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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Emoji, Selfies, and Memes: Innocuous Terms in Today's Classroom

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past decade, you are aware of strange terminology spoken in the halls of your school, in the cafeteria, and even in your classroom. By all accounts, it may sound like jiberish or incohesive chatter: "idk", "lol", and "jk" are just a few. 

You watch in sheer amazement as your student's fingers fly across teensy weensy keys on a "smartphone" sending encrypted messages to friends, while it takes you a full two minutes to write and send one sentence.

If you have experienced this phenomenon, this blog is for you!

Who are Millennials?

Millennials are individuals born between 1982 and early 2000's. The are also the largest social group since the Baby Boomers. To put it in perspective, most of today's students have never physically addressed an envelope, used a hand held map, or used a telephone that wasn't attached to a land line. It is estimated that there are approximately 87 million millennials either in school or in the work force. In other words, Millennials have taken over planet Earth. 

1. All things abbreviated

Have you wondered why the letter "u" keeps popping up in student essays, or the letters LOL or IDK as an annotation? You remind your students to spell out words in their essays, to always use a capital "I" when referred to oneself, and to make a key when using unknown letters like LOL or IDK. If you listen closely, you will notice the written code has become a spoken tongue. It is not unnusual to hear one of my students say "jk" which translates into "just kidding." Here are a few other common abbreviations common among millennials.

IDK - I don't know
LOL - laughing out loud
FYI- for your information
JK - just kidding
TBH - to be honest
IMHO - in my humble opinion.

2. Emojis

Do you remember the yellow smiley face during the late 60's and 70's stamped on t-shirts, posters, and billboards? It was an international symbol of happiness and was called an "Emotican." Texting emotican's begin to appear at the end of messages to indicate how the writer was feeling or to convey the tone of the message. :)  :(  

Today emojis are ubiquitous to our society. Students have the ability to create an emoji of themself using free apps or choosing emojis from their Smartphone. Did you know that McDonald's recently handed out Emoji's in happy meals? 

When shopping for my grandson's two-year-old birthday party I spotted emoji stickers. I thought how cool it might be to use emoji's for polls and surveys and how it would create a universal language (or pictoral) for expressing emotions...until I remembered I teach college students. 
If you are teaching elementary or middle school students, sticker emojis would be an innovative way to annotate as kids read as part of learning characterization or author's purpose. This would be especially interesting during the climax and resolution of the story.

This past week I heard of a large school district near me change discipline policy to be proactive by builidng a classroom community. The school day starts by students sharing as a member of a learning community how they are feeling. There are a gajillion ways to integrate emoji's into building a community of learners. Wow! Think about the possibilities for teaching empathy? Compassion? 

3. Meme

A meme is an image, video, or text that is copied (often with variation) and spread to internet users. memes are easy to make and have the potential for some awesome lessons. There are free apps to create memes. You will also see memes posted by educators on Facebook and Twitter. 
Students could easily make a meme to demonstrate their understanding of a concept. Memes also make great bell ringers or conversation starters.

4. Mash-up 
A mash-up may sound like something you would do when cooking mashed potatoes, but the meaning is far more complex. According to Urban Slang Dictionary a web mashup is a web application that takes information from one or more sources and presents it in a new way or with a unique layout. Mash-ups are easily spotted on the internet especially by aspiring artists and musicians presenting their own rendition of a song by combining two songs. 

As a literacy coach and creative writing teacher, I loved to use mashups around the holidays to teach parody. I would have my students select a holiday song and add new lyrics based on a book they were reading. For example, one year Harry Potter was Mashed-up with The Night Before Christmas. They would record and upload to their private school You Tube account and then we would show their presentation during parent night. 

Here is a Mash-Up using movies to demonstrate hyperboles:

5. Selfie or Snap

What is a selfie? Wikipedia defines a selfie as "a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a digital camera or camera phone held in the hand or supported by a selfie stick." Today, the newest, coolest feature is to add a filter on a selfie called  "snap" using the social media site Snapchat.

When confiscating phones from your students you may have noticed dog ears, or rainbow-like vomit spilling from their mouth, or sparking princess glitter  adorning their hair. I'm still scratchng my head on this one. I'm sure my parents probably felt the same way about some of the silly things I did as a teenager. 

I'm learning that sometimes it's best to relax and LOL, not be too serious and say JK....and that it's okay to admit when IDK.

Confession Reflection:
  • What are some ways to invite ideas and social behaviors of millennials into the classroom? 
  • In your opinion, is acknowledging and integrating millennial's social behaviors into the classroom a form of culturally responsive teaching? why? or why not?
  • What does this statement mean to you: "Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater?" 
  • Why do some educators resist change? 
  • How can we equip students with the skills they will need for the work place? What changes would need to be made in the classroom to do so?

Dewey said, "If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow."