As teachers, we’ve all seen it in our classrooms: A student in the back of the room discreetly takes a selfie. We’ve probably all been frustrated by it at some point too. And many of us have probably wondered why our students are taking hundreds of pictures of themselves everyday.

Our students are using Snapchat, and what many educators fail to understand about the app is that students are not just taking a picture. They are having a conversation. They are telling a story.

Rather than being reactive about new technology in our classrooms, we should look for ways to be proactive and utilize Snapchat as a learning tool instead of viewing it as a distraction.

Go where the audience is

A recent Piper Jaffray survey revealed that Snapchat is now the most popular social media platform among teenagers. While I don’t believe that teachers should flock to trending apps like Flappy Birds, I do believe that we need to work to reach students where they are engaged the most. Eighty percent of students who participated in the survey indicated that they use Snapchat at least once a month.

As a journalism educator, I’m constantly having conversations with my students about reaching our audience. It is not enough for us to publish a student newspaper. We have to look for ways to engage with our audience and encourage them to view our content. Social media is one of the tools we use to do just that.

If students are using Snapchat, teachers should look for ways to harness the power of the application for learning.

How to get started

Establish Goals: In my journalism class, we use Snapchat to engage our audience and encourage them to check out our website, YouTube channel and social media platforms.

Maybe in your class, you want an easy way to provide students with reminders. Maybe you want to use Snapchat to inform students about class related content you come across outside of the school day. Maybe you want to use it as a tool to showcase your classroom culture and the activities during your day. Maybe you want a way to connect with other tech-savvy educators who are using Snapchat in your professional learning network.

Having a clear purpose is critical before your begin.

Research Your School Culture: It is important to understand what your school or district policies are regarding social media and be aware of how they expect it to be used.

Is your school or district social media friendly? Different schools and districts use social media in different ways. Examining how your Snapchat can fit into your school culture is important.

Develop Policies Personally, I think that it is important to have a written policy about how your Snapchat account will be used. This will give you purpose and direction if you need prior administrative approval or encounter concerns.

This policy doesn’t need to be exhaustive, but it should provide guidelines on the following: A mission statement, your Snapchat goals, a style guide for use, the user’s role and responsibilities on Snapchat, appropriate actions and best practices for the platform.

Plan to tell a story

At its heart, Snapchat is a social storytelling platform, so it is important to plan how you will tell these stories.

While you don’t need to write a script, be sure to put some thought into what you say and how you say it. Snapchat is a less formal medium, so your content should be conversational and fun, which will be more engaging for your target audience — teenage millennials.

You can create engaging social stories by using several of Snapchat’s built-in features. Make a point to use the goofy Snapchat filters, (the dog face feature seems to be my students’ preference), add emojis into your text, use geofilters to showcase specific locations, draw on your Snapchat videos and play your Snaps in the slow-motion or fast-forward features.

Start using Snapchat tomorrow

Here are five easy ways to start incorporating Snapchat into your classroom tomorrow.

  1. Reminders: Snapchat can be used for one-way communication, so it is a great tool for reminding students about an upcoming assignment or activity.
  2. Content Examples: When you come across interesting information or real-world examples that apply to class content, Snapchat makes it easy for you to share it with your students and colleagues.
  3. Draw and Annotate: Snapchat makes it easy to draw diagrams or annotate text on the fly. Check out Tara Martin, who uses Snapchat to annotate and reflect on text that she is reading using the #booksnaps hashtag on Twitter.
  4. Study Session: Use Snapchat to share the top ten pieces of information about an upcoming test or assignment.
  5. Professional Development: Want to explore how other teachers are using Snapchat without having to post yourself? Check out Saba Quidwai, who is a Snapchat super user. Add her to expand your professional learning network and see how she models Snapchat and other digital tools.

Have students create the content

Many teachers will first think about how they personally can use Snapchat in the classroom. However, it is even more powerful to give students the responsibility of creating content. While many teachers might be apprehensive about turning over this responsibility to students, it has several advantages.

  1. Allowing students to create and share Snapchat content gives students ownership over their learning outcomes and affirms students’ voice.
  2. It gives students an authentic learning opportunity to model responsible digital citizenship.
  3. Creation is the highest level of critical thinking in terms of digital literacy.

In my class, we have a social media editor who is in charge of coordinating the content that is posted. But because we often have multiple students creating and sharing content on Snapchat,  I routinely change and update the account password to protect the integrity of the medium.

The Journalism Education Association has compiled a list of high school journalism programs from across the nation that are on Snapchat. These are great examples of students taking the lead in producing the content and telling stories relevant to their audience.

Getting Started with Snapchat in your Classroom 8 March,2017John Walter

Author

John Walter

John Walter is a journalism educator and student media adviser at Junction City High School in Junction City, Kansas and is currently in his third year of teaching. John is a graduate of Kansas State University where he studied journalism education and American ethnic studies. He focuses on 21st-century digital media skills and social justice pedagogy. John is an active member of the Journalism Education Association, Kansas Scholastic Press Association, and the Association for Career and Technical Education. Connect with John on Twitter at @John_MWalter.

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