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Happy or sad? Kids let teachers know how they feel through emojis

Stephanie Bennett, August 19, 2019 7:00PM The Courier-Mail

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Students Piper, Mia and Jez have been trialling using emojis to give instant feedback to teachers in class at St Andrews Lutheran, Tallebudgera, Qld. Picture: Adam Head media_cameraStudents Piper, Mia and Jez have been trialling using emojis to give instant feedback to teachers in class at St Andrews Lutheran, Tallebudgera, Qld. Picture: Adam Head


Reading level: green

Schoolkids will soon be able to use emojis to instantly tell their teachers how they’re feeling.

Vivi, a classroom technology system already used by about a quarter of independent schools and some government schools, has launched a new emoji feature encouraging kids to use the bright yellow faces most commonly recognised from mobile and social media messages.

The new feature lets kids instantly communicate a range of emojis — everything from happy, confident, overwhelmed*, bored, and confused — to their teacher.

One school leader said with emojis an ever-growing part of how we communicate and an increased emphasis on student wellbeing and mental health, the new tool would help teachers better connect with the kids.

media_cameraThose who support using emojis believe it will better help students discreetly reach out when they need help or are feeling sad or overwhelmed, rather than putting their hand up and speaking publicly.

St Andrews Lutheran College in Queensland took part in a Vivi emoji trial program last year, with the system used by senior secondary students.

St Andrews Deputy principal and head of secondary school Virginia Warner said the new emoji feature “aligns* nicely” with the school’s focus on student wellbeing.

“It’s really beautiful technology,” she said.

“It means teachers are very aware of where their students are at and able to respond quickly and efficiently.”

Ms Warner said the use of emojis was a discreet* way for kids to reach out, particularly if they were feeling sad or overwhelmed in the classroom.

“We know from all of the research around neurochemistry* that students’ ability to be connected to learning relates to their emotional state,” she said.

“We know a lot of communication happens through technology, and they’re comfortable with the emojis as a language.”

EMOJI media_cameraLazar and Orlando with emojis, which many experts believe young people are comfortable using to communicate their needs and feelings. Picture: Tom Huntley

Vivi chief executive Natalie Mactier said it had “never been more challenging to be a teacher”, while students were also bombarded with distractions and pressure to perform.

She said it had long been recognised that student wellbeing, engagement and performance were linked, and there was a need for teachers to be able to quickly personalise the classroom experience for kids struggling emotionally or with their school work.

“When used in a smart way, technology can be incredibly powerful and useful in the classroom,” Ms Mactier said.

“Young people are also increasingly communicating and expressing their emotions through technology, so we are pleased to be supporting teachers with the tools they need to more effectively engage with students and speak their language.”

Victorian schools that trialled the emoji tool recently include Loreto Mandeville Hall, Haileybury, Melbourne High and Kew High.

Students to communicate with emojis in the classroom


  • overwhelmed: have strong feelings of being overcome by something
  • aligns: lines up with
  • discreet: private
  • neurochemistry: study of the chemicals that control and influence the nervous system, including the brain


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  1. What or who is Vivi?
  2. List four responses students could send to the teacher with an emoji.
  3. Were the St Andrews students who trialled the technology in primary or secondary school?
  4. Does Virginia Warner think it’s a useful tool? Who is she?
  5. Natalie Mactier said positive things about the emoji tool. Who does she represent?


1. Feelings feedback
If you’re not lucky enough to have Vivi the classroom technology system at your school, work with a partner and modify it to a manual version that you could try in your classroom. You need to complete a plan to show your teacher how you would like to work this system so students can use some sort of visual prompt to show the teacher how they are feeling. Remember your classmates may not want everyone else to see how they are feeling, just their teacher, so consider that in your design. Complete the plan below:

  • Name for your classroom ‘feelings’ system
  • Equipment/resources needed
  • Outline of how it would work
  • Describe the teachers role in your system
  • Does it take a lot of time to communicate with your teacher?
  • Benefits you see of this system?

Ask a classmate/s for some feedback on your system.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
How would the Vivi system need to be modified for primary school compared to secondary school? Can you see this system working in your school? Give your reasons.

What other ways could teachers engage with their students and know how they are feeling at school and with their work? Discuss your ideas with a partner.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking

Syl-la-ble Sleuth

“A good way to find a syllable is to clap as you speak.“

Search through the text. Make a list of all the adjectives you can find. Classify them into the number of syllables each word has.

For example: 2 syllables, 3 syllables, 4 syllables, 5 or more syllables.

It doesn’t mean the longer the better though.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you like to be able to send emojis to your teachers to give instant feedback? Give reasons why you think it’s a good idea or not a good idea.
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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