Instagram in the Classroom

I joined Instagram awhile ago but personally, or professionally didn’t quite know what to do with it.  I posted a few pictures of my kids but wasn’t really sure how to use it.  Fast forward and a few other blogger friends talked me into opening up a Madly Learning Instagram account.  I have found it to be a great way to connect with other bloggers and to see what others are doing in their classrooms.  I also noticed that Instagram was what my 4/5 students were using as their chosen social media platform.  So all of this got me thinking.  How can I leverage student interest in Instagram with my desire to teach 21st century skills, media curriculum expectations, and empower students to share what we are doing in our classroom with the world? This is when I came across Kayla Delzer @topdogteaching.  She has done a TED talk, which speaks to my teacher heart. She so very much captures what I think and feel about technology in education.  Following her on instagram she shares that she has her classroom Instagramming their adventures throughout the day.  Well this inspired me to get my students Instagramming too.

How I Use Instagram in the Classroom

I have made a schedule for students to Instagram.  They each have one day that they will be the class reporter.  They are tasked with taking pictures that show students meeting our learning goals in the classroom.  We are in the midst of our first month still (I had to wait until contract issues were settled) students are taking pictures of what is happening in our classroom and writing a caption about what it is they are doing.  I have a class iPad supplied from the school and this iPad is the reporters for the day.  They also get to use it to complete their assigned tasks too.  They are responsible for taking pictures and making a collage of our activities on PicCollage.  They add some text and write a caption.  Other than making the first calendar I have been pretty hands off.  I approve the final draft before it is posted but this really has not added any more work to my already busy and full schedule.  The students love it and so do the parents (well at least the ones on Instagram).

I have also learned some things too…  My students have a lot to learn about social media and etiquette.  This generation of students will live their lives online and developing a positive digital footprint is essential.  This is the entry point for many of my students at this age.  They are beginning to get online but they have not yet made any serious mistakes about what they are doing online.  This is a perfect teaching opportunity to teach them how to be responsible online.  Teaching students how to post, what to post, what not to post, how to be responsible, how to comment, and how to collaborate online is important.  I also have future lessons on how to take a picture, layout, colour, and creating a digital collage that tells a story. (all of which meets media curriculum) This beginning into student Instagram reporting is a great way to do all of this.

Think a Student Instagram Reporter is something you want to try see my tips below.

  1. Get Permission – now I do not mean that you need to beg parents for permission to do this. I did not send a lead letter home explaining this nor did I make a separate Instagram permission form.  My school board has a general form that covers all photo consents and sharing of information through social media.  This covers what I am doing.  In my first student news letter I  let parents know that I will use various social media to inform them of what is happening in our classroom.  I would look into making sure that you have this permission, or go get it,  before you start any of this.
  2. Hardware – You will need a device that students can use freely throughout the day.  I have an iPad touch that would have worked too.  But we use our class iPad.  All you need is a device with a decent camera, and an internet connection.  Having apps such as Instagram is necessary as well as a photo collage app such as PicCollage or even WordSwag is great.
  3. Have Rules –  establishing rules about how Instagram will be used is important before you begin.
    • Ask permission before you post a picture of someone.
    • Do not post names of students
    • Stay Positive – we try to focus on the postitive aspects of our classroom.
    • Add Value –  we don’t just take a photo to take a photo what we post contributes to our feed.  (we are going to work on this one)
  4. Have a code that allows students to sign their work without stating their names.  I use SR:PF to indicate that the photo was taken by a student reporter:student initials.  I also use #hashtags such as our school board hashtag.  My goal is to use more hashtags in the future such as #inourclassroom and others that I find together with my students.  These will help us share our message further.
  5. Keep Track – Make a calendar for students so that they know when their turn will be.
  6. Students Training Students – I only had to show the first few students how to be the student reporters.  Then they did the rest and previous reporters would help out the new reporter to make sure that they knew what to do.
  7. Instagram Goals – As I started my first round I wanted the students just to do and discover how to Instagram.  We weren’t focused on doing anything really well, just on doing it.  Once I am through my first round I will work with students to come up with a list of best practices about how to Instagram our classroom out to share with others.  Such as….
    • Take a picture that shows evidence of our learning goal.  What did we do today that met our learning goals in _________.
    • Choose your colours carefully.  Use complementary colours between background and text.
    • Pictures are the most important.  This has been an issue with my class they show a lot of background colour with tiny pictures.
    • Focus on what is important
    • Respect Privacy – this has not been an issue but I have a few students that personally don’t want to be photographed at all.
    • Make your comment specific – We are reading books (many times this is what is posted) but we will soon be pushing students to be more specific with We are reading books because…
  8. Be Careful Who you Follow – Screen who you follow and watch who follows you.  You can make your profile private and this helps but I really wanted to be open with what we were doing in our classroom so I have left our profile open.  As a result I often pay attention to who is following us and who we are following.  I had a night club following us at one point, I blocked them quickly as they have no purpose in following 9-11 year olds.  I also have had to stop following many people due to the content in which they post.  Having students post does not seem to be something that is very popular right now.  (or else I just haven’t found them yet) Therefore there are many teachers, however for this Instagram account I want it to be for kids not teachers.  (so if we don’t follow you back….don’t worry we still love that you follow us)
  9. Be Picture Ready – or at least don’t worry about it.  I never know when a student is going to snap a picture of me during the day.  I am often in the middle of writing out a sloppy chart paper when I hear the sound of the iPad camera.  You really just have to be okay with this.  Your picture is and could be taken at any point during your teaching.  This did take some getting used to.  (well at first it was my student teacher that had his practicum documented through our Instagram feed). But on the bright side, sometimes a child yawning early in the morning,in a photo, looks like they are super excited about your new math concept. So there is that.  Now I do require that students check with me prior to posting work and I learned my lesson early on to pay close attention to spelling as spelling errors were a problem at the beginning.  However when pointed out to the student, I think that was a learning moment for him to realize how important it is to use our/are correctly.
  10. Cross Post – if you have your class on other platforms then cross post to those platforms.  Instagram is great to cross post to Twitter and allows for updates on multiple platforms which is great so that parents and other followers don’t need to follow you on every platform but can use the platform that they are comfortable with to connect with you.  I will eventually even get our feed posted to our sidebar on our classroom website and would love if I could find a program that would sum up our Instagram feed and create a blog post for this automatically.
Are you ready to instagram with your class? Why not start by following my very own classroom reporters @45in205 on Instagram or @madlylearning


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