Friday, September 12, 2014

The Power of Instagram (and Commenting!)

By Jason A Howie,
Instagram has really taken off as one of the top photo/video sharing applications out there. Maybe you don't use Instagram, but I'd bet money that you've at least heard of it. If not, it's an app that lets you share photos and short videos with the world. It's best known for its filters that you can apply to pictures, which give your images a distinct feel and look. While you can follow individual users and users can follow you back, your account is public to the world (unless you make your account private, in which case only approved users can see your pictures), letting anyone see, like, or comment on the photos and videos you share.

While I have an Instagram account that I use semi-frequently, I've always been a little concerned by the number of teens and tweens that are getting into Instagram. The kids I babysit or have had field experiences with, some as young as 10 or so, are putting most of their waking lives on Instagram. I feel like there's a difference between me, a 21-year-old college student, choosing to put moments of my life where others can see, and a 12-year-old who hasn't fully grasped the gravity of what could happen when they put images out where anyone can get a hold of them.

It was this concern that sparked me to read this blog post by TeachMama. She talks about Instagram from a parent's perspective, but gives some amazing insights into Instagram, including a walk-through of what it is, how it works, why kids are using it, and what concerns you should have before letting kids use it. She warns about the public aspect of Instagram; that other people can see the child's account, the child can look at anyone else's account, and that the child could search for (and accidentally find) inappropriate content.

Instagram is starting to sound a little scary, at least where kids are concerned. But let's not write it off just yet. TeachMama goes on to explain how to have a conversation with your kids if they are already (or want to) use Instagram. Some of these ideas include monitoring your child's activity, making their account private, following your child's account (and their friends, and their friends' parents, etc), approve your child's followers, and creating a Family Media Agreement. She even lists some safe alternatives for kids to use if you decide that Instagram really isn't what you want them to be involved in just yet.

This blog post really made me start thinking about if Instagram could be used in an educational setting safely with students. Obviously I'm not a parent yet, so my concern is with how my students will use these types of social media in my classroom and in their lives.

Now here's where it gets really cool :)

TeachMama nor her commentors had addressed the educational aspect of Instagram, so I took it upon myself to break out my commenting skills. I hadn't really commented on many blogs before, so it felt like a big deal for me. You can read my comment (and TeachMama's response!!) below:

May I just say, I am beyond excited that she commented back to me. It makes me want to comment on everyone's blogs! (or you can comment on mine...I'll respond :)

Anyway, after my initial excitement wore off, I decided to start investigating if anyone had used Instagram in education. Turns out, they have! I found this blog post on Edudemic that talks about the top 10 ways you can use Instagram in the classroom. There are some awesome ideas, and they're all illustrated with a nice infographic that gives some great ideas!

Do you use Instagram in your classroom? Have you made an AUP or other media agreement with your students to help monitor social media use? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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