KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Teachers are getting ready for the new school year, but in a much different way than years past.
Instead of prepping and arranging their space at school, educators are getting creative and crafting their own virtual classrooms online. Cartoon teachers and links to lessons supplement in-person instruction.
In July, teachers are usually organizing, arranging and decorating their space at school. This year, instead of unlocking a classroom, many are opening the computer to do the same thing, except online.
It's called a virtual classroom and it's just like a regular one, but with a cartoon bitmoji teacher and interactive lessons linked within a picture.
Olivia Tapper is a second grade teacher at Brickey McCloud Elementary School in Knoxville. She has spent hours during the summer prepping her virtual world.
"Students can click on pictures and books and baskets within your virtual classroom that will lead them to any kind of links or lessons or assignments or anything like that," Tapper explained.
It's all so the students can make a positive adjustment to the potential of online learning in the fall.
"That's why we're doing the cutesy stuff," Tapper said. "To make it easy for your students. It's fun for us, but we always have your students' interest in mind."
Teachers all across the nation are doing the same thing, and are sharing ideas in a Facebook group called "Bitmoji Craze for Educators." Tapper joined and is impressed with all she has already learned.
"There's post after post of what teachers are doing in their virtual classrooms and they're posting it all for free," Tapper noted.
While educators are still waiting on exact plans for what they need to prepare, teachers like Mrs. Tapper will be ready regardless.
"My goal is I'm either prepared to be virtual, like be totally virtual, or I'm prepared to really integrate the technology in my classroom if we're in person," Tapper nodded.
Tapper added she hopes to be able to meet her students in person at some point. She knows the technology and learning curve for the new virtual classroom medium may be tricky for some. She is willing to walk her students and their parents through all they need to do to succeed.
The virtual classroom is added on Knox County's portal for teachers and students called "Canvas." Teachers are able to create Google slides and embed all sorts of links within each slide.
This is not required for teachers, but Tapper said she's heard of many taking on the challenge and spending time to create an easy learning environment.