It’s a Bitmoji world. Why some teachers are turning to cartoons to help with virtual learning

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Teachers in central Indiana are using creativity and technology to help ease students back into a school year full of uncertainty.

While some schools are kicking off the year with in-person learning, others are pushing back start dates or offering hybrid solutions of both in-person and virtual learning.

But there’s one thing most teachers agree on.

“This is going to be a new world,” said Stevie Frank.

Frank is a 5th grade teacher at Zionsville West Middle School who will be teaching between 10-30 students virtually depending on the day.

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“Our students went through a lot in the spring with the switch to virtual learning happening immediately,” Frank adds.

Frank also says she recognizes it has been a tough summer with quarantine and Indianapolis facing a string of protests and riots over the death of George Floyd.

That’s why Frank and other teachers have turned to the world of bitmojis.

“These are cartoons! What a fun way to engage with my students. They are already texting bitmojis and emojis so why not do something that’s already engaging them,” said Jake DeWitt who teaches 3rd grade at Robey Elementary School.

DeWitt is teaching his roughly 20 students in person this fall but says he started creating his bitmoji classroom over the summer.

“I didn’t know and still don’t know what is going to happen. So, I wanted to create something that made e-learning more fun if we had to go back to an all-virtual classroom,” DeWitt adds.

Bitmojis are a cartoon version of a person made to look like an avatar. They’ve been around since 2007 and gained popularity after Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc. bought the original app making more room for integration across various social media.

The bitmoji classroom is available on such educational platforms as Google and Canvas. From this new world, students can click on icons and images directing them to assignments, videos and even personalized grades.

“I can change my bitmoji to reflect how I am feeling, which I think our kiddos really need right now,” DeWitt said.

It’s a sentiment shared by Frank.

“I know you can’t see me at home, you see the mask or you see me looking down. I wanted my students to be able to log in and say, ‘this is Mrs. Frank, I know her!'” Frank added.

Neither Frank nor DeWitt have tested out their new bitmoji classrooms on actual students yet, but are confident it will help them learn by keeping their attention.

“Now, I plan on adding bitmojis of my students so we can interact with each other,” added DeWitt.