Bitmoji Education

Love it or hate it, the app of Bitmoji has worked it’s way into education and particularly into distance learning.  From “digital” stickers for feedback to entire Google Slide Classrooms with doors to other rooms, Bitmoji is everywhere.  Bitmojis are dancing, pointing and fainting all over educational platforms.  Confession time?  I’m on the love it team and I’ll tell you why.

Bitmoji allows for a personal and creative touch to things that we share with others.  When I create short Google Slide presentations for students they are surprised to see my Bitmoji in the corners of my presentation.  Some think it is truly “geeky” but many students appreciate the effort at making the presentation a little more fun. Not having to put my real profile photo on something and being able to add a Bitmoji instead provides a small layer of privacy.  I began to make virtual, interactive classrooms on Google Slides and soon realized design and creating something so personal was a throw back to the many hours I spent playing with Barbies as a kid.  It was like planning to remodel my kitchen but without any cost what so ever.  It doesn’t feel like work.  It feels like play.  115,000 members on the “Bitmoji Craze for Educators” Facebook page all agree that it is a type of escapism and the membership grows daily.

Colleague Deanna Palmer and I created a webinar workshop for our fellow teachers about how to use Bitmoji to add some Pop to distance learning.  In the webinar we included a step-by-step slide show for educators to take away.  Find it here: Using Bitmoji to Make Virtual Learning Pop

Like with any popular craze or fad there are those who don’t or won’t buy in.  Some teachers are reluctant because they are conscious of their digital footprint-especially since in order to create the animated virtual reality Bitmojis you need to have a Snap Chat Account.  Some teachers don’t think that their students will want to see their teacher’s cartoon face all over everything in their classroom.  I can appreciate that it isn’t for everyone.  I am well aware that making learning “fun” or “cute” doesn’t make it deep or engaging.  However, if a picture can be worth a thousand words and Bitmoji can express precisely what we are feeling.  Using a Bitmoji might resonate with a colleague or student and just might make them smile. If that is what my little Bitmoji avatar does, then it was worth it.

 

Technology in the Classroom – an Interesting Perspective

As schools are spending more to have technology more accessible to classrooms, the time students spend on computers is increasing.  In the past, I’d  never really had access to computers. The one I had in my classroom (when I had one) was so slow and dysfunctional it was basically useless. This year, one of the homeroom classrooms where I taught rotary French was also where the mobile computer lab was stored. My biggest management issue with that class revolved around the never ending battle of getting the kids off of the computers who would try to sneak the labtops in their desks at any given opportunity. I’ve never seen a group of students who were so eager to use Wordreference.com. This constant access to computers actually became a real addiction problem for a couple of students who were literally, always in front of a computer screen (and one can assume that it was the same at home). Forget computers, phones are the new device of choice! Despite being banned for use at school, teachers spent more time arguing and confiscating phones than ever before.

It was with great interest that I read the NY Times article “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” that was forwarded to me by a fellow teacher. Although it was written in 2011, I found it really interesting in light of the situation I just described. In a nutshell, the author writes about a school in Silicon Valley where 3/4 of the students have parents who work in the upper echelons of the giant tech companies like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard. As a Waldorf school, the emphasis is placed on physical activity and learning through creative hands-on approach. The use of computers is banned at school and are even discouraged at home because it is thought that they discourage “creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.”

It goes on to elaborate on the debate about the role of computers in education with proponents saying that not equipping students with technology to better compete in the modern world would be irresponsible. The article aslo mentions advocates stating that children who grew up with electronic devices at their fingertips simply won’t be engaged without them. The Waldorf parents argue that teaching is a human experience and that “real engagement comes from great teachers with interesting lesson plans.”

The article frequently references one parent in particular, Alan Eagle, educated with a computer science degree and the director of communications at Google.  His daughter is in Grade 5 and doesn’t know how to use google but according to him, technology has its time and place.  He states, “If I worked at Miramax amade good, artsy R rated movies, I wouldn’t want my kid to see them until they were 17.” Further, the technology is “brain dead easy as possible'” and that he sees no reason why kids cant figure it out when they get older. Interestingly enough, California is home to 40 Waldorf schools (a disproportionate share) and the neighbouring Waldorf schools to the one featured in the article are also heavily populated by students whose are in the high tech industry. It makes you wonder that if these people, the creators of the technology of today, are that opposed to their own children having access to it in their own lives, perhaps we need to consider how much children are exposed to in our own classes…