Part of a series: 'Live and Learn: Education in a COVID-19 World'
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Going to school online can be unfamiliar and intimidating, especially for younger children. But some teachers are now using avatars to help to put their students at ease.
When students log in to Keena Core's class, they see her personalized Bitmoji character in a cartoon version of her classroom.
“I have an animated Bitmoji that kind of rushes across the screen trying to get into class and get books together, so they laugh at it. They like it,” she said.
Core, a reading specialist at Mitchell Elementary School in Kingsessing, says a Bitmoji classroom is visually more relatable for children. Until recently she taught fourth grade.
“Working with elementary school kids, you need things that are bright and lively and engaging,” Core told KYW Newsradio. “It's a way to make them feel safe and comfortable.”
The Bitmoji classroom displays not only an expressive cartoon version of the teacher, but also a wall with clickable images that take students to learning games or books or charts.
Bitmoji classrooms are widely used across the district, but they are not the standard. It’s used mostly by teachers with younger students, but middle school and high school teachers use it too. Core says all her Mitchell colleagues use it.
She says building her online teaching space was a bit of a learning curve for her, relying on YouTube how-to videos, but the underlying principles are nothing new.
“Teachers are used to making their environment fun,” she said. “So you're used to having great bulletin boards in your classroom, and decorations.”
Core says she’ll change the phrase on her avatar’s shirt depending on the message she wants to convey that day: "I love you," "Thinking about you," and "Keep your mask going."
“The Bitmoji classroom kind of brings more energy to it, more liveliness,” she said. “Especially when you're talking about a Monday morning at 8 o'clock, when most of the kids still want to be dressed in their pajamas. This is something that kind of livens them up.”
Core says her students see her real-life image on webcams through Google Meet, but her Bitmoji classroom is one more way to keep students engaged when they really need to be.
The coronavirus pandemic has altered life in many ways for most of us, including the way students are learning. KYW Newsradio is taking a look at the impact of COVID-19 on education with "Live and Learn: Education in a COVID-19 World."