Instagram is one of the most popular social media tools. It is a photo sharing service that allows users to share their daily activity with others using filtered pictures and 15-second videos.
It is mainly a smartphone software, meaning that it’s web version has very limited functions which are mainly limited to viewing and basic interaction. Using an app, a user can:
- take pictures and/or videos,
- apply filters,
- post pictures,
- add captions,
- hashtags and locations,
- tag other users,
- comment on content,
- like content,
- and follow users.
How to use it in a language classroom
Although there is no official iPad app for Instagram, it still does wonders in my classes. After noticing my students’ addition to the app, I decided using it for learning purposes in class. My attempts have been successful so far.
I use it in class to allow students to see how language skills we learn in class can applied to and used in their context. They love it because they try their best to show off their creativity and photography skills.
Language activities that can nicely work with Instagram are vocabulary, grammar and writing activities. Whenever I introduce a new vocabulary list in class, I give my students around 10 minutes to choose one word (cannot be chosen twice) and take a picture from around college about these words. When they come back, we go through their pictures and have other students guess their words before we read the student’s caption (which should have the word used in a complete sentence to describe her picture). They could get really creative and competitive about it! :)
I also use it with writing activities. After assigning them a writing task with a few structures to use, to give them a push and encourage them to do a good job, I ask them to take a meaningful picture from around college or from their camera roll and post their writing with that picture.
A colleague learned about this idea from a presentation, and got even more creative. She asked her class to create an Instagram account for their class and assigned one of the students as the one in charge of handling it. She would ask students to post pictures on this account about their vocabulary words each week. So, they felt like a community adding to classroom bank that only got more creative and larger.
A few things to keep in mind when using Instagram in class should be noted. Students find it very difficult (and embarrassing!) to share academic content on their personal accounts. After struggling with this the first time, I tried asking my students to create new academic Instagram accounts using their college emails. And it worked! Students do not refuse posting pictures and/or paragraphs. And, I do not find it overwhelming to follow their academic accounts: They are not allowed to post anything personal.
It is very important that you acknowledge students’ work, by displaying in class and/or by interacting with their content: like/comment. It could take some time, but it encourages them to participate more actively and creatively.
It’s also a good idea not to share your personal Instagram account with students.
After experiencing its amazing effect on students’ interest in learning, I’ve shared my Instagram success with colleagues via different venues:
- Academic journal: Embracing the selfie craze: Exploring the possible use of Instagram as a language mLearning tool (article page)
- Conference: How to Use Instagram in Language Classes (presentation page)
- Conference: Instagramize Your Language Classroom (presentation page)
- Blog: 5 Ways to Use Instagram in Class (post page)
- Blog: Help! My Students Have a Bad Case of Instamania (post page)