Over the last few years, the 8 Gold teachers have had new students take a Google “student survey” so we could learn more about them, their interests, and their learning styles. We ask them everything from “Where do you want to go on vacation?” to “which learning style suits you best?” You can read more about this survey in this earlier blog post. There are always a few technology-related questions. The most interesting of which asks students which social networking sites they currently use. When teachers later looked at the results, we were surprised by the results.
Facebook has been the #1 social networking site for a while now. In past student surveys, more students used Facebook over any other site. Twitter and Instagram have become more popular the last few years while Facebook has seen a decline. Based on student feedback and information online, more and more teenagers are abandoning Facebook because they feel there are too many adults monitoring their behavior. As you can see in the graph below, only 39% of our students have are active Facebook users while 67% use Instagram. Twitter usage is still behind Facebook, but I expect that to change very soon.
Even though I pride myself on being “tech savvy”, I am always late on the technology bandwagons. I have only had a Twitter account for the past year or so and finally forced myself to join because I knew there were some great benefits for networking. I have resisted Instagram because I always thought it was just something middle school girls used for taking “selfies”. As I looked into it more over Christmas Vacation, I realized it too had a lot of possibilities. Plus, I knew it was about time I learned more about the tool that so many of my students were using. As someone once said, don’t fight change. Embrace it!
Both Twitter and Instagram utilize hash tags (#) to share and search for information. The “aha” moment for me (and the deciding reason why I joined Instagram) deals with my plans for the upcoming summer. As many of my teacher friends already know, I am planning to volunteer with kids in Morocco through an organization called Cross-Cultural Solutions. After doing research into the organization and their destinations around the world, I learned that each CCS destination has its own hashtag. For example, the Morocco hash tag is #ccsrabat. If I search for this hash tag on Twitter, Instagram, or Flickr, I can find pictures and information from past volunteers. Very cool!
Last year, I had students do a photo scavenger hunt as a fun way of reviewing some of the chemistry concepts we had been learning before vacation. They took pictures of elements, compounds, and mixtures around the school building with their cell phones and iPads. They also searched for evidence of physical and chemical changes. We spent another day in class sharing these pictures in groups and making presentations using Google Drive. Each slide had to have an image, a label (element, physical change, etc.) and an explanation. There was a final day where groups presented to the class. All in all, it was a fun way to segue back into learning after a school vacation. The drawbacks were the troubles sharing pictures in a group, and I thought three days was a bit too long.
Over the vacation, as I played around with Instagram, I reflected on how to make this year’s scavenger hunt even better by including elements of social media. I decided to give students two options: Instagram or Twitter.
If students opted for Instagram, they would take pictures or videos (up to 15 seconds) using their own Instagram account. They would choose from a list of hash tags to identify each image. The student must have a public Instagram account for this to work because hash tags are not searchable on private photos.
If students opted for Twitter, they would take pictures and upload to Twitter. If they wanted a short video clip, they would use the Vine app, then share it on Twitter. Like with Instagram, they would label each one by choosing from a list of hash tags.
#8goldsci (this hash tag would be used for all images)
Luckily, we had our “team time” first period. I polled the team and realized that while most of them wanted to use Instagram, very few students had public Instagram accounts (which is a good thing for their privacy but not for this lesson!) I ran into another room and created a new team account (@8goldteachers). Luckily for us, Instagram supports multiple log ins for the same account. So, rather than have students use their own account, I was able to have ALL students take photos on their phone using the new 8 Gold teacher Instagram account. There were some small delays uploading photos, but overall it worked out very well.
Students took some great pictures and videos, and most of them (unfortunately, not all) were labeled accurately. The next day, I looked through them all and shared some of the best ones on our team Twitter site. Students seemed more engaged than last year and were very excited to see that some of their photos were “liked” by others. I even noticed a few of them “liked” photos using their own accounts as well.
There is one improvement I will make next year. It was tough for students to remember all of the hash tags and how to spell them, so next year each group will receive a handout of all hash tags, along with the definitions for each label.
Have any other ideas for using Instagram in class? Please share!