This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

A picture is worth a thousand words as the old saying goes, but with more than 400 million users, half of which are under 30, the photo sharing platform Instagram can be worth a lot more than a thousand words if you are a teacher.

Instagram is the mobile app that allows users to share the pictures or videos they have taken. In class, Instagram offers a visual alternative to students who are often overloaded with texts. In an anatomy class for example, isn’t it easier for student students to learn about the structure of a bone from a picture rather than a long description?

Instagram offers a visual alternative to students who are often overloaded with texts (Source)

Ideas for integrating Instagram into your classes

Spice up your home work assignments

In literature class

  • Share an interesting photo as a creative writing prompt. Students will see the same photo… how many different stories will they come up with?
  • Suggest students follow the author of a book you’ve assigned.

In Science

  • Students can document the progress, and sometimes fails, of their lab studies and experiments.

    Instagram allows students to document their lab experiments. (Source)

  • Students present some of the biology , chemistry and electricity experiments they are doing at the Cégep de Trois-Rivières.

Other classes or student activities

How to

If you are a beginner, the following tutorial will show you everything you need to know to start using the app:

  1. Download
  2. Sign up
  3. Follow users
  4. Create your first post – share a photo or video with your followers
  5. Edit a photo or video – spice up your posts with filters and other edits
  6. Hashtags – what they are and how to use them
  7. Connecting with others – browse other people’s posts and show your appreciation for them with “likes” and comments

The same instructions are available in text format here.

Tutorial on how to use Instagram.

Insta tips for teachers

Instagram first and foremost for mobile devices

When you download the Instagram app from the app store on your mobile device you should know that:

  • Instagram is designed to be used on a mobile device but you can interact (like or comment) with your account on the desktop site.
  • It’s not impossible to upload photos or videos from your desktop but it is more complicated as Instagram was first and foremost designed to be used on your phone.

Create an Account That is Specific to Your Classroom

  • Create a new Instagram account that is used exclusively for education purposes.
  • Share educational posts with students and moderate discussions.
  • Suggest students follow your page (they can still interact with your posts even if they are not followers), but avoid following any students back.

Choose an Instagram handle

The handle or username that you choose should be professional and simple. Create a username that is:

  • Easy to spell and remember
  • Easy to distinguish from other handles that may be similar. Not a variation of someone else’s handle.
  • Appropriate with no possibility of multiple meanings or innuendo.

Here are some examples:

Private or public?

A public Instagram account can be accessed by any Instagram user whereas a private account is only visible to the followers that you approve. Your teaching goal in using Instagram will help determine the type of account, for instance:

  • A private account could be used if you want the students to:
    • Showcase or submit photographic evidence of their work
    • Help each other by sharing their completed assignments
  • A public account would be used to:
    • Engage students with new audiences and participate in knowledge construction on a larger scale.
    • Create a social space where students can get feedback from a wide readership.
    • Provide students with opportunities to interact with experts or comment on current events relevant to their field of study.

Use #Custom Hashtags

Introduced on Twitter they are a way to categorize content on social media so other Instagram users can easily find your post. Starting with the # sign, they are followed by any word or words that you want. Instagram gives a few tips on how to use hashtags.

Comment filtering

To avoid getting spam, bot comments or any inappropriate language, you can write the words that you don’t want to see in the “custom keyword” box.  Instagram will hide comments that contain any of those words.

How to filter comments on Instagram.

Instagram is a fun way to connect with your students and leverage their creative perspectives on what they are learning. It is also useful for Just-In-Time teaching, to rapidly correct misconceptions or misunderstanding. The students are not only learning, they are also part of the teaching processes.

Finally it is important not to assume that your students know how to appropriately interact online. Set aside some class time to teach digital citizenship and discuss ways to be a responsible digital citizen.

We would love to hear how you incorporate it into your own class! Let us know in the comments.

About the author

Susan MacNeil

She has had a busy career in education. With a M.Ed she taught all levels from kindergarten to university. However, most of her career was spent at the college level teaching ESL. She gave Performa courses, lead workshops at SPEAQ, RASCALS and l’AQPC. She served at the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur where she contributed to the evaluation of the general education components. She received grants from L’Entente Canada-Québec for various
research projects. Susan is also the recipient of the AQPC Mention d’honneur Award. Having retired from teaching she became a contributor to Real Life Stories of education technology integration at Eductive. Chinese ink painting helps her relax and travel keeps her energized.

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