Ok, for this rant I’ll probably get some pushback from friends, colleagues, and others, but…
I really don’t get the excitement around Bitmoji1 Classrooms.
I’ve watched some videos about how to create them, read some blog posts extolling their virtues, and followed a few Twitter discussions/arguments between supporters and detractors. EdWeek even tried to explain “why teachers are buzzing about them“. None of it helped.
In thousands of posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, teachers are sharing the classrooms they’ve built. Using the Bitmoji app to create their avatars, and other tools like Google or Canva to build the classroom backdrop, they’re making welcoming spaces, complete with colorful rugs and posters, that can serve as a cozy home base for their classes. Students can move through the spaces virtually, clicking on a bookshelf image to get a reading assignment, for instance, or on a whiteboard to follow a link to read a science document.
Oh, I completely understand a desire to decorate the classroom, physical or virtual. I was never very good at it – put some posters on the wall and I was good to go. But I certainly applaud my colleagues with the time and talent to make their spaces look pretty.
However, when it comes to all the hype around this particular decorating system, at this particular time, I have a couple of concerns.
One is the amount of time this must be taking. Not necessarily for those who are evangelizing the concept, who are likely more tech savvy than most of their contemporaries.
But what about the many teachers who are being pushed into learning this new-to-them technology on top of everything else being required of them in order to prepare for teaching online this fall? In addition to the peer pressure, there seems to be a fair number principals who are mandating staff training for making virtual spaces look fancy.
My second, and greater, concern is that too many teachers mistakenly believe that learning to build a Bitmoji Classroom is of more value than just a fun way to decorate a digital classroom. No matter how many digital tools are involved in the process, this is not instructional technology and does little to improve student learning.
As I’ve ranted previously around here, instructional technology is anything that can be used directly by students to enhance and extend their learning. The tools should be in the hands of and largely under the control of kids. The LMS you’re decorating certainly doesn’t qualify any more than the Bitmoji and drawing apps used to create these virtual embellishments.
Although I’ve seen some advocates claim that building a Bitmoji Classroom is related to “design thinking”, it is not. Design thinking is a far more complex process than learning to use digital drawing tools. One that begins with a problem to be addressed.
Anyway, in the end, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to dress up your virtual classroom. I can see how an embellished interface might be more compelling for students, providing a little more motivation to interact with it.
It’s just important to put Bitmojis and similar related digital fluff into their proper context. Particularly during these times of great pressure on teachers, it’s important to use the limited time and effort you have available to better meet the learning needs of the kids.
The picture accompanying this post really has nothing to do with the topic. And my limited and feeble attempts at creating a Bitmoji are not suitable for public viewing.
1. It should be noted that Bitmoji is not a generic term. It’s actually a brand owned by Snapchat. So, are we comfortable encouraging everyone to submit their information to yet another private, for-profit, social media company? Just asking.