There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to emojis. Emojis are not confined to smartphones and tablets; their charm can be put into action on mobile devices and computers since they are a standardized set of characters that work across platforms. I am somewhat obsessed with emojis, and I have clever emoji uses that any teacher can use. Innovative ideas include illustrating ideas, offering feedback, reinforcing vocabulary, kickstarting the writing process, and assessing learning.
Check out the tools, resources, and ideas below. You'll see that emojis can play a role in communication, productivity, creativity, and learning. When you think of emojis as pictures you can type, you can begin to picture the possibilities! 🤔
There are nearly 3,000 emoji characters and they are treated like text. If your computer or device doesn't have an emoji keyboard, you can search, copy and paste emoji characters from emojipedia.org. I like that Emojipedia tells me what each emoji is supposed to be. It also displays how emojis will look on different platforms.
Working on a computer and want to insert emojis? You can see a listing of emojis at emojicopy.com. Click an emoji to add it to the lineup. Click the copy button after your lineup is complete and then paste anywhere you can type.
Emoji characters aren’t just for smartphones and tablets. With the Emoji Keyboard by EmojiOne™ extension for Chrome, you can browse and search emojis on a computer. Clicking an emoji automatically copies it. Then you can paste the emoji anywhere that you can input text: Google Classroom, Twitter, Facebook, email, PowerPoint, Google Docs, Google Slides… pretty much anywhere! I like that the extension displays recently used emojis at the top of the panel for quick access. There are several other emoji keyboard extensions out there, and this one is the most downloaded.
One potential downside to this extension is that it automatically replaces emojis in Chrome with EmojiOne style characters. If you like EmojiOne’s style of emojis, then it’s not an issue. If you’d prefer to keep your system’s style of emojis, click Emoji Keyboard’s extension icon and click the Settings gear. You’ll then see the option where you can turn off Auto-Replace.
On a Mac, you can use the keyboard shortcut of Control + Command + Space to bring up the Macintosh emoji selector.
You can get quick access to an emoji picker on a Windows 10 or Mac computer. Call up an emoji keyboard in Windows 10 by holding down the Windows key and pressing period. Holding down the Windows key and the ; key also works. On macOS, hold down Control and Command and press the space bar to make an emoji picker appear. Both of these keyboard shortcuts require the cursor to be in a text box.
Note: The emoji picker is a recent addition to Windows 10 and requires the Fall 2017 Creators Update.
I use emojis to illustrate my ideas and enhance communication. Currently there are over 2,000 emojis to choose from. There’s a better way to find a specific emoji than swiping through all those screens of emojis: Gboard. Gboard is a free keyboard for iOS and Android from Google. After installing GBoard, it becomes an additional keyboard on your device. When the the GBoard keyboard is visible, tap the happy face icon to open an emoji search. You can enter a specific search like “helicopter” and the helicopter emoji is displayed in the results. Tapping the emoji inserts it into the app you have open. Furthermore, you can enter a more general search. Searching for “help” shows various emojis like hand waving, woman tipping hand, man tipping hand, and SOS.
On iOS, you switch among your installed keyboards by tapping the Globe 🌐 key. Long pressing that Globe key brings up a menu and a list of installed keyboards.
Take the pulse of your classroom with a live word cloud. Create a word cloud question on PollEverywhere.com. Prompt students to respond with a single emoji. Students can answer on any device with a web browser. Each time a student submits a response, the word cloud is redrawn on the teacher’s computer. The more times a specific emoji is submitted, the large its size in the word cloud. With this method, all students can contribute and the teacher can see how the class is feeling by examining the word cloud.
If students end up submitting a large of a variety of emojis, it can be difficult to get a real sense of the responses. In that case, perhaps you’d rather ask a multiple choice survey question. Your question can have several emojis for students to choose from. Each student chooses one of the provided emojis and answers are visualized as a bar graph on the teacher’s computer.
Use an emoji poll at the start of class to find out how everyone is feeling. Or, use a poll at the end of a lesson as a reflection activity or exit ticket. Responses are anonymous. If you’d rather associate responses with students, consider using a tool like Google Forms.
It’s interesting to watch the word cloud grow as responses come in. Of course, it’s optional if the teacher wants to show the cloud to the class or keep the info to herself.
There is not an emoji for everything, so symbolically representing vocabulary can be a stretch—a really big thinking stretch when you’re the one developing the representation. It can take a while to figure out how to clearly show a vocabulary term with emojis, which is why symbolically representing vocabulary can be a great learning activity.
Emojipedia.org can be helpful when trying to find emojis. You can do a search to find a particular emoji. There’s a good chance a search will show no results, which means it will take some creative problem-solving to express the vocabulary word.
Students can get inspiration for a story from Emoji Prompts. Go to byrdseed.com/emoji and you’ll see one randomly selected emoji on the screen. Students can use this to jumpstart a creative story. They can continue getting ideas for their stories by clicking the “And then…” button. Each time that button is clicked another randomly selected emoji is added in sequence. Students can get ideas from Emoji Prompts and then write on paper, orally tell a story, type into a Google Doc, record into an app, add to a prewriting organizer, etc.
You can click the “And then..” button about 280 times before Emoji Prompts stops adding emojis. 280 should be way, way, way more than what you need for a story prompt.
Emojis Prompts use Twitter’s set of emoji characters. While they are essentially the same emojis you see elsewhere, they are drawn a little differently from Apple’s, Google’s, Facebook’s, and Microsoft’s emoji characters.
Since you can enter emojis pretty much anywhere you can enter text, you can use them to add visual cues, illustrations, and emphasis in Google Classroom. I choose an emoji to represent each topic I add to a class. I also choose an emoji to represent each post. Not only do emojis help visually differentiate my posts, Google Classroom includes an assignment post’s emoji in notifications, emails, and class calendar. The emoji becomes the mascot for that assignment. 👍
There’s a really handy result of having emojis in post titles. Each email notification I receive as the teacher includes the post’s emoji in the subject line, making it easy to visually scan my inbox to see what each notification is referring to.
See my August 12, 2017 post about the Emoji Keyboard by EmojiOne extension for Chrome. With this extension you can copy and paste emojis when you’re on a desktop or laptop.
When topics contain emojis as the first character, they do not alphabetize correctly. If you have only a few topics, this is not a big deal. If you have a long list of topics, you might want to put the emojis at the end of the names so the the list is properly alphabetized.
Blending words an images has an effect on retention and understanding. Linking visual and text input can be a powerful combination. Unfortunately, there are only about 3,000 emojis. That sounds like a lot, but that’s certainly not enough to illustrate every concept. You’ll have to get creative to link what you’ve written with existing emojis.
Enter text into emojitranslate.com. It replaces some words with pictures. You can copy the “emojified” text and paste it anywhere. This is handy for spicing up instructions, playing with language, making announcements, telling a story, and getting a laugh.
Teachers and students can have a lot of fun mocking up screenshots of text conversations. One place to do that is ifaketextmessage.com. Simply enter what you want in the bubbles and the site generates an image that looks like a screenshot. You can download this image and use it anywhere. One particularly good use for this is to have students make conversations that use vocabulary words in context. Another use to is mock up a conversation that could be used as a discussion starter.
iFake Text Message simulates a conversation happening on an iPhone. If you’d prefer to make one that looks like it’s happening on an Android phone, search the web for “android fake screenshot” and you’ll have some choices of apps and websites to use.
If you want to create a video animation of a text message conversation, check out the TextingStory Chat Story Maker iPhone app: textingstory.com.
Since emojis are pictures you can type, they can easily be included in feedback on digital work. I often give feedback in comments in G Suite documents. Critical feedback can come across as harsh, but adding adorable pictures can make receiving that feedback a little less unpleasant. Plus, the emojis draw attention and just might get a student to actually read the feedback. The combinations of emojis can bring about a smile—even when the feedback is critical.
Why not use emojis in a bulleted list? Emojis are entered like text, so you can enter an emoji at the beginning of each line of text. I often use Emojipedia.org to search for emojis. Since there are only about 3,000 different characters, there is not an emoji for everything. If there is not a literal emoji to represent a bullet point, I expand my search to try to illustrate the item with a related symbol. I try searching for actions, objects, or locations to craft a visual metaphor for the idea.
How about encouraging students to use emojis in their note taking? If they have to study their notes, they can cover the text and use the emojis as clues for recalling the information.
Transform Google Drive’s typical listing of gray folders into a visual extravaganza! You can right-click each folder and change the color. Google gives us 24 colors to choose from. You can also right-click to rename a folder. Google allows emojis to be used in file names, so you can choose from nearly 3,000 emoji symbols. I suggest using Emojipedia.org to find and copy emojis.
Emojis in file names change the alphabetical ordering. If that bothers you, you could insert the emoji at the end of the file name instead of the beginning.
I like being one click away from each of the webpages and documents that I frequently open. I’ve added links to what I often visit to Chrome’s bookmarks bar. The problem is most of the things I’ve bookmarked have long names–names that take up precious space. I deal with that by right-clicking each bookmark and replacing the name with a descriptive emoji. For example, I often access a Google document about tech camp. I’ve added the document to my bookmark’s bar and have replaced the name with a tent emoji. The bookmark takes up less space, allowing me to fit more links onto the bookmarks bar.
If a bookmark already has a unique icon, you don’t even need the emoji. Just delete the entire name, leaving just the icon in the bookmarks bar.
How about adding visual cues to your digital calendar with emojis? Since emojis can be entered anywhere you can enter text, you can add emojis to calendar events. I include a meaningful emoji that serves as an icon for each event in my calendar. When I view my calendar on my computer, tablet, phone, or watch, the emojis provide illustration. Emojis are particularly helpful in month view because emojis represent each event, which take only a quick glance to recognize.