Emojis – fad, or fabulous?

I have been meaning to write a blog post on the role of Emojis in communication and literacy for a while, and what better day to write it than on World Emoji Day.

Yes, Emojis, those little pictures that animate texts and Facebook posts have an official day to celebrate them, and today is that day.

By Unknown typesetter/author of Puck – Cropped from Image:Puck No212 p64f.png. Originally published in Puck no. 212, p. 65., Public Domain

Emojis have been around since the late 1990’s. Emerging from Japan, Wikipedia tells us the word emoji comes from Japanese e (絵, “picture”) + moji (文字, “character”). The apparent resemblance to the English words “emotion” and “emoticon” is just a coincidence. Lots of people (myself included) think of emoticons and emojis in the same category, being a symbolic or pictorial representation of words. This is also encouraged by the way that text based emoticons (e.g. :-)) are now replaced with pictorial emojis ? automatically. However, emoticons have a much longer history, and are able to be traced back to the 19th century.

With increasing use of technology and text messaging, emojis and emoticons are becoming increasingly common; so much so that the Emojipedia states that currently there are 1394 known emojis and in 2015 the Oxford Dictionary announced that the word of the year was not a word at all, but the ‘tears of joy’ emoji ?. So are emojis and emoticons going to be the death of written expression?

Far from it, argues Lauren Collister, in her article Emoticons and symbols aren’t ruining language – they’re revolutionizing it. She finds that in our fast paced culture, it is not surprising that we have developed short cuts in communication, and gives examples of “accepted” ways that punctuation marks have been used in the past to convey complex meanings in the past. The importance, as always, is in understanding how and when to use these abbreviations – like everything, there is a time and a place.

These days we often send an email, text or instant message when previously we may have phoned or spoken to someone face to face. Emojis and emoticons help to add depth to these communications, as other prompts, such as facial expressions and tone of voice are not available. Research has shown that complex communications such as sarcasm are more effectively conveyed through the use of these visual prompts; and that we process them as non-verbal communication – the textual comparison of a hand movement or facial expression. So it is important that students understand how and why emoticons and emojis are used, and of course, the time and the place for their use. How do our students learn this appropriate usage? They will learn through trial and error, through imitation of others and through gradual exposure to the ‘rules’ of using emojis and emoticons, which are largely adapted from other regular language conventions. They might also, if they are lucky, encounter a teacher who might take the time to discuss this aspect of communication with them.

Of course, to teach a lesson or discuss the usage of emojis and emoticons with students, it is important to have a fundamental understanding ourselves. If your expertise extends no further than , why not try easing yourself in with the OMG Shakespeare Series; with four titles in the set (including Macbeth #killingit, A Midsummer Night #nofilter, srsly Hamlet, and YOLO Juliet) you are bound to come away from these texts with a greater knowledge! There are 411 (information) pages in the back for those that really stump you. Emoji Dick might be more of a challenge! For a quick tutorial, and a test of your classic literature knowledge, what about this quiz featuring 12 famous first lines of novels.

If you are really dedicated, you could download this Chrome plug in, which translates English words into Emojis, so that you have loads of opportunities to get to know a whole range of different symbols! But this may be a little extreme….

Once you are familiar with emojis, jokes like this will give you joy ?.

There are many sites that give ideas and tools for how to embed emojis and emoticons, as well as text speak into your teaching; whether for engagement or for explicit teaching about language, digital literacy and communication and expression, there is something out there for everyone. Check out my Pinterest board for heaps of ideas and suggestions.

In the meantime, enjoy this fantastic emoji infographic, and leave a comment down below; in emojis if you dare!! ?This blog is ??!Feel ?to ?comments or ?!

A Newbie


A Newbie’s Guide To Emoji [Infographic] by the team at NeoMam

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