Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Creating avatars and icons instead of photographs

By Susan Ettenheim |  High School art/media/library/technology teacher


We've found that the whole problem of students posting personal photographic representations is gone when we teach them about making avatars or icons as personal representations. Here is the lesson we use for Youth Voices for building Avators / Icons. You will see that this lesson is in the context of our site, Youth Voices, but it certainly can be used in any context.


Building Avatars/Icons

Introduce yourself by putting an avatar/icon in your user posts. Have your avatar/icon appear next to your posts in Youth Voices. You can then make different avatars/icons for different kinds of posts. An avatar is a representation of the essence of you.

Essential Questions

  • What is special to you and about you?
  • What is important to you?
  • How can these things come together as a visual representation of you?
  • How will creating and using a visual representation of yourself help a young person at another school relate to your life and get to know you?

Gather your thoughts and create an avatar/icon

  1. On paper, map and draw what is essential about you.
    • In the center of a piece of paper, draw a large outline of your favorite shape.
    • Around the outside of the shape, write the answers to these questions:
    • What is your favorite color?
    • What is your favorite animal?
    • What is your strongest positive emotion?
    • What is your strongest negative emotion?
    • What is your favorite food?
    • What is your favorite place?
    • What is your favorite hobby?
    • What is your goal in life?
    • What is your favorite time of day?
    • What is your favorite thing to do?
    • What is the quality that you value the most in yourself?
  2. Create a visual representation of these ideas inside the shape.
    • Draw and/or color inside your shape a representation of the ideas on the outside of the shape.
  3. Now look at some avatars/icons that already exist. Divide into small groups and search online to find out about:
    • What was Neal Stephenson's 1992 book, Snow Crash and what does it have to do with avatars?
    • What did the game Ultima IV have to do with avatars and what was the goal of the game?
    • Who was the television star Max Headroom and why was he an avatar?
    • On April 19, 2000, Ananova said hello to the world. Who was Ananova and why was she an avatar?
    • Visit SPEAK2Me.net and find the avatar.
    • What are examples of avatars/icons in computer games?
    • Find examples of avatars which are buddy icons?
  4. Share some Avatar History since you are becoming part of the network of people who create and use avatars
    • Using a projector or gathering around a computer, come back together and go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar
    • Read the first paragraph and look at the images
    • Now continue in time order to share the avatar investigations that you just researched with the whole class
  5. Look at the ideas you have gathered for your avatar/icon.
  6. Make your avatar/icon.
    • Open Photoshop or GIMP or any image editing program.
    • Create a new document 200x200 pixels. Make the resolution 72 dpi and use RGB color mode. Make the background either white or transparent.
      • Use different layers to represent the ideas that you put in your drawing, around your shape.
      • Build each layer and when you are done, flatten the image and save it as a jpeg.If you are using Photoshop, use a Save for the Web command to get the best compression.
    1. Upload your new avatar/icon
    • Log into Youth Voices
    • Go to Account Settings>Your site picture
    • Click on Upload a new picture and name your new icon.

You are welcome to join us in youthvoices.net and voicesonthegulf.net and use your avatars! We also talk about working together, every Wednesday, 9pm eastern US time at edtechtalk.com. Join us!

You can visit the original lesson on the Youth Voices wiki here http://youthplans.wikispaces.com/avatars.

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