Writing with Hieroglyphics

Hello Reading and Writing Colleagues,

pictures of Egyptian hierogllyphs and emojis

Although whomever created this image likely intended it as humor, as literacy educators I believe we need to consider the possibility that, with emojis, we have a new written language, perhaps that has some utility across cultures and languages. Here are some questions I have been asking myself:

  1. Emojis are intended in many cases to efficiently express feelings. How effective is this? Do they all communicate accurately? To all audiences? Is there built-in cultural, class or color bias?
  2. What else do they communicate besides feelings?
  3. In this pandemic teaching environment -- where we often cannot communicate face-to-face and rely more on texting and email\ -- do you/should you use emojis with adult learners? If you already do, when is this particularly useful? When is it not?
  4. With the expansion of the emoji lexicon, are we getting close to having/do we already have a functional alternative written language?
  5. Should LINCS consider adding emojis in the posting alternatives? If so why, or why not?

What questions, concerns, or hopes do you have regarding the emoji writing system?

David J. Rosen

Comments

1. I am not sure that emojis always express our feelings, and to what level. A smiley is just a smiley and can convey different meanings to different persons. I post a smiley to let someone know I got his/her message even if I am not interested in what they sent me (especially junk mail type stuff). I also use it to show agreement with comments or posts. It does not acutally mean I am happy about a text, note, post, etc. 

2. I think emojis often communicate that a person does not have time to respond to your message, post, etc or that he or she does not want to respond, or maybe even look at your post or message, as in FaceBook messenger. I don't think it is only me. Right?

3. I am not sure about using emojis with students. Maybe I would go as far as using a smiley face on a text or Remind.com message to let a student know I received their message. Maybe? I really feel that emoji's, thought sometimes cute and sometimes fun, indicate that I am too busy to make a 'real' reply.

4. Hum... I don't think I would call it functional as emojis can't tell all and express all in meaning and content.

5: Smileys may be okay to indicate agreement or approval of a post. But, others, I am not sure other emojis would have a place. Maybe a smiley that expresses that the person has a question but, then he /she can just asked the questions. Or, maybe a confused smiley?

 

Hi Gayla,

Thanks so much for your very thought-provoking comments here! 

When we use words, we have a pretty good idea of what we want our readers to know. You raise a great point here about the ambiguity of smileys and other emojis. A few thoughts:

I wonder if 50 years from now that we will be talking more with symbols and less with words. Is everything old new again? From a keyboarding standpoint, it would make life easier. We would have to have greater consensus on exactly what emojis mean. 

The grammarian in me immediately flinches when I see emojis, and I start to launch into a lesson on formal vs. informal language: "Emojis are fine for texts with friends, but we need to use formal language when we write for the high school equivalency tests." 

David, thanks for posting these interesting questions! I would love to hear what others think! Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Steve Schmidt

Moderator, LINCS Reading and Writing Community of Practice

Hello colleagues, This is an interesting topic! Thanks for introducing it, David. I agree with everything you say here, Gayla. I would like to add that because emojis are pervasive and can often be ambiguous, planning a lesson around the topic would be useful and motivating for learners. 

Here's a lesson plan for English learners that includes a poster with various emojis and a worksheet.

Here's a lesson plan that might be adaptable for ABE and HSE learners.

I'm betting some members of our community have taught a lesson on this topic. Let us know, friends! I'd love to hear what others think about David's questions.

Take care, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition and Teaching & Learning CoPs

Susan, thanks for your insight and for the emoji instructional materials. Wow! I suppose I should have guessed that some teacher somewhere would have already written lessons on using emojis in the classroom but, I had not. 

Hello! I hope you don't mind me chiming in!

On Sunday, I was frustrated with the choices of emojis I had available as a response on a social media platform. I didn't want to say I was angered or saddened by the post, although I was both. I wanted an emoji that would demonstrate agency... so I made my own and posted that. (See below.)

Emoji yellow face wearing mask that says vote.

Based on this thread and my experience, I suspect that there is a research and design project out there for our learners that focuses on setting an inquiry about the value of emoji's in self-expression and their role in our 21st century communication and leads to learners acquiring the type of information in the lesson Susan referenced, gathering data about different people's use of emojis, and finally designing*(independently or in collaboration with classmates) an emoji or other communication image that expresses a feeling or response not covered in the current emoji alphabet. This seems like a good foundation for an engaging remote or blended learning project and would touch on so many of the ISTE, CCRS, and ELPS Standards to boot! 

Be well! 

j/me

Jayme Adelson-Goldstein 

Lighthearted Learning 

* Learners working on Smartphones who would find designing on a small screen onerous, could design the emoji on paper and take a photo of it to share with classmates.

BTW: Zoom just added four more emojis for a total of 6 non-verbal reactions on the gallery and speaker view. So they are very much a part of our virtual classrooms on Zoom. 

Hi Jayme,

Many thanks for adding your excellent comment! This is a community of practice where we all learn from each other. All comments and chiming in are wanted, needed, and welcomed. 

I love your idea about having students create new emojis for an independent or group learning project. This activity definitely exemplifies the definition of digital literacy as students work "to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information." 

I appreciate you bringing to our attention the new emojis on the free Zoom web conferencing platform. As you mentioned, there are now six Zoom emojis:

Six emojis on Zoom

New additions to the clapping hands and thumbs up are the heart, tears of joy, open mouth, and party popper (tada, celebration). As noted in this article, users can also adjust their reaction skin tone to five different shades. 

Circling back to our discussion about emojis and ambiguity, I was unsure about what the tears of joy emoji meant by just looking at the picture. I at first assumed it meant great sadness. 

Has anyone done a lesson with their students about emojis or have any other reactions?

Thanks in advance for your comments,

Steve Schmidt

Moderator, LINCS Reading and Writing CoP

Thank you for sharing this idea for a lesson, Jayme. I predict many students would love this. The emoji you designed communicates effectively. Can you tell us how you created this emoji? I think teachers would likely want to create their own so they understand how best to support students to do the same. 

Take care, Susan

I've been doing a Monday evening zoom room for the people in a local chorus I'm in who want to just hang out even though getting together to sing is not going to happen any time soon.

Last night we spent a good 20 minutes just exploring zoom.   We've been doing this all summer -- and I've been doing a few other things too -- and Zoom is always making little changes.   

One of the group was totally confused by the "clap" hand.   Was it a "stop" icon?  I said it was supposed to be two hands, and there was a little 'motion' indicator, and when I hovered over it, it said "clap."   Hugely confusing is that the assorted icons for turnign on video, unmuting, etc. are *invisible* unless you hover.   No longer can we say "look in the corner..." we have to say "hover your mouse..." except maybe you're on a phone so I don't know what you should do?   As host, I can send you a "please unmute" thing to click, though.   

I've read much about how emojis tend to be very white-culture centered, tho' efforts have been made towards changing that.   

I love the vote-mask emoji.... 

Thanks so much for your intriguing thoughts here Susan! 

Zoom is constantly coming up with new features. Earlier this month they released a video showing how users can change their background to allow more or less light. This is especially helpful for those working in that basement dungeon with poor light.

We have probably all been on that Zoom call where the background noise of one participant creates constant distraction. Zoom now allows background noise suppression. Take that pesky neighbor mowing their lawn during my class! 

Zoom also has some new stickers that can add fun to meetings. By selecting stickers, it makes the user appear as if they are wearing a pirate hat and eye patch or have bunny ears and whiskers.

Finally, Zoom created a feature that allows presenters to appear in video form on their slides. In other words, one can actually embed themselves on their PowerPoint or Google Slides and interact with their content. One can now be a virtual Vanna White! 

Stay safe out there!

Steve Schmidt

Moderator, LINCS Reading and Writing CoP 

  1. Emojis are intended in many cases to efficiently express feelings. How effective is this? Do they all communicate accurately? To all audiences? Is there built-in cultural, class or color bias?

I think it's very effective, of course some people may take things certain ways, but we do that with actual words too. There's going to be bias in everything and for someone like me who is not a proficient writer, expressing my feelings through visuals is much easier. 

2. What else do they communicate besides feelings?

I think they're great to show support, or not, at a glance. I don't think it says you have less time for a real reply, why can't that be a real reply? I think that is a bias as well, that for something to be real it has to be by certain standards. And if that is your preference, that's obviously ok too, but I think that's where asking people how they like to communicate is helpful and offering all ways of communicating on a platform is needed so people can do what they are comfortable with. 

3. In this pandemic teaching environment -- where we often cannot communicate face-to-face and rely more on texting and email\ -- do you/should you use emojis with adult learners? If you already do, when is this particularly useful? When is it not?

I think for short things it's fine, but if something needs more explanation then go for it. I think it's likely very case by case basis. And if a tutor/teachers' way of communicating isn't the same and it's causing problems, then it's not a good match. 

4. With the expansion of the emoji lexicon, are we getting close to having/do we already have a functional alternative written language?

I think so! Maybe not me personally, but I bet if you ask some teenagers the answer is yes....!

5. Should LINCS consider adding emojis in the posting alternatives? If so why, or why not?

Yes! Again, my answer to #3, having all possible modes of communication available is a plus. Inclusive. 

 

We appreciate your creative comments Stacy! You are definitely being modest with your proficient writer comment. You write extremely well!

While we are on the subject of emojis, here is what I have learned:

World Emoji Day is celebrated each year on July 17th.

There is an emojipedia that discusses all things emoji related. Unsure what a particular emoji means? This is the place for you! It would serve as a great resource for the emoji related lesson plans that Susan Finn Miller contributed earlier this week.

Are you wondering what the most 2020 emojis are? Not surprisingly, they are Raised Fist to represent the Black Lives Matter movement and Microbe to represent coronavirus. 

Most 2020 Emojis

In non-emoji related events, please remember our discussion about writing effective claims with Susan Pittman that will take place all day next Thursday, August 27th.

Have a great Friday,

Steve Schmidt

Moderator, LINCS Reading and Writing CoP