Bitmoji: An unlikely teaching tool…

Bringing learning to life during school closures

June 23, 2020

Bitmoji: An unlikely teaching tool engages and entertains

What do teachers do when they can’t be in the classroom? Go to the next best thing, of course, a replica of the classroom through an unlikely new teaching tool, Bitmoji.

April Aelick, an intermediate teacher at Little Current Public School, first saw chatter about Bitmoji on a Facebook group. Teachers were creating digital versions of themselves and inserting them into their slideshows to create a virtual version of their classrooms.

The little avatars could jump, dance, even give words of encouragement to students while they completed the day’s lesson. A light bulb went off and April Aelick decided to recreate her classroom with a Bitmoji avatar of herself.

“I’ve had to rethink how I teach and how to deliver content to my Grade 8s. By making my virtual classrooms more interactive, student engagement increased,” she said.

“I think it makes it more personable and gives the students a sense of familiarity. I even asked students to share their own Bitmoji avatars with me and I use them throughout the slideshow.”

Using Bitmoji has allowed her to get creative with how she delivers her lessons. Her avatar takes students on virtual field trips to places like Parliament Hill, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, and Canada’s Wonderland. She also created a virtual library where she links to free audiobooks and podcasts. And in every slideshow, she has five hidden objects for students to find for a chance to win a prize.

Northeastern Elementary School primary teacher Nicki Fortin also used Bitmoji to deliver her lessons, and found that it had an unexpected advantage.

One of the challenges she faced with distance learning was meeting the different learning needs of students. Bitmoji allowed her to create more than one virtual classroom to customize activities for students the way she would at school.

“It has really helped students with modified programs,” she says. “I was able to make a Math classroom and then change up activities for students who were working on a completely different expectation. In Math, I had students working on unit rates in one classroom and then students working with money in another.”

It also allowed for more cross-curricular integration. In her literacy lessons, she could include elements of Social Studies and Science. She could also include multiple options, from hands-on tasks, to photo essays, and written assignments. Having options kept learning flexible and allowed students to build on their strengths.

She also used her Bitmoji avatar to guide her students through their work.

“With distance learning, you’re not there to give a gentle tap on a desk as a reminder to stay focused,” she says. “At the end of each task, I was able to include a Bitmoji of myself telling students ‘Stop!’, ‘Go Back’, ‘You are done’, or ‘Awesome work today!’. It gave students immediate feedback and motivation.”

Bitmoji has also allowed teachers to be extra creative and come up with unique assignments for students. Algonquin Road Public School primary teacher Lee Bilec came up with a project using her Bitmoji based on the book Flat Stanley called the Flat Ms. Bilec Project.

“I mailed each student a laminated version of my Bitmoji (Flat Ms. Bilec) and included a poem, asking them to take me on an adventure,” she says. “My students took me on so many adventures! I went kayaking, camping, ate cake, jumped in the water, bounced on a trampoline, dove on a slip and slide, swam in a fish tank, and so much more!”

She says Bitmoji has allowed her to reconnect with her students in a fun and creative way.

“I included my Bitmojis in morning messages and emails to parents and students,” she says. “I used Bitmojis as stickers to compliment student work. I even created a Bitmoji countdown to the end of the year. Using bitmojis in a variety of ways allowed me to connect to my students and make us feel like a class again!”