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

>via GIPHY

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.

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.


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.

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:

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.


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.

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”.

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.

>via GIPHY 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.

>via GIPHY

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

EC&I 832, Major Project

My App Adventure is Still Going!

If any of you read my initial posts about my project and took any kind of interest, you may have been wondering if Snapchat and Instagram had gotten the better of me.  What happened to her? I bet she couldn’t keep up with the clever captions, cutesy filters and disappearing images. Well, not so.  I am still here!  For reasons I will not bore you with, I have not been able to blog as I normally would about the progress I have been making.  However, I have been doing a lot of work on my dive into Snapchat, Instagram and PicCollage.  I will be doing a lot of blog posting over the next while, with all of the updates I wasn’t able to do.  Therefore, if you are interested in my progress, it will be a little bit like Netflix binge-watching…but maybe not as entertaining.

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I decided fairly early on, that my research into the three apps would focus around four guiding questions, and I have stuck to that.  I have done quite a bit of research into what others have to say around three of the four questions which I will expand on in my coming posts – one post for each question and my progress so far.  Truthfully, I have found very little about PicCollage, which I suspected would be the case, so my project will focus primarily on Snapchat and Instagram.

Despite the popularity of these apps, there are still so many opposing opinions as to their value in education and whether or not they have a place in the classroom.  Our recent conversations about media literacy had me considering all I have been learning regarding photosharing apps and the literacy skills needed to use them.  Added to my research and my own experiences using the technology, our class content is adding to my project.  Thank you to everyone who is sharing fantastic readings and personal perspectives.

Because I am not in a regular classroom/school setting, I have also decided to reach out to some of my colleagues who are implementing our BYOD initiative or who specialize in literacy instruction.  I am going to ask them their thoughts surrounding two of my guiding questions – Digital Citizenship question #2 and Media Literacy question #1.

My next posts will each share where I am so far with one of my guiding questions. If you are using any of these apps and you wish to join the conversation, I would be happy to hear your perspectives.  My guiding questions can be seen in my February 11th post!

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