Instagram, a social picture-sharing platform, has moved from being a place where people share selfies and pictures of their cats, to become a valuable social networking resource. It works as a visual Twitter, a trendier Pinterest and a unique way for teachers and students to connect and share information. In fact, Instagram is developing a regular presence in classrooms around the world and teachers are finding creative ways to put it to good use.
Professional Networking and Idea-Sharing for Teachers
Teachers have started using Instagram like they use Pinterest, to find and share creative ideas. However, instead of pinning and viewing links to webpages and videos, Instagram allows them to share examples of projects and activities actually going on in their classroom. With Instagram, teachers can find ideas for creative bulletin boards, arts and craft projects and other hands-on activities. They can also document examples of student work or, with parental permission, share photographs of students in their classrooms. While the goal of Instagram is to share photographs, teachers who label their photos with relevant hashtags will also find that it serves as a great tool for organizing ideas and accessing them for years to come.
Instagram is also a place where teachers can connect with other teachers. Every Tuesday during the school year, a large number of teachers participate in Teacher Talk Tuesday. They take and upload photos of what’s going on during their school day and tag them with #teachertalktuesday. Others following the tag can then get new ideas and see what is going on in schools across the country on that particular day. This also helps teachers find more people to follow on Instagram, building their professional network.
Educational benefits of Instagram
Teachers can also use Instagram with their students for educational benefits. Instead of adding photos to Instagram themselves, teachers can task students with documenting what is going on in the classroom, including experiments, projects and hands-on activities. Students can even use Instagram on field trips, sharing photos of what they find interesting or going on a scavenger hunt and using Instagram to document their finds. Parents can get in on the action by following the class Instagram account to see what happens in class each day.
Looking in more detail at the possibilities of Instagram for education, the use of visual images could potentially improve the interpersonal development of students. Group activities such as making an Instagram project about your school, the wildlife in the school garden or the different backgrounds students in the class come from help develop group cohesion and collaboration. The most obvious application would be in Art classes where students can learn about composition, lighting and framing. Manipulating images with Instagram filters and cropping tools is a good method of promoting student creativity. Giving students the same set of images and seeing how each student creates a different visual piece can be a great way of promoting artistic and creative intelligence. Instagram is not limited to art or photography classes. Math students can use real world visual examples of fractions, geometric shapes and lines to explain their understanding of math theories. Foreign language classes can use Instagram images to remember new vocabulary, or describe key features of a culture.
But sharing information is a two-way process, and teachers can follow the class account to learn a little more about what students found important enough to document that day. At the end of the class period, some teachers may choose to use Instagram in place of a traditional exit slip, having each student take a picture to share what he or she learned in class that day. The photos students and teachers add to Instagram then become evidence that learning is taking place in the classroom and can be used as part of portfolios or during parent-teacher conferences and teacher evaluations.
Creative Writing and Learning
For teachers who want to boost students’ creative and critical thinking skills, Instagram can also be a helpful tool. Instead of writing traditional research papers or narrative essays, students can share the results of their research or tell their stories through photos. Photo essays can be created in nearly every subject area, with students posting photos to show their understanding of a subject and adding captions to include key facts or other pieces of information.
The photos found on Instagram can also be used to inspire creativity, having students choose a photo and then write a short story or poem based on what they see. Using Instagram’s search feature, students can also search for photos by hashtags and find photos to help them learn more about a particular topic or to use as part of a report or research project.
Learning does not always require books or other text-based documents. Students can learn and express themselves in many ways, including through visual images. Instagram gives students access to thousands of photographs every day and allows them to add their own photographs to the mix. By taking and responding to photographs, students learn to communicate in a different way and have the opportunity to boost their critical thinking and creative skills. Teachers can also get in on the Instagram action, using the photographs to share all of the great things they are doing in the classroom and glean ideas from other teachers.
Finding Educator Instagrammers
Using applications like Iconosquare and Websta to search instagram images on our computer can be a helpful way to find new instagram images. These sites bring up hundreds of images from different instagrammers related to user created tags which can then be followed for future reference. Some of our favorite instagrammers include:
- The Pinspired Teacher is a 4th Grade teacher with funny, creative and inspirational images.
- Any artistic teachers should keep an eye on Seusstastic’s Instagram page who has some colorful images that will stir up ideas for classroom design and lesson planning.
- Math and Science teachers will enjoy browsing images of what 4mulafun’s class are up to and get ideas for their own classrooms.