5 Reasons why teachers love the Bitmoji Classroom (Featuring the Founder of Facebook group “Bitmoji Craze for Educators”, Dr. Allatesha Cain)


The Bitmoji. They are personalised emojis that look like you. Bitmojis have been around for a while, yet, recently in the teaching community, the Bitmoji craze has absolutely blown up!

Teachers love Bitmoji! Some teachers even pay out of pocket for Bitmoji stickers to reward their students! Teachers from around the world are using Bitmoji and sharing their creative uses with others online.

In recent news, Facebook released their own Bitmoji-like avatars in the US!

What is the Bitmoji Classroom?

The Bitmoji Classroom is a virtual classroom space created on Google Slides using cartoon avatars from the Bitmoji app to enhance the teaching and learning experience. Teachers are using Bitmoji to make virtual classrooms, Google Classroom banners and even animated 2D & 3D Bitmoji creations!

We are just seeing the beginning!

My Virtual Bitmoji Classroom

Click on the Bitmoji Classroom to dive into my virtual classroom!

Watch this video to learn how to make your own Bitmoji Classroom. The video also briefly reviews how you can make a Google Classroom banner and animation.

Bitmoji Classroom Tutorial

5 Reasons why teachers love the Bitmoji Classroom

#1 Well-being

Currently, teachers are being put through a great amount of stress to ensure that students don’t slip through the cracks during distance learning. Creating a Bitmoji Classroom is a surprisingly therapeutic and enjoyable experience for many teachers. Maybe its the personal touches and limitless customisations that you can do!

#2 Promotes a supportive learning environment

Students and teachers (as well as parents) have been abruptly thrown into the deep end with distance learning. Many of us are feeling anxious during this time of school closures. It is comforting for students to see their teachers (even in animated form!). Some teachers have even recreated their actual classroom into a virtual Bitmoji classroom! (Chairs, tables, boards, banners… The lot!) This helps students feel a sense of normalcy, in an otherwise quite rapidly changing learning environment.

#3 Engagement

Teachers know just how important it is to engage their students. Teachers recognise that using many short activities (as opposed to one large activity) can help to engage students in their learning. The Bitmoji Classroom allows teachers to organise activities in a creative and fun way. For example, some teachers use the cover page of a book which when clicked leads to an audiobook for students to listen to. Students love to see, discover and find the treasures that their teachers has hidden for them!

#4 Visually appealing

We are all visual beings! The Bitmoji Classroom can be as colourful and visually aesthetic as you want it to be. This helps with student engagement, which is one of the biggest challenges of distance education.

#5 Sharing with the online teacher community

There has been a huge amount of online engagement with teachers sharing their Bitmoji ideas on Facebook, Youtube and Instagram. With more time spent at home, teachers are able to reflect on their professional craft and learn new skills. Teachers are turning to social media for learning and sharing ideas. Each new idea inspires the next!

Take the Facebook group, The Bitmoji Craze for Educators for example.

The group grew to an astonishing 45K members in 3 weeks!

Dr. Allatesha Cain
Founder of Facebook group, The Bitmoji Craze for Educators

Join one of the fastest growing Bitmoji teaching communities

There is a rapidly growing Facebook group called The Bitmoji Craze for Educators founded by Dr. Allatesha Cain. She had paid close attention to Instructional Technology and Distance Education during her doctorate program. Thank you to Dr. Allatesha Cain for sharing her thoughts with us about the Bitmoji teacher phenomenon.

Q1. What has the Bitmoji Educator Craze been like?

I’m proud to be the founder of Bitmoji Craze for Educators, however, our page belongs to all educators. Professionals from all over the world, with varying technological skills, collaborate to showcase and share ideas on how to create virtual classrooms that are appealing and engaging for students. The group grew to an astonishing 45K members in 3 weeks! I would not be able to handle a group of this magnitude without our amazing team, Tairia Denson, Jillian Graham, Lisa Mazariego, Carissa Stewart and Gin Peterson.

Q2. Why do you think educators love it so much?

I think educators love Bitmoji Craze for Educators because we find joy in creating colourful and engaging virtual atmospheres for our students. We want to make their online learning experiences as fun and educational as possible. Some educators shared that our page is a pleasant distraction from the global pandemic… it brings them joy to create their virtual classrooms.

Q3. What are your favourite and most creative things you’ve seen educators do?

It’s hard to pick! All of the creations are OUTSTANDING!

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Share your Bitmoji ideas

Some Bitmoji Ideas shared on The Bitmoji Craze for Educators this past week:

  • A parent who created a Bitmoji classroom as an appreciation gift for his son’s teacher
  • Featuring students in your Bitmoji Classroom
  • Class photos & Staff photos
  • “Where’s Wally” digital poster using staff members
  • School Graduation walk (requires animation)

The creation ideas are limited to the imagination! If you haven’t started your Bitmoji adventure, click here to learn how to make a Bimoji Classroom. Share your Bitmoji ideas & continue to learn with all the wonderful teachers around the world.

Best of luck & stay safe!

How to use 3 Types of Learner Interactions in Online Learning


In February 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UAE region, amongst many areas, causing nation-wide school closures. Teachers began flooding online to research, collaborate, train-up and gear-up to fight for quality distance education delivery that each and every student has a right to. Edtech companies were supporting teachers by waiving fees to their services. Telecom companies were working rigorously to ensure their severs don’t burn, due to the wave of teachers and students hopping on to video-conferencing apps.

Flashback to last year when I had the pleasure of team teaching with a brilliant individual who taught me about See Think Wonder. I would describe this teaching strategy as the cool cousin of the traditional, yet still very popular Think Pair Share.

The best way to learn is to do so let’s do it!

Take a look at this photo.

Answer the following questions about the photo.

  1. What do you see?
  2. What does it make you think?
  3. What does it make you wonder?

Here are my responses.

  1. I see a person smiling whilst writing in a book and using a laptop.
  2. It makes me think that she is an independent learner who is confident in keeping up with her daily schedule.
  3. It makes me wonder how to make online learning enjoyable for students.

If you could create positive online learning experiences for students, what might that look like?

In the present, after 5 weeks of distance learning, my school has been proactive in implementing a variety of asynchronous and synchronous learning strategies. To make learning enjoyable for our students, we have used clear expectations and a variety of teaching and learning activities that target different types of learner interactions. Since then, we have shifted our focus to student well-being. It is the students who you are teaching that matter. Empathising with our students is more important than ever before.


3 Types of Learner Interactions in Online Learning

Over 30 years ago, Michael Moore published an article describing the 3 types of learner interactions in distance learning! Never has there been a time where this is more relevant!

Here are some examples of how you can apply the 3 learner interactions to create positive learning experiences for your students.

1. Learner-Content

Use Engaging Videos

There are so many awesome Youtube videos out there that you can embed in your lessons. If you don’t like the ones out there, film your own!

I became a YouTuber last month to share my maths videos & become a digital role model to engage my students. SUBSCRIBE to Classnotes to learn more about high school maths & receive free worksheets (I post around 4 per week!). I am of one of many teachers that are using YouTube make our lessons accessible to the public. Click here to access my free guided Maths worksheets.

If you might want to make YouTube videos, I encourage you to start today!

Microsoft PowerPoint/ Google Slides for Instruction

My school first began distance learning with a purely asynchronous approach via PowerPoint and posting them to our learning management system (LMS), Edmodo. We have since adopted the use of live tutorials using Microsoft Teams.

To make your PowerPoint student-friendly, have clear instructions for the students to follow! Many teachers post their daily instructions on their LMS. The reason why I choose to have the instructions in the PowerPoint is to allow students to do a quick final check that they’ve completed all the tasks before closing the PowerPoint for the day.

Below is the first slide of a Year 8 Maths lesson delivered online.

Games & Simulations

Students can explore mathematical ideas through simulations. There are many sites including Geogebra Materials & PhET Simulations. You can also find online maths manipulative from sites such as Toy Theatre.

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2. Learner-Learner

Collaborative Tasks

Set tasks that encourage students to communicate with each other. Google Suite software including Google Docs & Google Slides as well as Microsoft OneNote allow for multiple people to collaborate on the same document. One

In my ICT classes for example, students have been assigned groups and are creating a website using Google Sites. To ensure each member does some work, allocate group tasks as well as individual tasks that students need to complete.

There are a variety of collaborative whiteboards, you may like to adopt such as Jamboard and Ziteboard.

Asynchronous Discussion

In additional to communication posts via your school’s LMS, students can stay connected on communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams. You can also use Edtech tools such as Padlet for students to respond to prompts and comment on each other’s responses.

Prompt in Padlet in Year 8 Maths for the topic Direct Proportion

Edtech Tools

There are some AMAZING educational tools you can use to facilitate learner-learner interactions. A popular tool for Maths is Desmos. It has activities such as Turtle Time Trials that allow students to see how other students have responded to the same question.

Quiz tools such as Quizizz, allow for multi-player functions where students compete with each other whilst answering content-related questions. It also has Learner-Content interactions too where students can use the Flashcards option to revise concepts from the quiz.

For English, Peergrade is an online tool that allows students to peer assess each other’s writing.

Flipgrid is video discussion platform that I have just started to use. It is very friendly to use. For my Year 9 Maths class, students created videos explaining the similarities and differences between Simple Interest & Compound Interest. Whilst in Year 8 Maths, students filmed a video tutorial demonstrating to solve an equation that they created. I am a very big fan of this app because it promotes student voice and autonomy in their learning.

Btw, I’m a fan of Flipgrid badges!

3. Learner-Teacher

Video Conferencing

There are a variety of video conferencing tools. The popular ones are Microsoft Teams & Zoom. You can then hold live Q&A sessions with students to support questions.

Feedback

Feedback is crucial in the teaching and learning sequence. You can use your LMS Assignment Function for students to submit their work. If students are completing their work in their exercise books, which is common in Maths, then have students take a photo of their work and submit it through the digital drop box. Their work can then be graded and typed feedback can be provided.

You can address misconceptions during video conferences or use tools such as Screencastify to film hints and solutions to exercise questions students have trouble with.


Remember, there is no one-fit model for an online classroom. I think that’s the beauty of education. Adopt strategies that suit your style of teaching to engage the three learner interactions in online learning and listen to the feedback from your students!

Thank you for reading!

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Have ideas about how to use the 3 types of learner interactions?

Post in the comment section below to share your ideas! I would love to hear from you.

Engaging educational activities for students learning remotely #COVID-19


Since the beginning of school closures world-wide, I have witnessed the collegiality and raw strength of the online teaching community. Like many others, I have spent more time on Twitter this week than ever before. Teachers from around the world are sharing resource ideas and extending an arm and a leg to help others during today’s global crisis.

How do we engage students?

If students are involved in an asynchronous mode of remote learning, they will not have the presence of a teacher explicitly directing them to complete tasks. Students will need to self-regulate and motivate themselves. To solve this problem, educational technology (edtech) companies gamify learning experiences by using: friendly competition, rewards, milestones and providing positive learning environments. You can also engage your learners by creating authentic learning opportunities that activates their prior knowledge and provides a challenge.

Gamification

If you haven’t already, take a look at 40+ Tools for Distance Learning, where I have listed the best online learning tools I have come across.

Engaging Educational Activities

Below are some student-centred activities that are easy to use and free to implement!

Desmos Global Maths Art Contest

The beauty of the Desmos Global Maths Art Competition is how accessible and incredibly creative the task is! Due to COVID-19, the deadline has been extended, allowing for many students from around the world to participate.

Eligibility: 13-18 years old

Close Date: April 30th, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Competitions are a great way to engage students in authentic learning. Keep your eye out for competitions, global or local, that may be relevant for your students. Many close quite early on in the year! If entering this year is not an option, consider making a class challenge instead or preparing to enter the following year.

Other fun competitions:

Student Blogging Challenge

Recommended ages: 8-16 years old.

The Student Blogging Challenge is an authentic way to learn about publishing content online and connecting with others from around the world. The challenge involves a series of 8 weekly tasks with a focus on blogging and commenting skills.

Other ideas:

Blog
Image by Tumisu on Pixabay

Learn how to code

Create a project for your students to engage with. They can learn to code animations and games or learn robotics.

Scratch has tutorials and an easy to use interface that allows students of all ages to build games. Students can then share their games with their friends to try to get the highest score!

Tynker provides fun coding courses. It has recently been made free for teachers and students affected by school closures.

Explore interactive software

Science and mathematics simulations are awesome learning tools because they are visual and interactive.

  • Mangahigh is a game-based learning platform where students can learn maths.
  • PhET simulations engages students in scientific inquiry through the use of multiple representations. It is intuitive and provides real-world connections.
  • Brainpop has interactive lessons on all subjects. You can request a free access for closed schools.

You can also explore many Virtual Museum Tours!

Create and share revision notes & questions

No time is better than now for students to consolidate their understanding of content that they have been taught during the academic year. Students can create their own questions and send it to their friends. The best tools I have seen for this are Quizlet and Quizziz.

Create & share video content

I have started to make short instructional videos on YouTube for my students who will be learning maths remotely – Classnotes. It requires organisational, tech and speaking skills. Your students can develop all these skills by getting involved in creating video content about what they are learning in class.

Video Ideas:

Video
Image by 200degrees from Pixabay

I hope you have gained a few ideas for your online classes! Choose and adopt ideas creatively in your lessons.

Let’s continue to support our fellow educators by sharing ideas.

Featured Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

40+ Tools for Distance Learning (A response to COVID-19)


All UAE schools are closed for a month as a preventative response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The first two weeks will be Spring break, followed by two weeks of distance learning. Some other countries around the world have temporarily shut down schools including China, Japan, Iran and Korea. The spread of a virus behaves like an exponential function and will likely affect the education of students over the next few months.

How do you implement distance learning?

Distance learning involves students learning remotely, most commonly through the use of online learning platforms. Amidst global economic uncertainty, as an educator there are factors you can control such as equipping yourself with online learning tools to support your students from afar.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of distance learning for students?

Benefits of Distance Learning for students

  • Freedom to study at your own pace
  • You can study anywhere at any time (asynchronous approach)
  • Self-regulation of learning
  • Online learning tools are easy to use
Student studying at home

Disadvantages of Distance Learning for students

  • Chances of distractions are high
  • Easy to lose track of learning schedule
  • Limited face-to-face interaction with classmates and teacher (if any)
  • Learning is limited to Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Quality of learning is restricted

What online tools are available to you?

Here are 40+ tools that can help you create the best distance learning experience for your students.

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

LMS are widely used in schools and allow for efficient communication between teachers and their class. LMS can be used to upload class work, create assignments, create quizzes, track quiz results as well as communicate with students and parents.

Tools include:

Content Presentation

How will you deliver lesson content? Do students have access to an online textbook or will you summarise notes in slides?

Tools include:

Formative Assessments

To review students’ understanding of content, you can embed interactive questions within your slides. This allows you to modify your lessons to ensure you are meeting the needs of your students.

Q&A

Tools include:

Collaboration Tools

Imagine every student in your class contributing to a brainstorm digitally! Simply share a public link for your students to contribute.

Tools include:

Collaboration

Create Instructional Videos

Record your teaching and post them onto your LMS. Be creative!

Tools include:

Live-video Stream

If your school has decided to implement a synchronous approach to learning, where all students are to learn at the same time, these tools are absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you may consider hosting periodic live sessions to answer questions from students.

Live lesson

Quizzes

Students can revise on these sites or create their own quizzes and send it to their peers.

Tools include:

Interactive Maths Learning

Students can compete maths questions online and receive immediate results. Often schools will already be attached to an online maths platform.

Tools include:

Projects/Reflection

Create a project for students to complete. It may include an element of surveying the community, presenting information and reflecting on the task.

Investigation

Tools include:

Recommendations

  • Communicate regularly with your students.
  • Give clear instructions. For each lesson, include learning objectives and instructions for task submission.
  • Organise lessons well and use folders on your LMS.
  • Provide regular feedback on student work. Students can, for example, take photos of their written work and then submit it through their LMS for feedback.
  • Provide student choice e.g. Submit a video demonstrating how you solved a question or create 3 questions of increasing complexity, send it to a friend and peer assess their work.

Support your fellow educators & share your ideas for distance learning!

7 Student-Centred Learning Strategies in Maths


Recently, I have been experimenting with student-centred teaching and learning strategies in Maths class. Student-centred learning is an approach to education that places the learner in an active role in the classroom. The teacher then becomes the facilitator of learning.

I have found that this model of teaching requires a much higher degree of classroom management than traditional methods, however, ripples with immense benefits to the learning culture of the class. There are immediate signs of increased student engagement and autonomy. It is well worth the efforts in planning and implementation. Its success is influenced by the teacher knowing each learner’s needs, managing the classroom effectively and expecting the most from each student in each and every lesson. It is a powerful approach to learning Maths pillared on high expectations and teaching to the highest standard.

Strategy #1: Mini whiteboards

Pros:

  • Mini whiteboards is a common assessment for learning tool that allows the teacher to provide immediate feedback to their students. It can also be used for pair/group activities and student led discussion within the classroom.
  • Students are sometimes reluctant to write their ideas down in their books because of fear of being wrong. This helps break down that barrier.

Tips:

  • Use foam sponges as the eraser. This is more economical long-term.
  • Mini whiteboards are very versatile so be creative! It can be used for students to check their understanding of mathematical concepts, address misconceptions and accelerate the pace of the lesson to allow more time for higher order activities.

Precautions:

  • It can be messy!
  • It requires materials including whiteboard markers, whiteboards and erasers.
  • It is a routine that needs to be taught. Students need to refrain from doodling, drawing on the table etc.

Strategy #2: Visualiser for students to explain their work

Pros:

  • Students love to be at the front of the room showing their work on the visualiser (document camera). The student becomes the Student Expert, i.e. a class leader and instructor.
  • Displaying and deconstructing work on the visualiser allows for best practice to be modelled for students. It can be book work, a good diagram, the layout of a worked solution to a question etc.

Tips:

  • Set up the visualiser to the correct position and relieve your duty at the front of the class to the Student Expert. Place yourself at the back of the room, then allow the student to lead class discussions.

Precautions:

  • The visualiser may require initial testing to ensure that it is focused on the correct area of space.
Visualiser cartoon

Strategy #3: Students model their answer and teach the class

Pros:

  • Students modelling their answers provides opportunity for some students to lead class discussions, others to self-assess their work and for the teacher to address misconceptions and comment on best practice.

Tips:

  • Encourage the Student Expert to ask the class for help for tedious steps (e.g. large multiplications) to accelerate the pace of the explanation.

Precautions:

  • Create a safe and supportive environment where it making mistakes is considered essential to part of the learning process
  • Proactively teach appropriate etiquette e.g. If the Student Expert has made a mistake on the board, students should raise their hand to address the issues instead of calling out.

Strategy #4: Split class into smaller groups to solve harder problems

Pros:

  • Working in smaller groups enables multiple high ability learners to lead discussions.
  • It also encourages social support and student self-regulation, which are skills that are often overlooked in the Maths classroom.

Tips:

  • It is useful to have multiple large whiteboards in the room for this activity.
  • The smaller the groups the better.
  • Consider how the groups will be created. They could be differentiated by ability where lower ability learners are given scaffolds or they can be mixed groups where no scaffolds are given.

Precautions

  • Working collaboratively generally requires a flexible classroom layout where students are able to move to the area in which they are working

Strategy #5: Students to teach alternative methods of working out the same question

alternative methods cartoon

Pros:

  • Comparing alternative methods of work acknowledges and values different ways of thinking. Often Maths is taught using the teacher’s preferred method of working, however, comparing methods enables students to develop an understanding of the creative application of an individuals mathematical capabilities.

Tips:

  • Students to remain working until the Student Experts have finished writing their solutions and are ready to discuss. This maximises the time in the lesson students spend working productively.
  • An additional task may be to deconstruct alternative methods of completing a question.

Precautions:

  • Similar to other student-centred activities, a culture of appropriate feedback etiquette to be developed.

Strategy #6: Use of online Maths teaching and homework platforms

Examples:

Pros:

  • Maths technology is naturally engaging for students as they are able to use their devices.
  • Students receive instant feedback on their answers and, depending on the site, are provided with hints and explanations for each problem.

Tips:

  • It can make a good starter or extension activity.
  • Consider using appropriate time constraints.
  • Set clear targets i.e. Complete task on Factorisation.

Precautions:

  • Depending on the site, the questions may not be differentiated. In this case, set targeted tasks for different learners.

Strategy #7: Students to tutor their peers if they move fast through class work

Pros:

  • Students become experts when they are able to explain concepts they have learnt to others. It can be mutually beneficial for both parties.

Tips:

  • The class seating plan should accommodate this strategy. For example, high ability learners can be seated with low ability learners to enable communication.
social support cartoon

Precautions:

  • Recognise positive behaviour such as patience, self-management, the use of mini whiteboards for teaching etc.
  • Unproductive behaviour such as arrogance, disruptions and loitering should to be nipped in the bud.

These strategies listed can be adopted into other KLAs. Positive results from any strategy will arise from consistency, positive reinforcement of good behaviour and purposeful practice.

What has are some strategies that are focused on the student-centred learning? Share your ideas on how to improve student outcomes in our classrooms!

16 Tips for Beginning Teachers


Recently, I was asked to speak with a class of Mathematics students who were finishing their teaching degree at a local university. These students were about to embark upon their first year of teaching. I thought to myself, “What would I share?“. What could I tell these bright-eyed individuals that might make a difference to their practice? What would have resonated with me back when I was sitting in their seats?

It was the short, sweet & raw advice that I remembered (No filter!). So here are my top tips for beginning teachers!

Continue reading “16 Tips for Beginning Teachers”

Maths City Project


After I finish teaching a topic, I like to give my students an opportunity to create a piece of work that combines ideas and concepts learnt in the topic. I have especially enjoyed this small project with my younger students. Not only will your students work collaboratively with others, but you will end up with a magnificent classroom display that enhances your learning space to become more positive and welcoming. After seeing my classroom display, other teachers have asked for me to run the project with their class, hence, I’ve decided to upload all the resources I’ve used so that any teacher can pick up these instructions and hit the ground running.

Continue reading “Maths City Project”

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegre


Disclaimer: I draw connections between Dale Carnegre’s book and teaching. This piece is also a reflection on how the book helps me to understand my own environment.

Behavioural psychology is fascinating to us all. What makes each person tick? Why are some people more successful than others? How do I become more influential?

Continue reading “How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegre”

Teaching kids about $$$


Last year, myself and two colleagues conducted empathy interviews with high school students. The aim of the interviews was to gain a better understanding of what was important to our students. The interviews were conducted as part of a UTS workshop about implementing project based learning at school.

Continue reading “Teaching kids about $$$”

Why do two negatives make a positive?


Let us first consider two examples.

How did you get to your answer? How would you describe your method to another person?

Continue reading “Why do two negatives make a positive?”