Tuesday is #WorldEmojiDay
The students are now schooling the teachers.
More than one-third (37%) of teachers have used memes, emojis and GIFs to help make a point or teach a lesson in their classrooms, according to a survey of more than 800 elementary through postgraduate teachers released by Dictionary.com. These tools are most commonly used in middle school (44% of teachers use them there), followed by high school (42%), college/university (33%), postgraduate (31%) and elementary school (29%), the Dictionary.com data revealed.
And they’re used in a variety of ways: For example, teachers bust out memes to help kids remember everything from class rules to history lessons; and emojis to help children learn appropriate emotions and express them, explains Kathryn Starke, a literacy specialist in elementary schools.
Some teachers are even using emojis to help students connect with topics like Shakespeare. “I’ve had classes plot the entire summary of a scene in emojis, and then they put them on to a graph to show the tension the characters are feeling, and they find quotations to illustrate this, so it builds to become higher-level learning as well,” Charlotte Hodgson, an English teacher at Avonbourne College, told the TES, earlier this year.
Liz McMillan, CEO of Dictionary.com, says that teachers often do this because they want to relate and connect to students on a level that students are more familiar with. “Language evolves with children and students, from the latest slang terms and catch phrases, so it’s natural for teachers to find new and compelling ways to connect with their students in a language they understand. Right now, it’s using the language that’s seen on sites and digital forums, from Snapchat to Instagram to texts between friends,” she says.
Before you groan in disgust, hear this: Many education experts say that techniques like this could work. “Technology is native to Generation Z,” says Adrian Ridner, CEO & co-founder of Study.com, a site that gives students additional help on school subjects. “Incorporating some of the latest tech trends into your teaching is a great way to connect to those students and keep your material fresh and timely. Using students’ own language to present material can make topics or themes seem more accessible,” he adds.
But these kinds of tools are not right for everyone. “Memes and GIFs are most appropriate for secondary (middle school and high school), since they are more in touch with all things social media, pop culture, etc.,” says Starke. However, she notes that emojis can be effective for elementary education, “especially since character education and emotional intelligence are key components in today’s curriculum.” She’s seen teachers ask kids to draw an emoji to symbolize how they feel each morning in their journals, or teachers who have emoji magnets called “feeling faces” that can help kids express how they feel about a book or story.
While there isn’t yet a ton of research on whether these kinds of techniques actually work, experts say trying new techniques is worth a try, especially as American students are falling behind many students in other parts of the world. That’s true even though we spend $10,700 per student on education.
This story was originally published on August 30, 2017 and has been updated.
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