DES MOINES, Iowa — Last week Governor Kim Reynolds signed an executive order requiring schools to be in-person at least 50 percent of the time. It’s yet another speed bump for school districts navigating return to learn plans.
For teachers, they don’t have time to waste. They are prepping for all scenarios this fall, including remote learning, creating virtual interactive classrooms.
“Normally I’d be setting up desks, and maybe getting some bulletin board paper up and ready for myself and the kids to start decorating the room,” fourth grade Des Moines Public Schools teacher Amy Jensen said.
Typically this time of year educators would be getting their classrooms decorated and ready for students, but instead, teachers like Mrs. Jensen are getting creative and crafting their own virtual classrooms online.
“Just thinking about everything going on, I’m hoping that it will be fun for [the students],” Jensen said.
It almost looks just like a typical classroom, with decorations and learning tools posted throughout. But instead of the teacher in the front of the class, it’s a cartoon Bitmoji character; instead of posters on the wall, they’re interactive links. The goal is to provide a positive space for students to learn.
“It’s building our sense of community on the computer,” Jensen said. “So my hope is to have one of my ‘scenes’ be home base if you will. So, maybe in the morning, they always see the same scene so it’s consistent. I think having that routine and consistency is really important, which we had in the [physical] classroom.”
The clickable items within the virtual classroom lead students to different links for lessons or assignments.
“Maybe it will lead me to a video of a read aloud, or Mrs. Jensen talking,” Jensen explained.
On a “Get to Know Me” slide Jensen created, she prompts students to find five clickable items to get to know her better. One is a coffee mug. When you click on it you can hear Jensen say:
“My favorite drink is coffee. I usually have one to two cups every day. I cannot live without it.”
Then she has a direction for kids to click on another image that leads them to a Microsoft form that they fill out about themselves.
“So it’s kind of what their first assignment will be,” Jensen said.
These virtual scenes give a sense of normalcy, not only for the students, but for the teachers as well.
“It’s something for me that I can control right now, which feels good since I can’t really control anything else that’s going on,” Jensen said. “There’s a lot of stress and anxiety hearing between what the district has to say and the government has to say. So, this is just a way to kind of put our creativity and energy into a fun project that I think our students will absolutely love.”
Teachers all across the nation are doing the same thing as Mrs. Jensen and are sharing ideas in a Facebook group called “Bitmoji Craze for Educators.”