How to Find Your Avatar
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Jim Sturtevant, longtime educator and author of the You Gotta Connect and forthcoming Hacking Engagement: 50 Tips and Tools to Engage All Learners, says teachers and parents need to understand kids’ avatars.

What’s an avatar? If you’re thinking about the cool 2009 mega hit James Cameron movie, you’re cold. If you envision an animated icon, representing your 13-year-old in a game of Roblox, you’re warming up.

Gamers choose an avatar to represent them in cyberspace. They choose the avatar, based on how they envision themselves.

Sturtevant employs the concept of the avatar in his classroom, encouraging students to answer personal questions on an anonymous survey, in order to discover their “real” avatar, or exactly who they are both in and out of school.

Audible from Hack Learning

Sturtevant tells Hack Learning that he learned this concept from famous podcaster John Lee Dumas, whose EOFire consistently ranks near the top of the iTunes charts.

In an interview with Rich Brooks of, Dumas said this about the subject:

Your avatar is your targeted demographic that allows you to focus exactly on the people that benefit most from your message. Once you know who that person is, it allows your business to find its direction and become a magnet that people are drawn to.

According to Jim Sturtevant, if we can apply the avatar concept to kids, we may better understand them.

What You Can Do Tomorrow

The avatar concept is a bit more abstract than our typical content, but you can still apply the Hack Learning approach to finding your avatar with this simple What-You-Can-Do-Tomorrow strategy.

While you can use any polling tool, or even create your own on paper and distribute it to students, Sturtevant recommends the interactive survey tool, SurveyMonkey.

Selling the idea of the avatar to kids is easy when you expand the concept to what they already know–the digital world. So, create a simple poll on SurveyMonkey, like the one pictured below. Supply easy-to-understand responses (the first three questions in Sturtevant’s “Student Engagement Avatar” survey require only a Yes or No answer. This survey is interactive, quick, and easy. Plus, students can respond on their smartphones or tablets, which they love.

You can set up your survey to show all replies, so your students will quickly begin to understand your class avatar–the typical student (if such a thing exists). This can spark some fascinating discussion about the group and its needs, both academically and personally.

Avatar survey -- Hack Learning

Jim Sturtevant’s Avatar Survey via Survey Monkey

Pro Tip: Run your avatar survey daily over a one-week period, using Twitter’s Poll feature. This is super fast, and kids love Twitter. Be sure to add a unique hashtag that identifies your group. Something like #Sturtevant1 might represent a 1st-period class.

Learn more about this avatar concept in the Hack Learning Podcast episode embedded above.

Find Jim Sturtevant on Twitter @jamessturtevant and on his website here.

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Author: Hack Learning Team

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