Guest post by ExoLab-8 Astro_moji Mission Specialist Lisa Turney
Students didn’t expect to see me as a cartoon character in a digital classroom. Yet with Bitmoji classroom, this technology tool has brought tremendous engagement despite a challenging year in education.
While schools were shut down during the last part of the school year, I actually thrived on distance learning. Since I love bringing technology into the classroom, I began soaking up any new technology, apps, or programs to help make student learning more engaging.
Physical Classroom to Digital Classroom
I learned about the Bitmoji App and it’s connections to the classroom towards the end of the 2019-20 school year. The Bitmoji Craze for Educators group on Facebook really piqued my interest in using Bitmoji classrooms. With so many educators posting wonderful ideas, the creative wheels in my head began turning.
The fun of my physical classroom transformed into an interactive cartoon-like scene with my Bitmoji, images, text, video, and more embedded in a slide deck. My digital avatar guides students through assignments, brings learning outside to exciting locations around the world, or even travels in space. When I digitally redecorate, the new features are a conversation starter. The digitized classroom has become a tool for deeper student exploration.
Since I am pretty tech savvy, I taught myself how to do create these digital classrooms. Of course, if you don’t know how to do something, YouTube most likely already has a video about it. [Check out the Bitmoji Craze for Educators YouTube Channel to get started.]
Suiting Up to Become the Astro_moji
When Bitmoji released new space-themed stickers, I created a classroom slide with my avatar holding a plant and floating on the International Space Station (ISS). Students click on images and text to learn about root nodulation in legume plants as part of the ExoLab-8 mission. I submitted this space-themed classroom slide to apply for the Magnitude.io ExoLab-8 Astro_moji Mission Specialist position. I was thrilled to be chosen for this special role!
The kids love seeing “me” in a space suit ready to make the trip to the ISS. I can’t wait for them to see my Astro_moji sticker on the ExoLab floating on the ISS and then an astronaut loading it into the Space Tango experiment locker. As the virtual teacher in space, I’ll transform distance learning to an orbital classroom 250 miles above the planet.
These exploration “classrooms” work well for me and my students, especially when jumping back and forth between on site and remote learning. By setting up and sharing through slides, Bitmoji classrooms are visually pleasing and easy to follow. Students stick with the assignment no matter their location.
Where can we explore?
As another example, for a bell-ringer on the first day of school, students logged attendance through a fun Bimoji classroom slide. Then, they had the opportunity to explore a ‘get to know me’ (and my Bitmoji) activity.
This activity was a simple clickable picture that had my Bitmoji at her school locker. Since I love science, my locker had rocks, seismograph, weather photos, and space shuttle models to name a few things. The clickable objects were tied to my favorite science websites. Students really enjoyed exploring them to learn about hurricanes, weather, earthquakes, and space.
While I had planned a 5-minute activity, students were so interested that we spent half the class discussing all the cool science websites. This activity sparked so many high level questions. I just had to take the time to let kids naturally explore. The ideas are endless in how teachers can use this technology.
If I would have placed websites in a file and instructed kids to visit them, the lesson would have fallen flat. Without a doubt, students enjoy “seeing” me do funny poses and make funny faces as a Bitmoji. This personal connection brings smiles and laughter, which are needed medicine for the emotional toll of the pandemic.
A mission of engagement
Bitmoji classrooms connect with students in a fun way that inspires curiosity. This simple technology tool drives them to ask more questions.
With my Astro_moji preparing for the Feb. 20 launch, I hope you will join us for the ExoLab-8 mission and bring your students along on this virtual field trip to the ISS. Let’s make this the year that they remember going (virtually) to space.
Lisa Turney is in her 13th year as a K-12 educator and 15th year as an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Missouri ‒ Kansas City. She has a Bachelors of Science degree in Atmospheric Science and a Master’s degree in Teaching. A self-described science nerd, she teaches at Linwood Elementary, located west of Kansas City, KS in the Basehor-Linwood School District 458.