Instructor: Quinton Henderson

Secondary Internet Safety

5.2.2 - Teach 1 (15 min)

Exploring Avatars (15 minutes)

DEFINE the Key Vocabulary term avatar.

avatar: a graphic image that represents a person online

TELL students that they are about to see a slideshow that illustrates how people represent themselves online. The slideshow features photos of real people alongside images of the avatars they use in virtual worlds.

EXPLAIN to students that they are going to watch a slideshow, and that they should respond in writing in journals or on paper to each slide as you show it. Have them note the similarities and differences between the real people and their avatars. Encourage them to address characteristics beyond physical looks, and remind them that they should avoid passing judgment or making fun of anyone’s avatar. Instead, they should speculate on why the people in the photos might have created these avatars. (Students should understand that they cannot be certain of these people’s intentions without talking to them – they can draw conclusions based only on the information available in the photos.)

SHOW students the first 10 slides in the "Avatar Slideshow" from The New York Times Magazine, or have them look at the slideshow on their computers.

INVITE students to take turns sharing their observations for each slide. The following sample responses may help you guide the discussion:

  • Slide 1: Choi Seang Rak might represent himself as a girl because he’ll do better in the game he’s playing.
  • Or maybe he wants to explore how others might treat a girl online.
  • Slide 2: Tommy D. Graves might represent himself as a superhero who looks nothing like him because he wants to be anonymous and live out a total fantasy when he plays the game.
  • Slide 3: Jean-François de la Fage might want to feel like a stronger, tougher version of himself.
  • Slide 4: Ailin Graef might want an avatar that looks like her, wearing her favorite dress and with her best qualities exaggerated.
  • Slide 5: Lucas Shaw seems to have created a barbarian character to match the virtual world of the game he is playing, rather than an avatar that resembles himself. He might want to escape to a fantasy world.
  • Slide 6: Andreas Fisher is posing like his avatar, so he seems to be exploring the side of himself that wants to act like a superhero.

POINT OUT that in creating their avatars, people may make choices based on what kind of online world the avatars will inhabit. Encourage students to suggest how an avatar designed for a social networking site their friends use might differ from one created for a virtual world like Second Life or for a competitive gaming site.

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