My students love it when I take pictures of their work and post it on Instagram. They call it ‘making it on the ‘Gram.’ I have found they get upset if I don’t tag them, even if it is just their hand that made it in the picture. Many teachers are very cautious when it comes to social media, more afraid of what could go wrong than the positive effects it can have. So, I wanted to offer up a couple of suggestions on how to get started Instagram in the classroom.
Pick an Instagram name and class hashtag. I am @DaretoChem and we use #chemisawesome for any of the activities we are doing in class. This allows all your content to be easily searchable for anyone in the community. Give the information out at Back To School Night or in your Welcome Letter home on the first day. Also, on your class website, insert a widget for Instagram that shows your feed. Now, even if a parent/guardian doesn’t have Instagram, they can see the pictures you are posting as they are happening.
At the beginning of the year, I collect Media Release Forms for every student. While we have these on file in the main office, some parents never send in forms or have changed their mind about what they want the school to post. Keep a Post-It in your desk of the students who absolutely don’t want their pictures taken for easy reference. But, no matter what, I do my best not to get faces in the pictures. This is easily accomplished with the over the shoulder shot or focus on what they students are doing and just get their mid-section in the shot.
3. Find the super eager kids in your class and take pictures of their work first.
These students will talk openly about seeing themselves on your Instagram feed and others will work harder to get their work on the feed.
4. Some students will want to pose for the pictures. Don’t be afraid to take their pictures with their work, but double check that it’s ok to post it on the Internet. Even though I collect the release forms, I still ask if they want to post the picture and if they want to be tagged in it.
5. If you are still unsure about having students in the photo, just take pictures of their work with no one in the picture. Your students will still get excited about seeing their work in your feed.
The world needs to see what you are doing so please share. And share often!!!
Anyone can put an octothorp in front of a word. Yeah, that’s what the hashtag/pound sign thingie is actually called. I once had a 5 minute conversation with someone on Facebook entirely in hashtags. #youcanhashtaganything
When I was listening to Shonda Rhimes’ book A Year of Yes, something she said has really stuck with me. She was talking about how we all seem to have time to send a tweet or make a post expressing our support for something, tagging it with the appropriate hashtag, but what do we really do beyond that? It is fine if you want #justiceforharambe, but the fact is your public outcry on Twitter isn’t helping the cause unless you get up and actually do something. Start a fundraiser, call your local politicians, start a website and Internet campaign. It doesn’t matter what you do, but you need to do something beyond just saying you support something.
I regularly talk with teachers about using social media better in schools. I tell them to create a class Twitter/Instagram account or create a hashtag so that you can document ad show the world what is happening in your class. But as I have been rolling Shonda Rhimes’ words around in my head, I realize we need to do more than that. You need to make your hashtag a movement. Make it mean something. Make it change peoples’ mindsets or views of your classroom. Let it embody everything you and your students do in the classroom.
Last year, I started #roomofawesome. When I assign projects, I purposely only give them the bare requirements because I want their imagination and creativity to be the focus of their work. When they ask me to give them better direction, I open my arms and sweep them around the room where there are previous students’ work and bulletin boards with my hashtags on them. I tell them the best projects (aka the most creative) will end up on the walls/bulletin boards and posted to my social media accounts where thousands of people around the world will see them. Make it good enough to make it on the #chemisawesome board. Students will always work a little bit harder when they know their work will reach a global audience.
Hashtags can do so much more than just keep the community informed of what is happening in the school. It is the opportunity to change the expectations of what is possible in the classroom and show everyone the awesome that is happening every day.
There is a Flipped Classroom chat going on every Monday from 8-9pm EST using the hashtag #flipclass. Like most chats, there is a topic and moderators and I am usually so busy doing other things I forget about it and miss the entire conversation. But, anyway.
Something unique that they do is ask all participants to stop what they are doing at that moment in the chat and write a blog post on the spot discussing their ideas. Then you need to post it back to the chat so everyone can read. As usual, I missed the entire chat, but I tuned it for the topic of the #flashblog: How do you experience community outside of your classroom or school?
Now I get to do what I love the most: talk about my amazing students.
I am the building advisor for the town’s Relay for Life event. This is event is community, not school, based. We have hundreds of attendees, all from the surrounding areas, and only about half of those present are students. This year, my school’s teams raised over $20,000!! That brings our 3 year total to just a hair over $60,000! I am so proud of my students. Most of them stay up with me all night long. We walk the track for hours, participate in all sorts of events throughout the night, gossip, each ridiculous amounts of junk food, and have a great time. Here are some pictures from this year’s event.
I love participating in this event. Not only does it raise money for an extremely worthy cause, it helps me build stronger relationships with my students.
PS: I have no idea why the photos formatted the way they did. I just inserted them and that’s how they came out.
I have been using Remind for a little over a year now and I absolutely love it. For those who don’t know what Remind is because you have been living in a cave for the last 2 years, Remind is a free, messaging service that allows you to send short (140 character) messages to subscribers. Those who sign into your class can receive your reminds via text message, email, and/or through the app. Since everything is funneled through Remind, the text messages are not linked back to your phone so everything remains private.
Since I have recently been accepted as a Remind Connected Educator (see badge on right), I thought I would share some of the ways I use Remind.
Class Announcements–this is the most common use for Remind. I setup a class and have my students join the class. Then I simply send out quick reminders for class whenever I remember them. Messages can be sent immediately or scheduled to send at a later date/time. This is especially helpful on lab days because I can schedule a Remind to go out at 6:30am (when students are getting dressed for the day) to remind them to wear appropriate lab attire to class.
Club Announcements–same as the class announcements, but for my club. I have a hard time getting students to come to club meetings so I schedule a bunch of reminds to go off at regular intervals. Eventually students just come to the meeting so that I stop sending reminds. But then after the meeting, I send out a recap of what people missed.
Presentation Reminds–When I was at the NY/NJ GAFESUMMIT, Rachel from Remind asked me to use Remind to send out information during my presentation. This was a fabulous idea because often people miss key pieces of information during a conference and want to refer back to it later. So, I created a Remind class for my presentation and shared it with the group. I also took one of Remind’s stickers from their table, wrote the class code on it, and stuck it to my laptop which would be sitting in front of me during the presentation. Then I scheduled a bunch of reminds to be sent throughout the presentation like a link to the Google Presentation, Twitter information, and a thank you at the end for attending. I also happened to be giving away T-shirts for TechSmith so I sent out tasks through Remind for attendees to complete to earn the T-shirts. It was a lot of fun all the cell phones in class ring at the same time and people jump up to give me high-fives.
Chat–one of my biggest complaints about Remind was it was a 1-way service, meaning I could send messages out, but couldn’t receive any responses. Then a couple of months ago Remind added Chat and I did a little dance of joy. Chat allows you to engage in a conversation with a member of one of your classes. I use Chat to coordinate with the student leaders of my club, to check in on students who I know are having some turmoil in their personal lives, and to find out why a student didn’t submit assignments. Very recently, Remind has improve Chat to allow you to engage up to 10 people in a Chat at the same time.
#wordsofawesome–My friend, Kate Baker, recently started a Remind class in which she sends out a quote a day. I am changing the format for my #wordsofawesome board so I am totally stealing this idea from her.
Scavenger Hunt Clues–I am one of the organizers of EDnado–Taking Education by Storm. During the conference we decided to run a scavenger hunt as a way to win a Chromebook at the end of the conference. Throughout the conference I would send out tasks for attendees to complete such as ‘Take a picture of someone learning something new and post it to Twitter’, ‘Find the smallest of the small to get a swag bag and tickets for the Chromebook’ (that one referred to finding my son who was at the conference), ‘Make something in the Makerspace, take a pic on Instagram and tag #EDnado.’ Since you can attach pictures to Remind messages I would also send out pictures of the people you needed to find to get the tickets, just to make things a little more challenging. I also ran a scavenger hunt professional development session (unrelated to EDnado) and used Remind to send out time reminders, hints to find clues, and some pictures I was taking of different teachers involved.
Inclement Weather–My principal also uses Remind for emergency school announcements. I get to school as soon as the doors open and I have a 35 minute drive, so it is not uncommon for me to receive the call that school is closed after I am already on my way into work. One time I actually got it as I was putting my key into the lock of my classroom door. By him using Remind, I usually get the remind well before the phone blast from the school.
Obviously, you can also use Remind with parents as anyone can join your Remind class. I don’t have a separate class for just parents so they need to register for the regular class. One student actually commented to me that his mom woke him up in a panic, shaking her phone in his face, saying “Mr. Seigel reminds that the schedule changed for today. You are late for school!” That’s a direct quote, by the way.
Once you start using Remind, you will realize all of the different ways it will impact your class. But, most importantly, it has helped me build relationships with my students, and that is always my #1 priority.
In the world of social media, I am certainly not famous. I have over 2100 followers on Twitter and over 450 on Instagram. There are some educators who have tens of thousands of followers. But the really interesting thing is, to my students, I am famous. While they always have more friends on Facebook, I usually have many more than them on the other social media sites. When I am discussing their work, suddenly they realize that I am spreading it to a much larger audience than they ever could.
I take a lot of pictures of my classroom and post them to Instagram using the hashtag #chemisawesome. My students LOVE it when I take pictures of them. In fact, I remember the day we were doing our Deflategate lab and only the hand of one of the students was in the picture. At the end of the period, I hear one student exclaim “hey, that’s my hand! Mr. Seigel, you need to tag my hand in this picture!!” It is amazing how excited they get over seeing their hand in a picture.
A lot of teachers fear social media because of the negative ways it is portrayed. I use social media as a way to build relationships with my students. My students love to mock me for my #seigelboys hashtag as I chronicle the lives of my sons through picture, but I look at it as one more way for them to make a personal connection to me and my classroom. And, at the end of the day, it’s all about the relationships.