Teacher Challenge: Avatars and Us

The most recent Teacher Challenge challenge is to think about Avatars, and how we visually represent ourselves and our identities in the online world. It got me thinking a bit about the various avatars that I have used since I began blogging and networking.

The first avatar I ever used was my old dog, Bella. I figured that since my nickname was dogtrax, having a dog as my avatar made sense. And she was a beautiful dog, so I enjoyed seeing her image on my posts. I think, at the time, I was erecting some protective walls around identity, and my dog didn’t reveal a thing about me, really.

Later, I shifted to an avatar image that I have of me playing guitar with my old band, The Sofa Kings. It’s a picture from when we went into the recording studio. I liked how it captured my love of music and my identity of being in a rock and roll band.

These days, I am more apt to use a drawing I made myself in MS Paint. It’s pretty basic, but it seems comfortable to me. I got tired of seeing myself in an image as my avatar. The self-portrait is not really me (maybe an older version of me, with more hair) but I like that I drew it myself, with my own hands (mouse) and I see it and think, yep, that’s me.

I uploaded a bunch of my various avatars to see how the embedded gallery will work.

In general, I guess folks have to think about hwy they want to use an avatar: is it for flash, for fun, for privacy or for something else. There are certainly tons of avatar makers out there now, and it is always good to take a step back and consider how it is that we represent ourselves to the world. And when we talk to our students, and work with our students with avatars, it’s a good way to get into visual literacy: what does this picture say to the world?

And the ease in which we can make the switch of our visual representation means we can easily shed and recreate our online visual identities with a click of a button and swipe of a mouse.

Peace (in the avatar),
Kevin

PS — Later, it occurred to me that I didn’t mention the use of Voki and other animated avatars. I have tried them and found them … too disjointed and too odd. Maybe it’s that whole robotic human thing. And the eyeballs following my mouse just makes me unsettled. I know plenty of folks like Voki. Not me. I prefer a static avatar that doesn’t talk to me.

5 Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing your various avatars and explaining their existence and creation. I think the dog avatar does say a lot about the owner. It shows that they love animals, are caring, responsible and affectionate etc. I love the handmade avatars too and most students like that as well. It is great to encourage creativity. When I read your comment back on the challenge post, I noted that you were not fond of avatars. I think that this says a lot about digital technology, that we and our students can choose tools that they like and can use.

    • Hi Ann
      Actually, I like avatars but I don’t like flashy avatars, like Voki, all that much. And I like to believe that we can make choices and not be limited to one or two options.
      Kevin

  2. OK, Kevin, you’ve challenged me to go back and take my Picassohead and other avatars more seriously. I love the variety of avatars you made and how they each convey something about you. It’s fun looking at them as a whole group. Great job on your blog. Denise http://mrsdkrebs.edublogs.org

  3. I’m torn on Voki. I think it is cool to her someone else’s actual voice, but on the other hand, I agree it is totally creepy for the eyes to follow you around the page. It reminds me of creepy paintings in the Haunted Mansion.

  4. Thanks for sharing your avatar journey Kevin. I’m with you on vokis. You have inspired me to take a little more time and effort with my students and try to instill that sense of the avatar as a visual reflection of their identity. InterstingIy, I find it that many of the avatars used in Personal Learning Networks I participate in are overly ‘professional’. Sometimes I wish they would reflect a little more personality.
    I had some difficulty getting my Year 10 students to create their avatar last year and I suspect they found the cartoon avatars a not quite up to their ‘advanced’ level of maturity.
    ‘Sue Waters’ posted on the use of ‘befunky’ which I have included in my post in response to the Teachers Challenge. I think this application may be an answer to allowing students to create representations that they find more acceptable while still maintaining some anonymity.

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