Monday, December 23, 2013

Appsolutely Snaptastic - using Instagram in teaching and learning

Where do I start?
Thank you for the inspiration @foodatoakhill

About Instagram: Instagram is a free photoapp for i-Phone and Android. It has a huge user community, is easy to use, and you can share to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Many students have their own accounts so they know how to use the application. From my own experience, students love publishing and showing the works they produce at school, however, there are many benefits for having a subject-specific Instagram account.

To begin: Have a smartphone? Download the free Instagram app from your app store. Don't worry if not all your students have a smartphone - you only need to start with your own device.

Create an Instagram account that you intend to use ONLY for your subject. By using a subject-dedicated account you have all your photographs available in the one feed for sharing with your students, parents, other teachers, and anyone else who follows you. Having a subject-dedicated account also allows for safe and responsible participation and sharing, and encourages appropriate social media use in an educational setting.

I was inspired to create a subject-based Instagram account for Visual Arts at the Northern Beaches Secondary College, Balgowlah Boys Campus, at a recent Sydney TeachMeet (Seachange at Northern Beaches Secondary College, Freshwater Senior Campus, June 2013). Jeannette James from Oakhill College presented a session on her amazing initiative that has now spread world-wide - the #foodatinstagram educator's community (see @foodatoakhill). Jeannette has begun an Instagram and Twitter community of Food Technology teachers and students sharing all the wonderful things they produce in the Food Technology classroom. The community has now extended to other KLA's, where teachers who want to be involved create an account using the #subjectatschool formula. For example, @foodatoakhill, @artatbally, @mathatgalstonhigh, etc. By joining this exciting initiative, you will become part of a community of enthusiastic educators sharing loads of ideas and experiences in teaching and learning.

Once you have created your account, provide students with the link to your feed (e.g. artatbally) so that they can follow and be involved. I do NOT provide students with the log-in details (username and password), only the link. This means students can follow the school's feed but only you and other teachers who you choose to give the log-in details to have full control of the account. I also do NOT follow students back when using any social media. For example, a student is easily able to search my Twitter feed, and as an educator who uses Twitter for professional development and sharing, I have no problems with students following me. However, I always tell students that I will never follow them. So how does a student contribute to the feed? They are able to use the hashtag linking your feed, for example, they upload a photograph related to your subject, then include a hashtag comment, for example #artatbally. This hashtag will link their photo to your account. However, I find there are plenty of ways for students to be participants and fully involved with the account without actually having access rights. The section 'Why start a subject-based Instagram account' (see below) provides evidence for student particpation despite not having access to the account.

How do I use the account in the classroom? When students are producing artworks in the classroom I encouraged them to photograph their works and get them to type #artatbally and/or @artatbally in the comment. I also encourage students to take photos of any galleries, art events, and street art they might view in their own time. Instagram now has video capture where you can upload 40 seconds worth of awesome student work.

Remember to follow @7mrsjames and @foodatoakhill on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date and involved with the initiative. You can also follow my personal and school accounts on @salstar1 and @artatbally. Thank you to @7mrsjames who has been so supportive and encouraging of my efforts to establish and promote our involvement in the initiative.

Why start a subject-based Instagram account?
- Encouraging students to take photographs and videos that will be published in an informed and artistic manner via the use of filters, focus, compositional tools promotes the development of student visual literacy and digital citizenship.
- Students gain authentic learning experiences. By promoting your school and subject area and involving the community in what you do, students gain a sense of belonging to a wider community. The use of Instagram is great for contacts, connections, communiry and real-world experiences. Taste magazine used on of Oakhill Colleges' recipes and Instagram images in a July school holiday promotion!
- A subject-based Instagram account is a great way to teach students digital citizenship, for example, appropriate comment writing. Feedback is timely, and the students' 'voice' is promoted, which is especially good for those more quiet students.
- Students are given an opportunity for building a solid digital identity; they gain a sense of gratitude, empathy, paying it forward, and enthusiasm for your subject. They learn to value what they do by showing their works to others, and they, in-turn, value what you do as you show off their works with pride.

Smart phone photography: Interesting links and articles:
- Benjamin Lowy, a photo journalist whose amazing body of work is created using smartphone apps:
- The Sydney Morning Herald's iPhoneography Challenge:
- A Sydney Morning Herald article on photography apps: Improve your snaps with apps (June 6, 2013).
- The Mobile Photography Awards:
- A Sydney Morning Herald article on the top 20 digital photography apps (May 23, 2013):
- Times of India article: Smartphone photos emerge as the true art (15 April, 2013):
- The Guardian Media article: Photography on a phone (July 11, 2013):
- @foodatoakhill Twitter and Instagram handle
- Oakhill College's website:
- Posts by Jeannette James on the benefits of Instagram and the Instagram Challenge at the blog http://foodtechnology/ including the post http://foodtechnology/
- @artatbally Twitter and Instagram handle

@artatbally Instagram photos:
Having an Instagram and Twitter account for Visual Arts at Balgowlah Boys Campus has allowed us to do some really great things in a very short period of time. Year 7s in particular have been very enthusiastic to 'like' the @artatbally Instagram images and have also been tagging #artatbally from their own accounts when wanting to show their own artworks. Students love the idea that their artworks are being showcased on the @artatbally feed. We have also been able to showcase and promote important events such as the Year 9 exhibition of drawings of Manly Dam at Manly Library, as well as the inagural MAD (music, art and drama) night.

If you have a subject-specific Instagram or Twitter account I would love to hear about what you are doing with your classes/school.

Sally Leaney
This information was presented at the Term 3, 2013 Staff Development Day IT Tasters session for the Northern Beaches Secondary College staff.

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