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.
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.
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.