By Jovana Čenejac
When Oxford Learners Dictionaries announced that the Word of the Year 2015 was an emoji, the extent to which language changes under the influence of online communications, was put under spotlight yet again.
Namely, for the first time in history, Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year is not even a word, but a widely used emoji known as “Tears of Joy.”
Quite expectedly, a number of linguists found this announcement shocking. While some justified this decision claiming that emojis only reflect a natural language change, others were not that supportive of this attitude.
Regardless of where you stand in that debate, almost every can agree that emojis have greatly changed the ways we communicate, and as such, play an immensely important role in communicating with younger generations, even in the classroom.
The Rise of Emojis
The astonishing power of the Internet has changed virtually all aspects of our lives. A striking transformation is evident in our perceptions of communications, which have become global and unrestricted thanks to a variety of web-based solutions.
Naturally, this changing landscape required new forms of expression, which came in the form of emojis. Today, emojis are used by 92% of online population, mainly with an aim of transferring different kinds of emotions in order to compensate for the lack of face-to-face contact.
So far, emojis have been mostly associated with casual communications; however, does the inclusion of an emoji as the Word of the Year mark a major change in perception of their status?
They are gradually entering professional communications and even classrooms, which many see as the downfall of conventional communication norms. But is it a downfall?
When it comes to reactions about the widespread use of emojis, some people go as far as saying that they’re negatively affecting younger generations’ abilities to read and write properly. This is particularly a concern for more conservative educators, who are witnessing a change in classroom communications.
However, this change does not necessarily have to be a negative one. While it’s true that the average sentence structure via text message, Facebook, Skype, Viber and other similar services is greatly defined by emojis, this hardly creates a direct causal affect on people’s overall language skills.
Even the scientific evidence for this is scarce, meaning that the situation is far from alarming.
Instead, it could be said that emojis contribute to the quality of communications, aiding it with properties it would otherwise lack. When it comes to classrooms, emojis can be adopted as effective new tools to encourage interaction and tailor lessons to the digital natives who are sitting in your classroom.
Emoji Classroom Usage 101
Precisely because of their casual nature, emojis can be used in classrooms in a variety of creative ways. After all, it is already proven that emojis make workplace happier and this is exactly how they can impact classrooms.
Creative Teaching and Learning summarizes some of the key benefits of using emojis in the classroom:
Furthermore, emjois can be used for a wide variety of classroom activities in regards to translation and language learning. Some interesting examples are given here, and include ideas such as:
- Translate literature: “Students can translate literature or the quotes of famous characters into emoji. Translating the emoji would be a more engaging quiz. Here is an example of a quiz with famous first lines from literature written in emoji.”
- Write fun poems: “Create emoji poetry! See this example here.”
- Create pills: “Students ask questions that their peers answer with an emoji, like what did you do this summer? Each student can post their poll as a status update in your virtual learning environment (Edmodo, Schoology, etc.).”
All of these ideas shed an important light on successful implementations of emojified curricula.
There’s an opportunity in the modern classroom for emojis to enrich learning, particularly when it when student interaction is required or preferred. Thus, emoji-based assignments can be used as a starting point for bringing more creative exercises, communication activities and dictionary practices into the classroom.
Combined with innovative applications such as vocabulary practice or pronunciation learning apps, you can be sure your lessons are not only education, but appeal to your digital natives.
Of course, this is far from saying that teachers should abandon traditional curricula in favor of the emojified ones. On the contrary, a proper combination of both traditional and modern resources can bring some interesting results.
The evolution of a language is slow, but it’s always happening and is completely natural. Theses changes are a reflection of the current social needs, just as much as the addition of technology in the classroom is a reflection of the way education is changing.
No matter what, it’s up to you to find the right ways to implement emojis in your classroom. Take a risk; it might pay off.