EC&I 832, Major Project

Photosharing Apps in Schools – My Major Project Journey

Over the last few months, I entered the world of Snapchat and Instagram.  My project initially included two other apps as well. Duolingo I dropped immediately as it did not fit with the direction I decided to go with my project.  PicCollage, I was using most of the way through, but although it was similar to the other two, it did not have the same social aspect to it, so I decided to just focus the remainder of my work on the two big ones!  My project centred around four guiding questions which kept me grounded and drove both the external research I did and my own personal dive into the apps themselves.


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As I do not teach in a school right now, I could not use the apps I was trying in a classroom of students.  Therefore, I chose a different direction.  The following outlines my project journey.

  1. The first decision I made was to do a personal journey into media. As I mentioned above, I was originally going to do 4 apps.  As I outline in my first post, I had planned to do two social media ones and two that had a more “practical” use for students.  I did a poll with several teenagers and based on their recommendations, made my choices.
  2. As I began working with the apps, I started to consider exactly where I wanted to take my project.  Like the old Sesame Street skit, “One of these things was not like the other”.  Duolingo just did not fit, so I dropped it from the project. I chose 4 guiding questions outlined in this next post which guided my project moving forward.  I was going to focus on aspects of digital citizenship and media literacy as they related to photosharing apps in schools.
  3. As part of one of our class assignments, we had to consider how our project related to one or more of the nine elements of digital citizenship.  As I was currently researching that very thing, I found that easy to discuss.  Part of my project was going to directly relate to whether these apps were useful for teaching digital citizenship.
  4. After a bit of a hiatus from posting due to some unforseen circumstances, I posted an update on my progress.  Although I had not posted much on my questions at that point, I had been gathering research on each of them and formulating a plan for what my end product would be.
  5. The next area I focused on specifically was my first guiding question – what did research say about photosharing apps and their value in teaching digital citizenship?  In this post, I made reference to several sources I read on the subject.  I did not include my own opinion, but rather, what other experts had to say on the topic.
  6. Although I had researched every area of my project, the next area I chose to look at more closely was media literacy and my question regarding whether different literacy skills were needed for students to make meaning of what they see while using these apps and what the implications might be for literacy instruction. At this point, I knew there would most certainly be implications and a need to consider different literacy skills, but I was not ready to share my final product.  A link to my document will be shared below.
  7.  My next two posts were related and were a Part One and Part Two.  These were my own observations about how this type of media is used and what I was able to do with it with regards to digital citizenship.  I reflected on whether or not I thought these apps had educational value and rigour in teaching digital citizenship – which I do.  I included the first version of my document “Using Photosharing Apps to Teach Digital Citizenship Education”, but I have since added to that somewhat and will include a link to the updated version below.
  8. My final post was just before this one, as I decided my reflections on my final guiding question really deserved their own distinct post. In this post, I shared my document, “Photosharing Apps – Privacy and Usage Implications for Schools”.  I will share the link to that below as well.

This project was interesting in many ways.  I can honestly say that I may have never joined Instagram and would very likely never have joined Snapchat if not for this project.  In the end, I came up with three documents related to my guiding questions which could be considered by teachers, schools or even school divisions in some cases, when deciding whether or not these apps have a place in the classroom.  Thanks for the journey, EC&I 832!

Photosharing Apps — Privacy and Usage Implications for Schools

Using Photosharing Apps to Teach Digital Citizenship Education

Literacy Guide for Photosharing Apps


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EC&I 832, Major Project

Photosharing in Schools – Privacy Implications

I have decided to do one last short post prior to posting about the culmination of everything to do with my final project.  I did not post previously about the very extensive work I did around the privacy policies and terms of service agreements for Snapchat and Instagram, and I really think this deserves a post of its own.

I did a deep dive into the actual posted agreements/policies of each of these apps as well as examining many articles, guides and “what you should know” documents to try and get the best overall picture of what the implications of these apps might be for use within schools.  I came up with a document I am calling Photosharing Apps — Privacy and Usage Implications for Schools.  In it, I have tried to outline some things for teachers, schools and even school divisions to give serious thought to when considering these for classroom use.  Beyond the obvious, there are some things we should be very mindful of concerning student information and privacy.


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For both apps, a few examples:

  1. Although users own their own content, simply posting it grants both companies a worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable and transferable license to host, store, use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, edit, publish and distribute that content.  Does everyone know this?  Do our students?
  2. Snapchat stores its information on U.S. servers.  Instagram stores theirs in the U.S. or any other country in which it hosts servers.  Some school divisions have policies in which they do not subscribe to services where student information is stored out of country.   Just something to make sure of before going ahead.
  3. Both companies get from and provide user information to third-party sources. This is for various reasons including behavioural ad targeting which some experts warn against in an educational setting.  It is important to know where student information could be going and for what purposes.

All in all, I don’t think we need to be scared away from these apps.  They have a lot to offer in terms of teaching digital citizenship skills to our students in an authentic environment, as these are they types of tools they are engaging with daily in their personal lives.  As well, we can use these, as I have discussed before, to look at literacy skills and how we are enabling students to become more media literate.  However, we are not doing our due diligence if we skim past the underlying implications of what using these apps means for teachers, our school divisions and most of all, the safety of our students.

If we are careful, digitally-literate citizens ourselves, we will make good decisions for our classrooms and our students.


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EC&I 832

Well, that about sums it up!

Welcome to my summary of learning for EC&I 832.  Truthfully, my summary could have gone on for hours with everything we covered this term, so I decided to focus on what I call the two “big rocks” of the course, Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy.

While we learned about these topics in a very collaborative way – blog posts, social media, interacting with each other through Google+ – I chose to focus on the content we learned, rather than the methods we used to learn it.

In looking at those two big topics and my learning throughout the term, I thought we answered three questions for each that were rather similar to each other, yet the answers and exploration of the topics were very different.  For digital citizenship, the three questions I focused on are: What does it mean to be a digital citizen? How do we approach digital identity? and What role do schools play in teaching digital citizenship?  For media literacy, the questions are: What does it mean to be media literate? How do we approach new literacy challenges in a digital, Fake News world? and What role do schools play in teaching media /digital  literacy?

In my summary, you will notice that I always try to come back to students and how this learning can and should be addressed in schools.  That is how we discussed these topics for the most part and what the focus of my learning has been during the course.  Right now, I am not in a position to take this back to a particular classroom of students, but I am in a position to share my learning with a group of catalyst teachers who will then, perhaps, share it out to several classrooms of students.  I am excited to look for opportunities to put this learning into action.

Thank you for being on this learning journey with me and for sharing in my reflections.


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EC&I 832, Major Project

What do I think? – Part Two

This post is the second of a “series” based on my own observations using Snapchat, Instagram and PicCollage. As I alluded to in an earlier post, I was unable to post for a while, so parts one and two did not make their way to publish during the time I was recording my thoughts and observations. Here are some of my earlier thoughts.

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I have been thinking about Mike Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship in relation to Snapchat, Instagram and PicCollage.  The more I use these apps, the more convinced I am that they can effectively be used to teach a lot of the elements of digital citizenship.  In fact, because these apps, or ones like them, are those most commonly chosen by students, I think we need to be using them to teach it.  In my experience, the learning that has the most impact on students is learning that is authentic.  They ARE using these apps, so it is most appropriate and impactful that we use them to help students to become effective, safe and responsible digital citizens.


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Of the nine elements identified by Ribble, there are only three that I feel could not be taught with enough rigour using photosharing apps such as those I have been using.  I do not feel that Digital Commerce can really be connected to photosharing apps, unless you loosely tied them to advertisements. Although there are a lot of literacy elements involved in comprehending the messages and intention of the photos and captions being sent (which I discuss and examine in other parts of my project), I feel this is different than what Ribble had in mind.   He speaks of Digital Literacy as dealing with just-in-time information, the need for sophisticated searching and processing skills (information literacy) and how to use technology quickly and appropriately.  Photosharing apps, to my mind, are less about finding, evaluating and processing information.  They are more suited to developing media literacy skills associated with communication and comprehension based on photovisual literacy and making inferences.

In my document, Using Photosharing Apps to Teach Digital Citizenship Education, I look at Ribble’s Nine Elements and some opportunities for using Snapchat, Instagram and PicCollage to help teach them.

Using Photosharing Apps to Teach Digital Citizenship Education


Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sylviaduckworth/17875592455/

Whether or not teachers find value in Snapchat, Instagram or PicCollage for their own personal use, students are using them.  Our job is not to judge, it is to prepare students to be critical, safe, aware, appropriate and positive digital contributors.  These apps allow us to do that in an authentic way.

EC&I 832, Major Project

What do I think? – Part One

This post is the first of a “series” based on my own observations using Snapchat, Instagram and PicCollage. As I alluded to in an earlier post, I was unable to post for awhile, so parts one and two did not make their way to publish during the time I was recording my thoughts and observations. Here are some of my early thoughts.

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I have been using Snapchat, Instagram and to a lesser degree, PicCollage for a couple of weeks now.  Admittedly, I am still more of a consumer and lurker rather than active contributor.  I won’t be trying these out in a classroom with students, as I do not have that option, but I am examining them myself through my lens as a teacher.  Because I have a lot of questions, I am going to concentrate on my guiding question so I can remain focused:

What do my observations of how this type of media is used and what I can do while using it, tell me about its value in teaching digital citizenship?  Does it have educational value or potential rigour?

First of all, photosharing media is used by students daily as a way to communicate with each other and to tell their stories. When I joined Snapchat and Instagram, in addition to following peers who are on these apps, I gained a lot of “friends” who are teenagers.  I teach dance, and several of the dancers and some of my kids’ friends have friended me.  This has allowed me to get a look into what they are sharing and how they are using photos and captions to communicate with their online community.  Often, a title, a word, or the picture itself is pretty self-explanatory.  However, admittedly, sometimes I just don’t get it.  There have been times I have replayed a snap, or sat staring at a picture and asked myself, “Why?” or “What are they trying to tell me?”.  I have used a lot of inferring skills and guessing.


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I have been thinking about these apps and their value in teaching digital citizenship.  Although I have only been on them a short time, I feel they may potentially serve as a very useful vehicle for citizenship education. There are a lot of factors to consider when using them in the classroom (safety, privacy, curricular outcomes), but we are doing our students a huge disservice if we ignore the world they choose to live within. They know how to use these tools, but do they know how to use them safely, effectively and with purpose? I am not yet 100% convinced of their educational value in certain respects, but we cannot deny that they are a powerful vehicle for educating our students about who they are online.

So my early, preliminary answer is…yes.  I think photosharing apps CAN have value in teaching digital citizenship. What educational rigour they have in terms of that teaching or in educating students in media literacy skills depends on what we do with them.  I need more time researching and using them myself before I can really make a more informed judgment.


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EC&I 832, Major Project

Photosharing Apps – Impacting Media Literacy

Photosharing apps like Snapchat, Instagram and PicCollage are changing how we communicate with one another. Our students are creating, writing, reading, and comprehending a myriad of messages through the use of pictures, short chats and captions.  What we used to write in a letter or email to a family member or friend, or convey over a lengthy phone call while making dinner or lying on our beds doing homework is being captured and shared via quick snapshots of our lives in a matter of seconds. No lengthy explanations or descriptions, sometimes no context, sometimes nothing but a simple photo.  It makes me think about the literacy skills students need in order to communicate effectively this way.  I either teach about literacy or watch educators teach it almost everyday.  Are we teaching students all the literacy skills they need now, in today’s Snapchat/Instagram world?

The guiding question I have been using for this portion of my project is:

Any app, but particularly those that rely on visuals, chats and quick captions, potentially require a different set of literacy skills to allow students to communicate effectively and to make meaning of what they see.  Is any of this media calling on students to comprehend or communicate in ways we do not traditionally teach?  Should this impact or shift our literacy instruction given how widely these apps are used?  In what ways?


Photo Credit: Hernandez, Andrea. “Media Literacy”. http://www.flickr.com/photos/21847073@N05/8599553567

I think there are two different elements of media literacy to be considered within my question concerning photosharing apps like Instagram, Snapchat and PicCollage. The first is literacy as a consumer/contributor of media at large – I mean the critical examination of photos, videos, news headlines and captions, etc., that they are exposed to from the wider public.  This involves critical thinking skills that examine sources, validity of information, messaging – purpose as well as the actual message – and other skills necessary to be a critical consumer and potential contributor to public media. The other element is the group of literacy skills needed within their own social media circles.  This might include not only photo-visual, but also socio-emotional literacy skills and real time thinking.  What is my friend trying to say with that picture? How do I feel about what they posted? How are they feeling?  Are we equipping students to effectively comprehend and communicate in this way?

The article, “Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Assess Social Media Assignments” by J.J. Sylvia IV, states that using social media in the classroom helps develop necessary skills for the 21st Century. These include: fluency based in multiple media, each valued for what it offers; learning based on collectively seeking, filtering and synthesizing experiences; active learning based on both real and simulated experiences; expression through non-linear, associated webs of representations rather than linear “stories”; and co-design of personalized learning experiences. This is great and complex/critical learning.  Can we teach students to develop these 21st Century skills using our present day literacy practices with social media apps as the tool?  Or do we have to change the practices too?  The article goes on to suggest using Bloom’s taxonomy and incorporating social media (as well as other technology tools) into assignments and outcomes.


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Connectsafely.org put out The Educator’s Guide to Social Media which I used quite a lot in various aspects of my project. They spoke about the importance of having students use critical thinking skills to evaluate sources and how they must take responsibility for what they post online.  In the context of photosharing apps, I was thinking that incorrect inferences made with too little information can lead to inaccurate information being spread.  Again, it becomes an issue of students (and adults!) having literacy skills appropriate to make meaning from this type of communication.  The guide speaks specifically about Snapchat saying, “One reason many young people like Snapchat is because it is “in the present.” It’s not about taking pictures to look at later in life but to experience them in the moment and then move on. It’s as if photos are part of a conversation rather than as fodder for memories.”  Very true.  How do we become part of the conversation?

In upcoming blog posts related to this guiding question, I have some specific ideas from my research and my own experience using the apps related to specific literacy skills we should be using in our instruction.


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EC&I 832

My Day – Reading and Making Meaning

My work these days as a consultant is very focused on reading and making sense of information, media (to some degree) and the world around us.  I work with teachers, and by extension, students, on learning strategies to do this very thing. So instead, I am going to focus on the parts of my day outside of work and what that looks like for me.

I no longer have time to read lengthy works in my “off time”, other than professional books, so most of what I read are articles, Tweets, and blog posts.  I was an occasional Twitter reader before but have been reading that a lot more frequently since beginning this class.  I have used Flipboard for a long time, and while there are likely better apps out there, I still use it to get articles and posts about topics of interest to me. I also have a number of blogs and regular sites that I visit often. I regularly check the LeaderPost and CBC News apps for local/national stories, and those apps often prompt me to look up stories from other sources.  I even read some of the articles that friends and colleagues have posted to Facebook.  Regardless of what I am reading, I do have strategies I use as a reader to help me evaluate the things I read.

Photo Credit: d_t_vos Flickr via Compfight cc

When I was creating my vlog about emerging literacy challenges in a fake news world, I did a lot of thinking about my own literacy practices.  Maybe because of the literacy work I do now and my former work as a teacher librarian, I realized that critically thinking about information and evaluating media is something I do fairly automatically now.  Unless I am reading something like the blog of an author I have followed for years, or  something that doesn’t really need to be checked, I am often a lateral reader.  (I did not have a name for what I was doing before my vlog research.)  Without even consciously thinking about it, I realized I often search online for the topic or news story I am reading to see what else is being said about it.  Who else has written about this idea?  What other agencies are reporting on this?  What do I know about the sources?  I am not saying I do this 100% of the time, but if the story is important, controversial, seems questionable or has facts I think should be corroborated, then I usually do this.

The funny thing is, it doesn’t even take that much time to be a critical thinker in this way.  Sometimes, I don’t have time, or I don’t want/need to dig deeper, but I will often look something up again later, when I can. Back in the day, I used to teach students (and teachers) about website evaluation – how do I know if it is trustworthy?  We had checklists of things to “look out for”.  We know more now, and that is no longer effective as a strategy to help students.  It certainly doesn’t work for me in my daily reading, so why would we teach students something that won’t help them in theirs?

In my research for the vlog, I found several videos that were really good on the topic of fake news and being critical.  The video below is powerful as it is an example of fake news affecting lives and strategies to combat it.  I thought I would leave you with her thoughts about how our reading behaviours can have real life impact.