CORAL SPRINGS, FL – If this was any other year, Coral Springs teachers would be returning to their classrooms in the coming weeks to hang up posters, cut out famous quotes, and add other decorations on the walls and doors to welcome students back on the first day of school.
But with the outbreak of coronavirus, that long-time tradition will be done virtually as Broward County schools are re-opening through online learning.
And like many issues facing educators in the new world of Covid-19, the task of creating the so-called “Bitmoji” classrooms has challenged teachers in Broward County and across the nation to combine their creativity and technology abilities in crafting new places to learn with cartoon characters of themselves and postings on walls serving as interactive links.
Some teachers have joined online communities – even paid experts – to make their digital classrooms stand out with cool graphics, positive images, and fun messages for students as they return to e-learning for an undetermined amount of time.
Brooke Pappas of Coral Springs is a fifth-grade teacher at Park Trails Elementary School in Parkland. She has spent hours in recent weeks getting her virtual world ready.
“We want what’s best for the students,” said Pappas who is entering her 17th year of teaching. “We want them to feel special when they come to our pages.”
She's visited the Canvas & Bitmojis for Teachers page on Facebook run by Staci Armezzani to get ideas. She also got help from fellow teachers, including Kasie Campbell in Coconut Creek.
The process, Pappas said, has helped create new bonds among her colleagues, including teachers she’s met across the country.
“We’re here for each other,” she said. “We all want to make learning fun for our students.”
The Bitmoji classrooms became popular after the coronavirus quarantine, and Pappas said they have “spread like wildfire” since then as it became clear that virtual schooling will be around for some now. She’s created her virtual room with her co-teacher Meghan Eferstein and included real photos of themselves as well, so students could see what they really look like.
Teacher Stephanie Cody, of Parkland, is still working on her virtual classroom.
She’s looking to add a bio about her teaching experience, and wants her third-grade students at Tradewinds Elementary School in Coconut Creek to create Bitmojis of themselves as their first assignment.
“This way, we can all learn about each other,” said Cody who will be starting her 14th year as a teacher.
Cody said the appearance of her virtual class is really important to her because it will create first impressions of her and her classroom expectations when her students and their parents first log in.
“I want them to be excited about what our classroom will entail,” she said. “My goal is to build a family community through virtual teaching and make it more inviting and friendly for everyone.”
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