Most teachers hold a firm stance against interacting with students on social media. With the incredible influence that online social networks have on all of our lives, are we making a mistake by erring on the side of caution and not connecting with our students online?
Any teacher with a desire to keep his job knows the importance of shielding his personal social accounts from students. We all share the fears of having our private lives exposed and choose to simply avoid communicating with students online, but before teachers consider this practice to be off-limits, I want to introduce you to a safe approach to using Instagram as an online platform for connecting students and strengthening your classroom community.
Recent studies show that more than 52% of teens choose Instagram as their go-to social media outlet. If you teach teenage students, then you are teaching avid users of the image-driven social platform, which now boasts over 400 million members. Instagram has become a powerful tool for connecting people via photography and graphic designs and images.
Unfortunately, teachers have been slow to adopt Instagram as a tool for connecting with students. Many teachers are unaware of the potential benefits of establishing a social community for their classroom, while others are unsure of where to start. These 7 tips will help you to get over any potential fears and to establish a safe and transparent online student community using Instagram:
1.) Get Approval and Be Transparent:
Before you even consider creating an instagram account as an online community for your students, get approval from your school’s administration first. Every district has a specific social media policy, which you will have to abide by. Since this account is for educational purposes, you should share the Instagram website url with administrators and parents as well as on your teacher website.
2.) Create an Account That is Specific to Your Classroom
Once you get the green light from administration, it’s time to create a new Instagram account that is used exclusively for education purposes. The username that you choose should be professional and simple. A handle like @MrJohnsonsMathClass communicates the educational nature of the page and is easy for students and parents to find. Remember that this account is an extension of you and your classroom so keep it professional. It is also recommended that you keep your page public so that users and non-users of instagram can access it from a mobile device or PC.
3.) Following: 0
The purpose of this account is to share educational posts with students and to moderate discussions. You can encourage your students to follow your page (they can still interact with your posts even if they are not followers), but forbear following any students back. The only place where you will interact with students is in the comments section of your posts.
4.) Keep Your Posts Simple and Use Captions
You don’t have to be a professional photographer or a graphic designer to post on Instagram. Simple images like a photograph of the homework assignment written on a white-board or a screen shot from a website will work fine.
5.) Use #CustomHashtags
Your Instagram page will be a place where students can find informative posts and reminders as well as ask each other questions. Using a custom hashtag, like #MrsDeSotoAlgebra2 will make your posts searchable by class and allow students to contribute posts as well.
6.) Be A Moderator
My favorite aspect of using Instagram with students is having the hands-off role of the moderator. You will have to choose what your role will be, but it can be pretty awesome to sit back and watch your students answering each other’s questions and explaining their thinking. As the teacher, you can add a guiding question or thought to steer discussions where you want them to go.
7.) Teach Digital Citizenship
Never assume that your students know how to appropriately interact online. Set aside some class time to discuss ways to be a responsible digital citizen. This process will be a little shaky in the beginning, but students will quickly get the hang of communicating with each other and expressing themselves in an appropriate way. Be sure that you model desired behavior and communicate clear expectations and consequences with students before you start.
With these 7 tips in mind, now may be the perfect time to flip the script on how we think about interacting with our students on social media.
Tags: social media, education, instagram, elearning, online learning, community, edtech