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What Educators Want From Using Instagram and Social Media

Many teachers want to use social media in their classrooms but just need some guidance. What better way to find out what works than for educators to talk with one another.


Understanding the legalities of minors posting personal information on social media accounts for class, general ways to use Instagram and other social media effectively in the classroom, and finding a sense of equality and ethical standard within BYOD policies, were only a few of the highlights of the expansive conversation on using such tools in K-12 at this year’s EdCamp Connecticut. 


“I make them make a new account,” said one educator regarding students working with Instagram for classroom assignments during a discussion on using the popular social media platform. 


She continued to say that doing it through school emails was the most secure way of starting off. 


Other educators suggested using universal accounts with one username and password  for the whole class on Instagram and other social media sites, providing that the students are trustworthy enough not to highjack the account for their own personal assessment. 


A recent University of Phoenix College of Education poll conducted in April shows that 13 percent of the 1,002 K-12 educators surveyed are using social media as a learning tool. The data also found that 62 percent of those surveyed were reluctant to bring social media into the classroom, with only 45 percent believing it offered educational benefits in the growing spectrum of available digital learning tools. 


Michael Nash, an instructional technology specialist at Ellington Public Schools for grades 7-12, highlighted that it all depends on population when it comes to working with social media, including trusting students with access to class-wide accounts. 


“The health teacher was doing this [project] on awareness around healthy eating, so she started a hashtag so that kids could post good ideas around healthy eating - it was a no-sugar challenge,” said Nash. “The students were not receptive to posting on their personal accounts.” 


Nash recommended having a teacher account despite asking students to use their own. 


One educator noted that personal accounts could be tricky due to the nature of content that students may post, including things that are inappropriate to associate with a school project. 


“They’d say: ‘This is my private space, not my school space,’” chimed in another teacher. “So it’d be a tactical error for them to use it in that sense.” 


Four out of five of K-12 teachers surveyed in the University of Phoenix College of Education poll believe there could be issues with both parents and students over social media use, with a quarter of responders saying that they were intimidated by students' deep understanding of mobile devices.


Robin Doherty, a grades 11 and 12 English teacher from Malden High School in Malden, MA, offers utilizing social media as an option for extended projects, such as using Instagram while students act as a marketing agency that posts for the class. 


She goes by the Instagram username MSDMHSENGLISH, and offered samples of what her students shared on Instagram through the hashtag #T3Reading. 


“It was a term three reading project…they need to know that if we use a class hashtag, I don’t need to be following them to see it,” said Doherty. 


The project covered mini book reports and other fun tidbits during their assigned reading, she said. 


An elementary teacher from from Ellington saw benefits to the public nature of Instagram as an image-sharing service.


“There’s a great opportunity for communication between school and home [over Instagram] because if parents can see what work their kids are doing through looking at a hashtag, that’s a neat thing, and I feel like they’ll take more ownership that way,” she said.  


She also wants to begin using it to share her anger charts for professional development use by other educators. She cited that she finds charts on Pinterest all of the time, and is just started diving into Instagram to get the same type of material. 


Others suggested posting homework assignments, citing wide-use of Instagram amongst students, and Doherty describe her students as a generation that was image-based, which the room readily agreed with. 


The University of Phoenix College of Education poll also showed that limited training in tech tools topped the list of concerns for today’s teachers, with nearly half wanting to learn more about EdTech. While 95 percent of those surveyed had experienced training related to classroom technology integration, 62 percent said it was minimal training, or they had none at all. 


Events like EdCamp CT, which was held at The Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Conn., this year, offer educators a chance to collect knowledge while sharing from their experiences.


Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor

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