupils won't already have a vast range of online identities and hence their teachers can support them in thinking about issues such as:

  • what does the image I choose say about me?
  • what might happen if I use a photograph of myself?
  • what do I want the image to communicate about me?

Of course, if you're starting Moodle in a secondary school, it's very likely that most students will have an established online identity, good or otherwise, so encouraging them to think about what their image on Faceparty is telling the rest of the world might be the sound of a door slamming on an empty stable.

No comments:

Post a Comment