How to Teach Children About Avatars

An avatar is a personalized graphical illustration that represents a computer user, or a character or alter ego that represents that user. An avatar can be represented either in three-dimensional form (for example, in games or virtual worlds) or in two-dimensional form as an icon in Internet forums.

Avatars are used widely on websites and in gaming. They are an integral part of Internet chat, Internet messaging systems, blogs and artificial intelligence

The term avatar as it relates to computer user identification was first coined by Chip Morningstar and Joseph Romero in 1985, when they were designing LucasFilm’s online role-playing game “Habitat”.

The simplest avatars are small graphic files used on websites. For instance, members using chat boards can upload an avatar to represent themselves. The images may be humorous or serious, and often show a beast or hero. They normally appear attached to user posts alongside the username. Some websites provide users with a pool of avatars from which to choose.

Avatars in a virtual world are interactive characters, which may be customized by the user. These avatars walk within the computerized landscape, manipulating the surrounding environment. Avatars can be moved and acted upon using the keyboard and mouse. Virtual world avatars also have an associated inventory of objects such as tools, weapons, clothing, vehicles, virtual currency, etc.

Personal vs. Private Information:

Using Avatars to Teach Internet Safety

Overview:
Students will distinguish between personal vs. private information, then create avatars and pen names for participating in online projects. Students will write and publish a story about their avatars.

Objective:
Students will

  • distinguish between personal vs. private information.
  • create avatars and pen names to protect their identities when publishing and collaborating online.
  • agree to follow publishing safety rules and web etiquette.
  • publish a story that includes only personal information

Before starting this lesson, look at the Publishing Options below and choose one.

Whole Group Discussion:

  1. Personal vs. Private information.
  2. Discuss “Live and WorldWide” on the web.
  3. What’s an avatar? An avatar is an online identify used to allow users to have a personality while protecting private information. Brainstorm places on the Internet in which avatars are used. (Gmail, FaceBook, Student Projects)
  4. Discuss Publishing Safety Guidelines and Web Etiquette

Hands on Activity:
If you don’t have time or access to computer, please consider assigning this as a fun homework task. BuildYourWildSelf is a very easy tool to use and students should be able to complete it independently.

  1. Create an avatar
    1. Create your avatar.
    2. Take a snapshot of your avatar.
    3. Save the avatar snapshot in a location for easy retrieval. (Computer desktop, flash drive)
    4. Create a pen name. Use something you can remember and spell, but please do not use your real name. Be creative!

    Next Steps: Assign a Writing Activity and Publish

    1. Write a story about “Your Wild Self Avatar” Be sure to include only personal information.
    2. Write a story from your avatar’s point of view.