Instagram allows teachers and students to communicate through shared images, short video clips, and captions. Instagram has the potential to increase student collaboration, provide evidence for student understanding, and authentically showcase student work.
You can utilize existing student expertise by leveraging Instagram to engage students and enhance their learning. Instead of students learning how to use a new platform or device for school, take advantage of their social media savvy on Instagram!
If you aren’t sure about using Instagram in a classroom setting, try 8 Questions to Consider Before Starting a Class Instagram. Otherwise, let’s take a look at some great ways to use Instagram in your classroom!
Reminders and Information
Use Instagram to share important information and reminders with your students in a visual format. There are a few examples below of how I reminded students about coming in to make corrections, of important schedule changes, of key concepts from class, and how to contact me after a snow day.
Get involved in school events and let your students know! Share pictures of their sporting events, school plays, concerts, assemblies, graduations, etc.
Modeling engagement will also encourage your students to be part of the school. I teach high school freshman who are often hesitant to go to school events at first. Through Instagram, I was able to show them that teachers and students were going to school events and what was happening at these events. I also shared pictures of the awesome costumes and outfits that students wear during Spirit week, from 80s day to red, white, and blue to generation day where my freshman dress up like babies!
Students at Work
Use Instagram as your class newsletter. Share what your students are working on in class with photos rather than simply text. We had parents follow our account to see what we were up to!
Showcase Student Work
Turn your Instagram feed into a showcase of student work! Share exemplars of student work so that all students can see what great work looks like. You can also share works in progress, and tips about common mistakes like the unevenly spaced x-axis below.
Earth Science is Everywhere!
A key part of engaging students in content is making it relevant to their daily life. Instagram allowed my students and I to see Earth Science as something that is happening all around them, on the internet and in the physical world outside of our classroom.
I shared images of significant earthquakes as they happened as well as pictures of the Cascade volcanic arc while flying to Washington state.
To my delight, students also started sharing Earth Science images with me! A few examples include a student sharing a science pun and another student sharing an image of recent solar flares.
Celebrate Mondays with Motivational or Content Quotes
This is based on a great idea from the book Your School Rocks…So Tell People!. I started each week on Instagram with a positive image and our school hashtag. I used Later to pre-schedule the posts at 7 AM on Monday so that I wasn’t adding one more thing to my own Monday mornings!
Engage Your Students in the Comments
In addition to sharing images, you can also use Instagram to start a conversation. Ask students questions, get their opinions, ask them to contribute to your learning community!
Direct Messaging is a Powerful Tool
Students ask me questions and submit images of assignments through direct messaging. This is a quick and easy way for us to communicate that is often less of a hassle than email.
After a year of using Instagram in the classroom, I spent some time researching what other educators and Instagram users do with the platform. I came up with 2 new ideas that I would like to try in the future.
- Microblogging. Captions are 2,200 characters and allow for more elaborate discussion than Twitter with plenty of space for explanations, evidence, and rebuttals in a single stream. Students could use Instagram to write brief blog posts, create a publicly shared portfolio, critique each other’s work, or debate controversial topics. This would help students learn to share their ideas and opinions in a public space and create a record of their work.
- Triad Challenge from Laura Randazzo: Laura’s blog post on the Triad Challenge was inspiring and I recommend you read it for yourself. I’m thinking about putting students into small groups and have each group make an Instagram account to use for the class. This allows students to avoid using their personal accounts for classwork. Then students would work together on small assignments and challenges that they could share with their peers on Instagram. If I have extra time, I would like to gamify these challenges with points and rewards like the House Cup in Harry Potter!
This post features a sampling of what I have tried and what I am thinking about trying with Instagram in the future. For more great ideas from other teachers and administrators, check out the following resources!
I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!
- How do you use social media to engage with your students and with an authentic audience?