You’ve seen your students use it. You’ve seen your friends use it. Instagram. If you are social media-savvy, perhaps you have an account yourself and follow friends, celebrities, and others to see what they are up to. If you are one of those people who just got the hang of Facebook and now have to deal with a new platform that’s all the rage, not to worry—you can understand Instagram’s image and video-heavy platform easily.
You can do more than understand it, though. As a teacher, you can leverage it in the classroom. In June 2018, the social media platform reached one billion monthly users, and 500 million of them active daily. Your students are probably already familiar with it, so if they are old enough to have smartphones and use the app wisely, you have an opportunity to connect with them and tailor their education in a way that excites them.
It’s understandable if you are nervous to embrace Instagram. You don’t want your students to think you are trying too hard to connect with them and use it in a way they might find funny. Do your best to push aside your fears: you aren’t utilizing this channel to share funny jokes or to prove how “hip” you are; your goal is to make learning as accessible and engaging as possible.
Consider setting up a classroom account for your students and their parents to follow, and post their assignments or updates on it. This way, parents are always in the loop, and any students who miss class do not have to ask a friend what their homework is. Pictures are crucial on Instagram, so place text over enticing backgrounds to brighten student’s moods.
You can give Instagram-specific assignments as well. Maybe you can encourage pupils to use the platform the way they believe a historical figure or favorite character would use it, record videos of science experiments, or take pictures for a scavenger hunt (for example, if your unit is on weather, ask them to snapshot and identify types of clouds they see in the sky).
Showing off your student’s work
When children or teenagers leave for school, parents have little clue what they do during each day, especially as they get older. Parents rely on communication from you and what their children tell them (which may or may not be accurate). Even if they get step-by-step newsletters, they’re no substitute for being present.
To show off the great work your students are doing, to parents as well as peers, post pictures of their artwork, their projects, their experiments, field trips, or catch them in the middle of a discussion. Documenting what goes on in the classroom not only shows parents what their children’s education looks like, it provides students themselves with a record of class activities to help them study. You can also use Instagram to celebrate a “Student of the Week” for everyone to see.
Many schools offer fundraising activities for students to organize. Maybe your class is collecting funds to go on a field trip, or raising money to donate to a charitable organization. Bake sales are fun for younger kids, but not many teenagers clamor for the chance to make some pastries, sit at a table, and sell goods for a few dollars at a time. Innumerable advertisements bombard them every day, so they are well aware of the importance—and effectiveness—of social media marketing.
Have your students use their profiles and set up a community account for whatever cause you are fundraising for. Guide them through composing a content strategy that includes images, infographics, Instagram stories, hashtags, and reaching out to influencers. If they need help gaining followers, there are online resources you can turn to so that they promote their cause to as many eyes as feasible.
Following other teachers
Instagram is an excellent way to network with other educators. What techniques do they have to share? What revolutionary projects have they thought of? What stories can they tell? If you and your colleagues have ever felt at a loss for innovative ideas and feel like you are on an island in your struggle, Instagram enables unprecedented visual communication that can inspire you.
There are also useful teacher resources and groups you can explore. The @TeachingSpecialThinkers account, for instance, focuses on teaching special education and @Edutopia provides general tips. Instagram offers a level of connectedness that any teacher can easily tap into.
Instagram is not a social media platform to be ignored. If you use it appropriately, it can foster a new brand of learning experience for your students. How will you take advantage of Instagram?