Saturday, 14 December 2013

Evidence-Based Teaching

Whether or not you've read or skimmed Visible Learning, this video is invaluable in exploring some of they key findings. In this talk, Hattie calls on all teachers to root their practice in what we know - through research - works. If you feel you are passionate about teaching and are pouring energy into your teaching, make sure you're focusing it with tried and tested methods.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Taggstar: Another Thinglink?

A site where you can upload pictures and then create hotspots which link to various media. Try it out the free tool here. For ideas on how it might be useful, check out the ideas at the bottom of the Thinglink post.

Monday, 30 September 2013

The Utility of Knowledge

This article, which I wrote, appeared in the New Straits Times, September 28th 2013.
In it I responded to the question of whether everything in school should have utility.
Click to enlarge for easier reading.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Power of Stupid Questions

A couple of weeks ago, I had just finished an explanation in front of a class and ended with the usual, 'Any questions?' The room was silent but I couldn't quash the sneaking suspicion that there was at least a little question lurking in someone's mind. We have a significant number of EAL learners with wide variances in our learners' profiles so it seemed unlikely that (despite my best intentions) my 'one size fits all' explanation could have reached everyone at the same level. At that moment, I remembered a blog post that I'd read recently on the power of the 'bad idea', which in turn had been inspired by Ewan McIntosh.
When you ask a room of professionals to come up with their “best” solutions to a problem you often tend to get great ideas, but not always the best ones. They can be contrived and almost always involve some self-censorship from the team: people don’t offer anything up unless they feel, explicitly or subconsciously, that it will get buy-in from the rest of the team or committee.
Ask people for their “worst” solutions to a problem and people tend not to hold back at all – laughs are had and the terrible ideas flow. And while the initial suggestions might feel stupid, pointless or ridiculous to the originating team members, these awful ideas can take on a spectacular new lease of life in the hands of another, unrelated group.
Taking the core of this idea - that people feel uncomfortable expressing their 'best' for the judgement of others - I took a moment to explain that if any individual in front of me had a question about what I'd just said, it was likely that others had too but were nervous about saying it out loud. I pointed out that they spent much more time together as a class than I ever did so they would be better placed to know the types of misunderstandings their classmates might have. We had a short discussion on how a team attitude might lead us to think about what others could struggle with, not just ourselves and then how we might consider asking the questions that they may not want to. And then I asked them to think of a 'stupid' question. Slowly, voices came forward asking for various forms of clarification from a simple rephrasing of something I'd said to requests for non-examples. And I felt the room relax as learners who remained tight-lipped lost the tension around their shoulders and relaxed into their chairs; I have no evidence for the belief that this was because their query had been answered with no action on their part, but I choose to believe it all the same.

Since then, I check instructions with this request for 'stupid' questions and learners' brows furrow as they try to think of a question that they may not need to ask, but that could help others in the room. The number of questions has gone up, and surprisingly they rarely are indeed 'stupid'. The stigma of asking questions has lessened and I feel we've accomplished something in that learners can carry on with their activities with more confidence and minimal stress over comprehension. 

Developing Socratic Seminars

Following on from our first attempt with Socratic Seminars, attempt #2 was much more successful. Discussion flowed much more freely, no doubt in part due to the wingman formation that we trialled. Learners' reflections indicated that they felt much more confident putting their views forward having refined them with their wingmen first.  Even one of the less engaged learners couldn't help but become engaged in the conversation as the learners started to communicate genuine insights and personal connections with their readings. They were asking more questions to clarify their understanding and prompting others to expand on their ideas for more detailed explorations, so it seems we have turned a corner in terms of building a trusting and safe environment for collaborative learning.

One issue with the wingman formation was that we didn't have enough time for everyone to be in the inner circle, but the learners themselves indicated that this was a small price to pay against the benefits of the new model. In any case, they felt they had still contributed through their feedback and looked forward to being the first in the circle next time. Actually, as I write those words just hit me - they look forward to it! As they expressed their thoughts on how it had gone, there was a real sense of pride from them in what they had achieved and they were lots of congratulations for the previously reluctant participants who had contributed (and presumably gained) much more this week.

As we discussed the place of these seminars in future lessons there was a resounding 'yes' that we employ them regularly so it feels like we've made a real breakthrough.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Beginning Socratic Seminars

I've been meaning to try Socratic Seminars for over a year now, following endorsements from those in my PLN that lauded them as the single most transformative tool for learning available. I was initially daunted by the fact that there were no local examples for me to observe but after reading Socratic Circles (Copeland, M) and watching various Youtube examples including this one below, I decided to give it a go.

I chose the reading (around the topic of language & power that we are currently studying), posted it to our homework site (to allow them time to digest and think of good discussion questions) and rearranged the classroom to accommodate the session.

On the day, we were fortunate to have one learner among us who had experienced Socratic Seminars in her previous school, and she warned us that it would likely take a few sessions before the discussion really flowed easily. That was certainly a warning to be heeded. With only 10 learners, the circles were quite small but the discussion was kicked off as learners consulted their notes (some annotations were more evident on some texts than others) and began to build on each other's knowledge. This was a real positive as other teachers had indicated that often learners can see the seminars as a debate rather than an opportunity to co-construct meaning. 

However, despite this positive aspect there were some negatives to be reflected upon too. In the feedback session after the first 'round', learners revealed that they had not received the text to comment on until after 10pm the night before - some glitch with our homework-recording system - so most had hurriedly scribbled some notes earlier that day and therefore hadn't had the thinking time needed to produce rich discussion. Also, we had two learners who did not speak at all; one from his long-standing painful shyness, and the other because of his lack of confidence in English (this is an IBDP course in Language & Literature). To encourage the shy learner, I will try the 'wingman' strategy exemplified in the video above, although I'm not sure how that will work with our smaller numbers; to support the second-language user, I will provide prompts - these will be useful to all learners in developing their speaking and listening skills and really something I should have considered beforehand.

Participants have started posting their reflections of the experience and this is what some of them had to say:

"After watching the video, I am siding with the "wingman"  Socratic Seminar. The reason is that I am shy and get nervous when talking in public. With the "wingman" method, I could tell the representative what my ideas are and he/she will share it with others. This way, I could participate even though I am not talking, but I might have to be in the inner circle to talk and when that happens, I hope I will be ready to speak to others."

"In the class’ socratic seminar on Thursday I didn’t think I contributed enough to be discussion that was going on, I had ideas to share but I often hesitated before speaking out. But I did notice I contributed more to the second extract that was analyzed and hopefully there will be more progress in the discussions to come. Also, I’ve learnt that it’s better to ask questions about things rather than keeping quiet during the seminar."

"We also applied an extremely useful way to discuss, which is using a Socratic circle where half of the class listen and take notes while the other half discusses important points and changing places after a certain amount of time. This definitely gave people the chance to take a breather to absorb information and to be stimulated by the discussion to brainstorm ideas and also gave speakers a chance to speak comfortably within a smaller circle. This also gave us the opportunity to evaluate the quality of discussion as some speakers might be overbearing or some might simply avoid taking the initiative to be involved in active discussion."

"During the last English lesson, we tried out Socratic circles as a way of discussing our ideas & findings of pre-read extracts. Although this was my first time at it, I didn't find it a struggle, mostly because I'm confident in speaking. However, I didn't perform to my best during the discussions. This came down to a lack of preparation, although I had read beforehand, I failed to fully annotate the extracts. Something I will need to work on, is reading between the lines. I'll need to make sure I can fully comprehend writers' ideas & messages; if not, to ask more questions. I'm perfectly happy with the formation we tried in class but since we're still a new group, the 'wingman' formation may help settle us down and ensure we're all comfortable, confident and contributing to the discussions."

Targets for future sessions:
  • provide language scaffolding in the form of sentence starters;
  • try the 'wingman' formation;
  • ensure learners have access to the required text well in advance of the seminar.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Customisable Getting-To-Know-You Activity

Copy and customise to your classes. Click here for the original A4 Google Doc.

Online Learning: A Reflection

Having just completed an online course  for Theory of Knowledge, I've discovered something about myself as a learner. Although I visit various blogs regularly, subscribe to many newsletters and participate on a number of forums, I am not - strangely - a very comfortable online student.
As the course began, I was excited to meet the participants from all over the world, but as time progressed I found it difficult to distinguish one person from another in the discussions. While this didn't have such a detrimental effect on the conversation itself, it did mean that I experienced a certain disconnect from the group. I missed being able to turn to the person beside me to quickly clarify a term or reference, to catch someone after a group discussion for a bit of one-on-one extension and simply make that human connection. It's a strange realisation for someone as ICT-orientated as myself but one that is worth reflecting on when I consider the experiences I create for my own classes. Online learning allows so much access and more global connections, but it takes careful management to ensure that it does not lead to an isolation impossible when sharing a physical space.
Thinking back to the Flat Classroom experience, I think the 'handshakes' are of utmost importance. To ensure that all involved really feel there is a personality at the other end of the line, we have to know each other more personally than perhaps a standardised profile or 3-line blurb encourages. And more importantly - we have to allow time for interactions to develop based on these profiles.
Another factor is that an online course often becomes something on top of our daily demands, and the distractions are an issue when compared to being in a space where each person is focused on the same thing at the same time. As the course took place (for the most part) over my school break, I thought that would be a bonus but it was far from the case. In the midst of hosting, participating in day trips and generally trying to focus on family time, I found the course rather inconveniently-timed. While I might have decided that 6pm would be a good time to sit down and catch up on the discussions, it did not necessarily follow that there would be anything for me to read or respond to as our asynchronous communication involved people stretched maximally across the world's time zones. Participants did not log in every day - presumably fitting it around their schedules - so there was a fair lag when it came to the pace of talk.
In any case, I did manage to build a decent foundation for launching the course, but I am sure that it will be in the practice of leading it that the real learning will kick in. It's a challenge I look forward to, but I must admit that I am very relieved that we do have a team of teachers in the school so we can collaborate, discuss and plan face-to-face.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Vodburner - Record Skype Calls

This program is free for a limited time only for both Mac and PC so get yours while you can. I intend to use it to record virtual author visits and for recording sessions with schools across the globe. No doubt there are many more applications both personal and academic so click here to download.

Friday, 26 July 2013

TOK Category 1 Course

Today's the first day of the online PD workshop for the Theory of Knowledge IBDP course. Looking at the participants, we certainly are a varied bunch so I'm looking forward to some stimulating discussions and getting my head around the content and delivery of this very exciting course.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Differentiation with EAL Learners

In my last post, I talked about the '(re)discovery' of differentiation and the huge impact its had in my classroom. This time I focus on the specific approaches that have worked for me in differentiating vocabulary instruction in mixed-ability classes with EAL (English as an Additional Language) learners.

When I started in my current (international) post, I considered a big plus point in my favour was my history of TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language).

At first, I was confident that my knowledge of language and experiences in teaching at all levels of English language proficiency would see me through. Plus, I had dealt with EAL learners in the regular classroom before, so how hard could it be? Answer: very. I began by incorporating language starters to my lessons, but soon realised that the learners I had from countries where Standard English was the norm were not benefiting. They enjoyed the interactive activities and no doubt their language 'awareness' was improving, but they had other learning needs that these language activities were taking much-needed attention from. 

So, like any teacher who realises an approach isn't working, I switched tactics. 

The first key was vocabulary; something I was well aware of. I often preceded receptive (reading and listening) with an activity to focus on the key vocabulary. This might include (much sweated over) diversions as vocabulary Jeopardy, team quizzes, matching activities, 'find the person with the definition of your word' etc - in other words, all good TPR, tried-and-tested TEFL activities that I knew could work. Learners were enthusiastic during the activities, diligently adding to their vocabulary records and then using that record to support their reading or listening later in the lesson. Success? Well, only partial. While learners were able to access texts more readily in the given lesson, long-term gains were less evident. As learners were almost always working collaboratively, it was difficult to gauge individual learners' comprehension with such methods. Furthermore, a few weeks later when encountering the same key vocabulary I could see that some learners had not deeply learned the words and were, at times, even failing to recognise that they'd ever encountered them before. (Sound familiar?)

Time for reflection.

What I had done was identify the words I felt my learners would struggle with and then introduced them in advance so they would be able to navigate the spoken or written text later in the lesson. I had lumped the essential key words (crucial for learning the concepts of the unit) with the non-essential words (that are 'nice to know' but not key to the unit in general). So back to the bookshelf. My readings introduced me to the tool of Frayer models - so named for Dorothy Frayer who designed them; it is a template in which learners write the word in the middle of a grid, record a definition (in their own words), illustrate and exemplify it and finally record non-examples. See some examples here

Dr Robyn Jackson (Supporting Struggling Students with Rigorous Instruction) also importantly points out that the key vocabulary must be revisited through activities and exposure in texts in order for learners to learn them deeply and add words to their working vocabulary. Providing opportunities for the learners to encounter these words again allowed me to use those activities that I feared I would have to discard (the hours to be lost!), but I had to go further and ensure that I provided opportunities for the learners to meet them again in context as many times as possible over the following weeks. I could support my EAL learners by honing down the content to the absolute essentials and add in the 'nice to knows' to extend learners that were ready for it. Interestingly, EAL learners might be in the latter group meaning that they too have the opportunity to work at their own level of readiness. I could check learners' comprehension individually by checking their Frayer models and encourage revision until mastery was attained (at least on paper - we all know vocabulary acquisition is not as straightforward as a marking on a page). Great all round, but I can improve further. One mistake I made was to introduce as many as 12 terms in one lesson; on reflection, I think 4-6 items is enough for most learners to avoid the whole session being about completing worksheets. I also directed learners to use dictionaries to find their definitions whereas advice from one of our EAL specialists (having read Marzano, 2009)  suggested that this be avoided. Rather, it is more useful that I provide a story or other vocal illustration of the word in context. (Note to self: recording this on video would allow me to add this to a bank of self-access resources for future use; involve learners in the creation of such videos once they've mastered particular terms.)

It will take time to hone and perfect this method in my practice and evidence the results, but sometimes you don't need reams of statistics to see the inherent sense in certain approaches, and this is perhaps one of those times. With the various manipulations of the word involved in the Frayer model, it has to help in basic retention and repeated encounters with the vocabulary facilitates meaning-making in a variety of contexts. A subsequent poll among my learners indicated that 100% felt they had learned something useful from this activity and there's little more encouraging than such resounding confidence that learning was indeed taking place.


Jackson, Robyn, Dr. "Supporting Struggling Students with Rigorous Instruction." Lecture. Vocabulary. 15 May 2013. Knowledge Delivery Systems. Mindsteps. Web.

Marzano, Robert J. "The Art and Science of Teaching / Six Steps to Better Vocabulary Instruction." Educational Leadership 67.1 (2009): 83-84. Web. 10 May 2013. <>.


Friday, 7 June 2013

Real Differentiation

Do you ever feel that you were cheated by your initial teacher training? Some of us are unlucky enough to have felt that way while still on our training courses, while others had to wait until they were in the field to reflect on the essential tools they were never introduced to. For sure, developing mastery in teaching comes with experience, but one particular feature of teaching that I am constantly surprised at the lack of attention to is differentiation
I was among the more enthusiastic learners in my teacher training cohort and yet I graduated with the very puzzling impression that differentiation meant double - or even triple - planning. How this was to be achieved, it was suggested, we would figure out along the way. When staggering under the workload of heavy timetables, constant (and rather pointless) administration, challenging (euphemism!) student behaviour and constantly shifting curriculum, I could only be thankful that at least my classes were streamed and there was a comprehensive bank of tried-and-tested unit plans that I could dip into.
Years later in the context of mixed-ability classrooms (which I now firmly believe in), I finally started to realise what differentiation is and, more importantly, what it is not. As already pointed out by others, differentiation is not about planning more, but planning differently.
For those interested in readings, Tomlinson and Marzano are really the anchor starting points and they very helpfully provide concrete examples across a range of ages and disciplines. Since implementing suggestions from these heavyweights (among others) I no longer 'teach to the middle' and have evidence of real gains among my learners. Those that I worried about not being challenged enough indicate in their reflections and feedback that they thoroughly enjoy the new 'intellectual stretching' on offer, while those who tragically became used to failure as part and parcel of their classroom experience are visibly excited to progress from one task to the next.
Admittedly, it is not a panacea - no one strategy alone can be in my opinion - but getting my head around this not-so-complex methodology has given me practical strategies to reach every learner every time. Not only does it build on my philosophy of 'voice and choice' in learning, but it also makes the whole concept of personalised learning manageable.
In the interest of developing discussion particular to my teaching context of English (Language Arts), I have created an Edmodo group which can be joined by clicking here.
For those looking for some practical strategies, I cannot recommend the Dare to Differentiate wiki highly enough as a source of practical resources that get you started within the hour, but I provide the link with a caveat: take some time to read the literature around differentiation first because otherwise you may not see the value of the tools you find. It was certainly my reading that opened my eyes to the employment of known materials (such as graphic organisers) in new ways.
If you, like me, had considered differentiation as something that you perhaps already did as well as could be expected, take a second look: you might find something new to enhance your own ideas and add to your teaching toolkit, and with it a renewed vigour in your classroom.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Voice and Choice in Practice

The Flat Classroom project asked me to reflect on giving learners choice and you can read about my previous thoughts here.
Today, I took it one stage further with a Year 8 (Grade 7) group that have explicitly focused on increasing learner autonomy throughout the year. Although a rather extreme idea, I decided that I would start with a blank canvas when approaching a 2-week unit on poetry. It was experimental, it was risky but in the end - it was very much worthwhile.
We started off by adding our thoughts to the stem 'Poetry...' and posting our ideas on a blank wall. We then took some of the most pertinent ideas from the statements produced and placed ourselves on a continuum of agreement or disagreement. As we talked about why we'd chosen particular locations along the scale, further questions were generated which we recorded on a large whiteboard. Following this, the learners divided into 3 groups:

  • Group 1 looked at the  Assessment Focus grids for English and - considering our notes - picked out those most relevant to our unit with annotations of how these would address our questions.
  • Group 2 used question stems based on Bloom's Taxonomy to formulate higher order questions to address our enquiries.
  • Group 3 considered the learning that the group had indicated needed to take place and the activities through which this could happen or be demonstrated. 
After a flexible time limit, the groups explained the task to those who would rotate onto their station and we repeated the process until everyone had contributed to all three strands:  the results were much better than I had expected. A colleague was observing the lesson as a critical friend and commented on the engagement, maturity and level of challenge that the group had set themselves. A concern of mine was ensuring rigour balanced with engagement (a goal I set here) and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the learners really did focus on the learning, rather than the hi-tech, low-learning activities they often crave. Their discussions at the conceptual level went as far as touching on the question What is art? and the beneficial mental sweating was visible - with not a gimmick, game or laptop in sight.
What this experiment has taught me is that a staggered release of responsibility in a structured framework really can lead to higher expectations and outcomes for learners. They used their well-developed skills of teamwork, collaboration and critical thinking to achieve a solid learning plan that they can now take complete ownership of. How this will correspond to the levels of engagement and sustained interest in the face of a pretty challenging learning experience remains to seen, but it's been a great start and one that I look forward to seeing develop.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Never Work Harder Than Your Students?

Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn R Jackson: who could resist such a  title? And despite the seemingly impossible name, the advice this book contains is actually a common sense approach to ensuring that ownership of learning resides with those it should: the learners. It is not an encouragement to shirk or shortcut, but rather a tool to use time more efficiently and effectively. While much of the advice is not new, there are important reminders about the consistency of implementing strategies and a recognition of the practical difficulties that can distract us from what we know are effective methods. 
Being able to facilitate learning among all learners all the time is undoubtedly a holy grail of teaching, and this read offered me a way to systematically work toward this and still have something of a life. Being able to get the balance between time spent in lessons and time spent planning lessons has been a massive challenge for me, and there are various techniques that I have developed over the years to try and address this. Some of these techniques are a direct effort to get the work-life balance that we all seek, but many of them came naturally from the adoption of an enquiry-based approach where the emphasis is where it should be: on learning rather than teaching.
This reading coupled with departmental reflections have given me ideas about how I can move my practice forward to really achieve the goal of 'no child left behind.'

Tracking Progress
It was reassuring to read from Jackson that approaches I have adopted are not short-changing my learners, but I can also see that I can do a lot better in the area of tracking progress for each and every individual. Our department already uses AfL strategies centred on the Assessment Focus grids from the UK National Curriculum for English. Although they are useful and I agree with the philosophy behind them, I have found using them onerous and time-consuming in a classroom of such diverse levels and where time is precious. 

Occasionally, I also see that learners don't really understand how to use the rubrics to pinpoint where they are or what they are moving toward, so I revert to more traditional assessment methods (such as longer written pieces) which I then spend hours of 'home' time marking and commenting on. This takes the emphasis off my learners and onto my feedback: I've definitely been working harder than my students in this respect, so it's time for a change.

Allocating sufficient time at the start of the year to introducing the tracking system to learners is key; this isn't a new idea or practice but perhaps I have rushed through this in a bid to 'get on with' the curriculum. Furthermore, and essentially, I now recognise the need to have much more regular and instructional discussions around formative assessment to ensure that learners are competent in handling the feedback they receive. Concrete steps to take with my learners:

  • Allow for 2 weeks at the start of the year to setting up and understanding e-portfolios. Explore methods of identifying levels and learning goals in a very clear and concrete way, looking ahead to self- and peer-assessment.
  • Document how to use feedback received from any source to track and set learning goals so there is always help when learners need it.
  • Ensure AFs are never far from our focus, even on more creative or abstract projects.
  • In long-term planning, have a clear idea of when there are learning opportunities for particular AFs  and - importantly - when they will be revisited for development and progress tracking.
With each group, we have a classroom of up to 24 learners spread across 5 National Curriculum levels, including learners with specific and non-specific learning needs and EAL. Designing lesson time that not only meets the needs of every learner but actually moves them forward has been mind-bogglingly difficult and incredibly time-consuming. Sure, English lends itself to plenty of open-ended tasks, but what about when we just need to get down the nitty-gritty of mastering particular skills rather than demonstrating them? I admit to having days where I feel some learners are not being challenged; they engage with the activities and perhaps feel they are 'practising' skills but I want more than that - I want them to walk out of the room at the end of the week and assuredly identify what they couldn't do last week that they now can; what they didn't know or understand last week but now have discovered or internalised. It's not enough that they had fun and 'practised [our] team-working skills again' - not because such skills aren't essential (they are!), but because we can achieve more. It's an ambitious goal, but if learner reflections tell me we've got there, I can be sure that we have a rigorous learning environment indeed. To do this, Jackson suggests something very scary: I have to sacrifice at least some of those great activities that have learners sighing to see the lesson end and replace them with very learning-focused activities. At first, I felt trepidation going back to look at previous units of work, but after a review, I realised it's not such a big task. I already have very concrete learning outcomes for each lesson, so it's more a matter of refinement than complete revision - relief! So, the steps:
  • Ensure each learner has the opportunity to work on personalised learning goals every lesson (as far as possible). There will be a general focus area based on an AF for reading, writing or speaking and from our Key Competencies, but through rubrics and learning conversations, learners will be clear about how they will move forward in any given lesson.
  • As we embark upon activities, be more consistent and specific in identifying the expected learning and subsequently take time to reflect on (non/) achievement

So this is enough in terms of my own learning goals for now and I'm excited to see if these steps will lead to meaningful change. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Embed Voki in Google Sites

An issue I am often asked about is how to embed Vokis into Google Sites. Another recent query finally prompted me to create a 'how to' document and here it is:

Friday, 18 January 2013

Why the Silence?

You may have noticed that I have not been updating this blog as frequently as usual over the last few months, for which I apologise. Unsurprisingly, the reason is time. Between family and work, there just aren't as many minutes  to write posts as I'd like. So, if you've been missing out on new edtech tools in particular, go across to Twitter and follow me @iTeachTweets

As it takes mere seconds to share resources on there, I am more inclined to post on a daily basis. I employ the usual hashtags, but in addition tag on #idiscoveriteach for easier sifting. Have a look at who I'm following too for some great resources on a daily (hourly) basis. And if you haven't yet discovered the wonder of Twitter, I encourage you to get in - it's a gateway to the best quality education discussions and resources in existence - apart from this blog of course ;p

DoppleMe: Create Free Avatars

DoppleMe allows you to create a head-to-toe avatar and customise it as you please. There are limited options for those who do not register, but enough to create a decent figure. For those who do register (for free), you can save and edit your avatar and get access to a wider range of features.

I recently used this site for my learners to create personalised avatars for interactions with other schools. For those who have concerns about learners putting their faces on the Internet, this is a safe option.
Another use that comes to mind is creating characters for storytelling. Using Michael Gorman's lesson plan for the 'one take video' I could see how these avatars could be exploited to create characters.