EC&I 832, Major Project

Photosharing Apps – Avenue for Digital Citizenship Education?

The first question I have used to guide my major project work is:

What does research say about photosharing apps and their value in educating students about digital citizenship and helping them to become positive, contributing digital citizens?

While I did find some sources one would consider research, I am using a lot of information I have collected from educators, specialists and organizations who have written articles, blog posts and guides to shed some light on this topic.  One of my other guiding questions is based on my own personal thoughts and observations, so this post will share some of the thoughts and observations of others in field.


By Mulhallsue (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There are many issues addressed in the readings I did, both for and against having social media in the classroom at all.  I am not going to discuss those in depth, other than the privacy concerns to be considered, which will be in another post.  However, in her blog article in Edutopia, Vicki Davis addresses a concern by some teachers that by using social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat in the classroom, students will be using them socially when teachers are trying to teach. She says we can’t mistake “social media for socializing” – just as kids talking while working in groups is different than talking while they are hanging out.  In the article How to Use Social Media as a Learning Toolthey echo a point I read repeatedly.  Using social media in the classroom to teach digital citizenship and have students learn 21st Century skills, helps bridge a gap that exists between students who have access to technology at home and those who do not.  These students will not be left behind when it comes to interacting appropriately with these tools.

In the New York Times article, The Secret Social Media Lives of Teenagers, they discuss the Harvard students who had their admission offers rescinded after sharing offensive images within what they thought was a private Facebook group chat. I found this article very pertinent to my project, even though they were on Facebook and not Snapchat, Instagram or PicCollage. The article speaks about youth (and adults, sometimes) oversharing photos, videos and memes and how this can lead to issues.  The privacy they think they have may not be reliable.  They spoke of the need for adults (educators) “to shift the conversation around teen’s social media use away from a fear of getting caught and more toward healthy socialization, effective self-regulation and overall safety“.  Digital citizenship education, right?  Experiences like this demonstrate that young intelligent people are leaving school without an understanding of what sharing and liking inappropriate photos and videos in their supposedly “safe” bubble could mean for them.  What does a positive, healthy, contributing digital citizen look like?

The Educator’s Guide to Social Media by Connect Safely has a very comprehensive look at social media in the classroom as well as considerations for educators’ own personal use. They suggest the two general rules of “think before you post” and “be kind and respectful” generally cover the basics of digital citizenship in social media, but acknowledge it is a bit more complicated than that.  Digital citizenship using tools like Snapchat and Instagram should be woven into the entire curriculum, not just during specific, dedicated time. They suggest students do not distinguish between their digital lives and the rest of their lives, so knowing how to use digital tools safely is just literacy.  Integrate it into everything we teach and take advantage of digital teachable moments.  We don’t have to be teaching about the “Internet” to teach students to be responsible for what they post online and to think critically about evaluating sources and information.

The last article I want to reference is one by Kayla Delzer.  Her students run her Instagram and Twitter accounts.  They do not use Snapchat, but her students are in second grade, and this article is now a couple of years old.  Perhaps she felt they were not quite ready for that one! She uses gradual release of responsibility, as she does in other subject areas, to get her students ready with regard to digital citizenship and posting on social media. She does some lessons first, gives them a digital citizenship bootcamp, and has them pass seven different rules before becoming the “instagrammer” of the day.  Parents have to come in for a one evening bootcamp too where the students are the teachers, getting their parents all set up and ready to participate. She feels it is important for them to develop their digital footprint in a genuine environment.  These social media, photosharing tools, are the perfect way for her students to do this and learn about being positive, contributing digital citizens.

Are their any drawbacks to photosharing apps as a way to educate students about digital citizenship? The arguments go both ways to a point.  However, the arguments against these apps in the classroom seem to be more about privacy concerns rather than the validity and benefit of using them for student learning.  I am still investigating sources.  I will compare these ideas with my own personal opinions when I discuss guiding question #2 – my own observations!

Photo Credit: coreeducation Flickr via Compfight cc

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