Voki and Other Emerging Technology For English Language Learners (Ells)

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As ESL classrooms typically demand that the instructor provides multiple levels of differentiation to meet linguistic needs of students and foster continued language and literacy development, an instructor is challenged by the traditional concept of whole-class instruction. In addition to providing multi-level implcit/explicit language instruction, the instructor is often called upon to provide individualized, academic content support to Ells as an attempt to minimize the learning gap between Ells and their grade-level, English-proficient peers. This makes the possibility of whole-class instruction even more difficult and requires an instructor to incorporate quite a bit of one-on-one conferencing in order to match the unique learning needs of the classroom community. Consequently, a center-based teaching approach is ideal in helping the instructor to reach all of the diversified learning profiles that exist within the classroom. Although learning centers can be better customized to target students' goals and allow students to have greater autonomy in their tasks, a lack of teacher feedback is problematic as is an inability to provide immediate, appropriately-targeted prompts based on the observation of students' responses. Technology may serve an increasingly important role within this teaching paradigm as many applications can be differentiated according to a teacher's plans for design and implementation. Other software may offer leveled, targeted activities with built-in feedback mechanisms. In addition, other technology resources, such as multimedia encyclopedias/dictionaries and apps to facilitate reading comprehension, will grant students more independence in applying strategies to expedite and enhance their comprehension during the completion of academic tasks. As much as technology will serve a beneficial role in promoting the language development of Ells, an instructor must stay mindful of implementing technology in a manner that maintains authentic, linguistic interaction among the entire classroom community, including the instructor. Furthermore, when designing technology-based instruction or supplementing instruction with some elements of technology, the instructor should create plans that elicit a balanced amount of practice across the four communication areas: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
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When determining whether or not a new technology is suitable for Ells, the following critieria should be taken into consideration:

1) Could the application/device facilitate the delivery of comprehensible input?
2) Could the application/device facilitate opportunities to use comprehensible output?
3) Could the application/device potentially lower the learner's affective filter and foster language acquisition for a wide range of ages, cultures, and learning needs?
4) Could the application/device facilitate engaging, creative methods of providing both implicit/explicit language instruction?
5) Could the application/device be easily used independently and/or in groups?
6) Would the application/device necessitate a high degree of teacher support? This does not diminish desirability to integrate a specific application/device into ESL instruction, however, it may shape the context in which the technology is implemented.

In reviewing a wide variety of technology applications, the following three recommendations meet all of the aforementioned criteria and are suggested for instructors (of both ESL/other content areas) that work with Ells.


Voki is a free service that can be accessed through the internet and allows the user to create customized, speaking avatars that can be embedded into other applications. To take a look at this service, go to:
Voki Classroom is a system that allows instructors to effectively manage/implement Voki within their classrooms/curriculum. Voki Classroom does require the user to sign up for a subscription fee. For more information on this service, go to:
To see a few student-created Voki avatars, go to:
To see an effective example of Voki being integrated into a lesson to assist students in self-monitoring their own proofreading during the writing process, go to:
There are many tutorials available thrugh YouTube that guide users on how to embed a Voki avatar into numerous technology applications. The following are two helpful tutorials:

How to embed a Voki avatar into Blogger


How to embed a Voki avatar into PowerPoint


Some benefits to consider when planning lessons with Voki:

*The text-to-speech option for audio recording would be an effective way to minimize extaneous noise that could interfere with students' audio recordings.
*The phone-in recording option allows for real voice audio.

Some concerns to consider when planning lessons with Voki:

*The digitized audio might be challenging for Ells to use as the ability of many Ells to discriminate between similar sounds is affected by language transfer. ESL instructors would most likely determine the use of real voice audio to be more comprehensible for Ells and would probably prefer to upload real voice audio clips to help Ells to discern sounds more clearly and to model authentic oral language.


Blabberize is a free service that allows the user to upload a photo, record audio, and make it look like a mouth is moving on the image. To take a look at this service, go to:
For an easy-to-follow tutorial, go to:
There is a possibility that fees will apply in the future for specific types of usage. For more information regarding this, please go to the following:
Here are some examples of student-created work that uses Blabberize:
How to embed a Blabberize into PowerPoint (2010):
*also shows how to embed a Voki

Some benefits to consider when planning lessons with Blabberize:

*It is an ideal way to provide writing/speaking prompts for multiple levels of English proficiency.
*ESL teachers often use Language Experience Approach (LEA) with their students to develop writing/speaking skills. One of the challenges of this approach is that student narratives are based on their illustrations and that it is common for students to dedicate a great deal of time to drawing. As a result, students are not left with sufficient time to develop their writing or speech. It is possible that Blabberize may allow students that are engaging in LEA to move into the writing/speaking componant a little faster while still maintaining some sense of creative license.

Some concerns to consider when planning lessons with Blabberize:

*The application does not worh well with Firefox as a browser. It works better with Safari or Goggle Chrome.
*Students under the age of 13 will need to get parental consent to use this application.
*There is a possibility of students being exposed to mature and/or inappropriate material through this site.
*Other concerns might be clarified in the Terms of Service:


What is Glogster?

Glogster is a free technology application that allows users to create interactive digital posters. Projects created through other applications (IE: VOKI), as well as other multimedia, can be embedded into Glogster.

To take a look at thsi application, go to:

This resource is helpful for educators that want to integrate Glogster into their curriculum and provides a secure classroom management system solution:

This is a helpful tutorial:

Here is an excellent example of a teacher using Glogster with students:

Here is an effective use of Glogster (to promote d-escalation strategies):

How to embed a VOKI into Glogster:

How to embed Glogster into Blogger:

Information on embedding instructional podcasts into Glogster:

Although the primary goal of the ESL teacher is to provide English language and literacy instruction, the teacher also has an important role in helping ELLs develop strategies and find resources to make students as autonomous and successful as possible in their content area subjects. Raising the awareness of content area instructors with respect to the tools/strategies that may facilitate greater academic success for the ELLs in their classes is also an invaluable role that the ESL teacher takes on for his/her student population.

The following links display a diversified sample of technology tool/websites that will allow ELLs to be more independent in their own efforts to make language input more comprehensible. These resources will promote personal language growth and efficacy/comprehension in academic content area subjects:

The following informational video demonstrates a technology app that gives ELLs convenient access to implement translation strategies for vocabulary building and comprehension:

The following is a teaching blog that includes very up-to-date resources for ESL educators: