My son was a fully online learner a couple of years ago before most students were forced to become online learners due to COVID-19. I had chosen to enroll him in an online school for 7th and 8th grades to help with some of the struggles he was facing. I have never regretted that decision. My son made great gains in online school and gained the foundation I hoped he would when transitioning to traditional high school. Those two years were a learning experience not only for my son, but for my family. As I supported him and observed his “live lessons” I noticed a commonality from teacher to teacher that I found comforting. That commonality was how they started their lessons. My son was always to log into his live lessons at least 5 minutes early. He would be admitted to his classroom where he would be presented with a screen his teacher was presenting. That screen could have any number of things on it, but mainly it was a welcome screen. There would be music playing, and a message posted from the teacher. Sometimes it would be a question to think about before diving into a lesson, or a warm up, or a conversation starter for the students to chat about in the chat pod. All of it helped to build that much needed classroom community.
That being said I got to thinking about how the teachers at my school could accomplish the same thing when they don’t have access to the same tools. Considering what they do have access to, I found they could create a welcome screen using their district issued devices using Google Slides, the Bitmoji Chrome extension, Classroomscreen (free version) and Zoom. Here is a sample of the end result:
So here is how you create something like my sample for your Zoom classroom.
1. Watch this video on creating your own Bitmoji Virtual Classrom:
2. Save your newly created Bitmoji Virtual Classroom as a PNG
When in Google Slides, click the File menu, then select Download, then PNG image. Why PNG and not JPEG? Image quality.
3. Classroom Screen
I have mentioned Classroomscreen to my teachers before and I am going to mention it again. It really is a wonderful free resource to give you a screen to project to your class that is very customizable. The Classroomscreen website is very user friendly and clearly explains its features. It’s worth a visit and a read. You can do plenty with a free account, so there is no need to subscribe if you don’t want to.
Once you have launched Classroomscreen, you can upload the virtual Bitmoji classroom you created. You do that by clicking the Background button on Classroomscreen:
You will then get a window that looks like this:
Here is where you can click Uploads, and upload the Bitmoji classroom you created. Once you have uploaded it, it will show as an option, click it and it becomes your new background!
Then insert the components you would like to use. I used the text feature, calendar and timer. They are all accessible on a toolbar at the bottom of Classroomscreen.
Once you have set up your Classroomscreen you are ready to use it!
4. Start your Zoom meeting and share your screen
Don’t forget to enable computer audio sharing so you can play your favorite kid friendly music in the background. Students love music and when I was in the classroom I had fun streaming all kinds of school appropriate music for my students. In my sample above I was streaming Kids Radio on Pandora. But you could use your preferred music streaming service or music files saved on your computer. I would make sure whatever you choose to stream is commercial free.
You are now ready to welcome your students with a fun welcome screen when they enter your virtual classroom! You may want to have your own mic muted and camera off while you settle in, but be sure to keep an eye on your class.
I would love to hear how this goes for those who try it. Please share with me in the comments below!