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Digital Citizen Advocate Knowledge Constructor Learning Designer

InstaEdu: Instagram for Teaching and Learning

Introduction:

When I scroll through my professional social media accounts, I see wonderful examples of creative and engaging lessons that utilize a social media platform. I have often wondered how educators utilize social media with their classes given the concerns over privacy, security, and transparency. For these reasons I kept my engagement with social media separate from my work with students in the classroom. I never used social media for teaching and learning, but various social media platforms were central to the lives of many of my students. Social trends became a common talking point in class and many of my students used social media to obtain information and also express themselves creatively. As educators, we must understand the significance of social media and its influence with students. Teens are using social media more than ever before, and in 2018, roughly 70% of students reported they use social media more than once a day. That’s an increase from 34% reported back in 2012 (Knutson, 2018). When contemplating ISTE Educator standards for Citizen and Facilitator, I feel that social media must be part of that conversation. Specifically, I’d like to focus on Instagram. Created in 2010, Instagram is a photo and video sharing social networking service. It is the second most widely used social media platform in the United States and fifth most used in the world, but the platform has received only limited attention from educational research (Carpenter et al., 2020). Largely due to how it presents information visually, Instagram distinguishes itself from other social media that are more text-focused. This visual appeal has led to both students and educators to leverage the tool to communicate knowledge and ideas in very engaging ways.

My Questions:

How can educators leverage Instagram to facilitate learning to support student achievement while modeling and mentoring students with managing digital identities? 
What are some best practices for teachers to minimize risk and privacy issues who would like to use Instagram for educational purposes with their students?

ISTE Educator Standards:

3: Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world.

6: Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students.

Solution:

According to a study conducted by Common Sense Education in 2018, most teens ages 13-17 are checking social media every hour and with over 50% saying that social media is very to somewhat important in their lives (Knutson, 2018). This reinforces what most already know: social media is a significant corner stone in contemporary culture especially for young people. These are powerful platforms of information however, the data also shows that very little of this time for tweens and teens are spent focused on creation rather than consumption (Higgin, 2017). We must not social media from school given how prevalent it is in the lives of our students. To support our students in becoming digital citizens, we as educators must provide opportunities for students to use social media for creation and to build a learning community while modeling responsible engagement and management of digital identities. 

Do’s and Don’ts of using Instagram with students:

Common Sense Education offers a review of Instagram’s privacy concerns and tips for teachers on protecting student privacy. This is helpful in presenting some of the barriers and considerations of using any social media tool as well. Overall, Instagram scores a 57% warning rating because of possible safety and privacy concerns. Instagram collects a broad range of personal identifiable information. Some of this information, like access to a user’s contacts and facebook friends, can be blocked. Although Instagram’s terms state they will not rent or sell user’s information without consent, they still may share non-personal information with third-party organizations and advertising partners. It’s possible Instagram may use information from a user’s mobile device to be used by Instagram or a third party affiliate to track and target content. An additional concern that is common for most social networking platforms is the interaction among users. Instagram does have a compliance policy that governs what users can post and say, but this still could be deemed inappropriate for the age group of students you teach. Users can choose to make their content private, but this also does not allow for their own posted content to be more widely shared and searchable. There is also space for private messaging (direct messaging) that is problematic in an educational setting. Parallel to using other popular social platforms, using Instagram responsibly requires awareness, dispositional thinking, and sound judgment (Common Sense Privacy Evaluation for Instagram). 

The reality is that most teens already have accounts on this platform (or ones with similar risks) and are engaging with it outside of an educational context. Using a platform like Instagram in your classroom can not only be a great opportunity for students to express themselves and practice key communication skills, but it can also support students’ digital citizenship skills that can be transferred to their personal uses with social platforms. It is also crucial to note that using Instagram for educational purposes qualifies it to be reviewed as an educational record under FERPA. The following are a list of best practice “Do’s and Don’ts” for teachers to use Instagram safely and transparently with students for educational purposes:

Do’s:

  • Review your district’s social media guidelines.
  • Communicate with your administration, families, and students how you will leverage Instagram in your class. Explain clear parameters to all stakeholders. 
  • Create an account strictly for professional use. Share your account information with your administration so that there are multiple adults overseeing the account.
  • Use parental consent/op-out forms
  • Instruct students to create a separate, private-account strictly for educational purposes that is also not tied to any identifying information, like email. 
  • Instruct students to never share personal identifiable information in their posts. Links to their posts can be shared through your school’s LMS so that you know who created which post.
  • Use and teach basic photo-editing tools to remove sensitive information should there be a need.
  • Take inventory and possibly remove any visible student/class information in your classroom. 
  • Be mindful of how your posts could commercialize your classroom.
  • Closely review any picture/caption before posting. Model this skill for your students.
  • Turn off location services.
  • Consult with your district’s legal time to be mindful of FERPA related information. 
  • Teach healthy digital habits and anti-distraction techniques to support students healthy digital habits.

Don’ts:

  • Start using Instagram without consent/opt-out forms
  • Share students’ faces or names without parental consent. It would be best to never share them at all. 
  • Make any grades, assessment, or any part of students educational/PI record public (FERPA)
  • Forget that handwriting is personally identifiable information (FERPA)
  • Communicate with students through private messaging on Instagram. Share any communication initiated by a student with your administration. Sharing your classroom professional account with your admin helps make the use of this platform transparent. 

There are other potential barriers that need to be considered before using Instagram in your classroom such as:

  • Access/ADA compliance is a major barrier educators need to be aware of when considering apps like Instagram.
  • Distraction from ads and browsing. 
  • Spam followers or suspicious accounts. You may consider encouraging your students’ professional accounts to be private to limit this (they would need to approve your follow request for you to view their posts). 
  • the algorithm of some social media networks could also provide unwanted links. 
  • Potential publicizing of content where accounts outside of the classroom could interact with student accounts. Private accounts would help combat this. 
  • Lack of institutional support. Be sure to develop and communicate clear parameters to your administration as well as highlighting the benefits of using Instagram. 

(Higgin, 2017)

Using Instagram to facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement:

Students increasingly want their instructors to use social media as a learning tool while students are also reporting an increase in use of social media as a learning tool (Coffin & Fournier, 2015). When students use social media for educational purposes, they build connections with educators and peers that fosters a supportive learning community (Coffin & Fournier, 2015). Instagram, for example, has shown to “enable students to create a cooperative, collaborative and sharing atmosphere, supporting the formal classroom setting in addition to sharing class materials” (Erarslan, 2019). This same study supports the increase in students’ interaction time outside of the classroom and that students regard Instagram as a motivating tool fostering learning (Erarslan, 2019). So how can educators utilize a social platform like Instagram to create meaningful learning experiences, promote creative expression, and communicate learning effectively? Here are just a few examples to inspire you:

Instagram Portfolios: One way to leverage application is to consider a student’s professional Instagram account as a portfolio of learning. Throughout a unit of study or course term, students can use Instagram to convey their ideas and demonstrate competency-based learning. Students can create visual slides to communicate their learning while the caption of the post can provide additional context about the topic, assignment, or pose thoughtful questions related to their content to facilitate discourse in their comment sections. The limits for the number of photo slides and character length in the caption challenges students to convey their information concisely rather than a more long-winded medium like a formally written essay. Tips like these teach students how to curate their posts to attract more traffic and engage their audience; a useful skill applicable for branding and marketing. Educators can also use current trends for styles of posts to provide a scaffold for students to work off of similar to an essay outline. For example, “so you want to talk about…” has been a popular scaffold for instagram posts concerning a wide range of issues. Modeling different types of instagram posts teach students particular professional skills for the growing job market for social media managers.

Teaching literacy: Social media writing does not match standard classroom English norms, but they do follow patterns of language development. Instagram posts, and social media writing in general, is a great medium for teaching tone, conventions, and varying levels of formality. Just as we code-switch our language for different audiences we’re speaking to, Instagram can be used with other digital mediums to teach students code-switching their online language to fit the various audiences they aim to engage. Activities like Flip the Switch and lessons designed to analyze punctuation’s impact on tone can help students translate their knowledge of social media writing to the classroom and vice versa (King, 2017). 

Instapoetry: Instapoetry is starting to carve out space for itself as its very own genre. Taking advantage of the visual elements of the Instagram platform, Instapoets contain short, free verse poems that are often paired with symbolic sketches or shared on images. Themes, colors, and images are the visual art considerations that enhance the poetry. Instapoetry can be interdisciplinary and empower students to express themselves creatively. Classes can study Instagram poets for common themes to help inform their own instapoetry (Gray, 2019). 

Re-creation: Explore moments in history by challenging your students to imitate photographs or paintings.Consider a particular theme to drive student research and give students choice on which photo or artwork they’d like to investigate. Their posts can provide additional context about the photo or art.

Photojournalists: Students can attend and document a particular event. They strategically select pictures for their post that convey a particular tone for how they want to present their story. They can supplement their pictures with short video interviews and even write an article about the event that they can link to from their post.

Persona Posts: Students can take on the perspective of a particular individual or group to create a post from their point of view.

Conclusion:

Instagram can serve as a powerful tool to foster students’ creative expression to communicate their ideas as well as build skills useful for the potential workforce they will enter. To do so appropriately requires educators to be transparent with all stakeholders, set clear parameters for the use of Instagram, and consult their institution’s policies. In addition to its varied uses for teaching and learning, what I did not explore in this module is how popular Instagram has become for educators’ professional use. Similar to a previous post I wrote about Twitter, educators are engaging with Instagram in similar ways for professional learning, networking, and identity construction  (Carpenter et al., 2020). Instagram (and Twitter) can be employed to acquire and share knowledge as much as it can provide emotional support and develop community to combat isolation (Carpenter et al., 2020). While there are a growing number of studies examining educators personal and professional use of social media, there are less that explore Instagram use by students as a required part of coursework for secondary levels of education. I suspect that this will increase as Instagram use among young people continues to rise at a rapid pace and educators use of the platform for teaching and learning grows in response. State level and district policy makers will need to rethink how they can support these popular tools while protecting the safety and privacy of the students they serve. 

References

Carpenter, J. P., Morrison, S. A., Craft, M., & Lee, M. (2020, November). How and why are educators using Instagram? Teaching and teacher education. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7380928/

Coffin, T., & Fournier, J. (2015). Social Media in the Classroom: Opportunities, Challenges & Recommendations. University of Washington Information Technology. https://itconnect.uw.edu/learn/research/ecar-social-media/#opps

Common Sense Privacy Evaluation for Instagram. The Common Sense Privacy Program. (n.d.). https://privacy.commonsense.org/evaluation/instagram

Erarslan, A. (2019). Instagram as an Education Platform for EFL Learners. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 18(3), 54–69. 

Gray, K. (2019, July 8). Using Instagram to Teach Poetry. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/using-instagram-teach-poetry

Higgin, T. (2017, March). Protecting Student Privacy on Social Media: Do’s and Don’ts for Teachers. Common Sense Education. https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/protecting-student-privacy-on-social-media-dos-and-donts-for-teachers

King, M. (2017, July 21). Social Media Posts as Exemplars. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/social-media-posts-exemplars-marissa-king

Knutson, J. (2019, September). What New Research on Teens and Social Media Means for Teachers. Common Sense Education. https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/what-new-research-on-teens-and-social-media-means-for-teachers.

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Data-Driven Decision-Maker Learning Designer

Virtual Academy Considerations: Course Providers, Data, and Roles of Stakeholders

Introduction

I was recently assigned to a project to support my district in designing a virtual academy. Although teaching and learning has been excruciatingly challenging for both staff and students, there is a need to provide an online learning option for students. Feedback from families and students show that some have really thrived from this environment. It is our responsibility, especially considering equity, that as a district we provide that option for students. I personally don’t have much experience with virtual academies. My understanding is limited to having taken a handful of online only courses in my undergraduate; my graduate program is all online. I taught social studies remotely at the start of the pandemic and continued into a summer learning program. 

My district is strongly considering using an online course provider (OCP) to deliver curriculum in some capacity. Many virtual academies across the country do use online course providers, but they are limited to ones that have been approved by their state. In WA where I work, for example, there is a short list of online course providers that are approved by OSPI.  I have never taught with nor been a student who has used online course providers. My student experience with online only courses has been that the instructor builds and delivers their own curriculum through the learning management system. It was never self-paced or adaptive. For this module, I chose to focus my research on OCPs and how they inform the roles of educators, students, and families who are enrolled in online academies. 

My Question:

What type of data do online course providers offer? How does this data inform the roles of educators, students, and families to support student achievement?

ISTE Educator:

Designer (5): Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability. Educators:

5a – Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

Analyst (7): Educators understand and use data to drive their instruction and support students in achieving their learning goals. Educators:

7a – Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.

7b – Use technology to design and implement a variety of formative and summative assessments that accommodate learner needs, provide timely feedback to students and inform instruction.

7c – Use assessment data to guide progress and communicate with students, parents and education stakeholders to build student self-direction.

Solution:

The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has approved 23 online course providers (OSPI). I decided to focus my initial research for this blog post on 3 that are popular among neighboring public school virtual academies. This includes Pearson’s Connexus, K12 Inc., and Edgenuity. Some of the most helpful sources for my research were the product’s support website, FAQ videos either produced by the product or from a school district, and the product’s very own website. Each of the OCPs websites were quite general as it was intended to showcase the product’s flexibility, so it was challenging for me at times to get a detailed picture of the data they produced and user experience for both educators and students. To my surprise, each of these three OCP’s offer roughly the same flexibility and customization to fit the needs of the virtual programs that schools/districts are trying to offer. This can range from fully online instruction to blended learning options with some sort of brick and mortar support consideration. Each provides an expansive course catalog and also offers virtual teachers should there be staffing challenges. I did uncover some differences that would be worth consideration for developing a new virtual academy.

Pearson highlighted a feature for educators to create student groups in order to differentiate content across different courses their students were taking. This allows teachers to more easily insert Pearson created resources into the curriculum or create and upload their own lessons/resources to fit student needs as they are progressing through their course. Furthermore, teachers could create “multi-outcome” scoring that allows assignments and assessments to be designated to additional categories that identified 21st century skills. One of the categories shown on their support page was “Grit”, though it was unclear as to how the student was assessed for grit based on the assignment/assessment. 

While Pearson promoted teachers modifying courses to address student learning needs, K12 Inc and Edgenuity both emphasized adaptive learning built into their products. Adaptive learning is an education technology that can respond to a student’s interactions in real-time by automatically providing the student with individual support. K12 Inc offers a digital library that includes rewards-based adaptive learning tool through games. Similarly, Edgenuity offers adaptive learning through assessment and instruction that responds to students in real time. 

What types of data are available in these OCPs?

In a virtual academic environment, students can self-select courses or be assigned courses for reaching graduation requirements from the OCP course catalogue. As they work through the lessons/units, OCPs record assessment data that tracks student’s progress on specific standards, course completion, and grades. They also show an activity log that shows when students are logging in, how much time they spend on an assignment or question, and when they start/turn-in assignments. Pearson’s Connexus provides the opportunity for students to give feedback to the instructor about the course. They can self-assess at the end of each unit giving a rating of their own understanding of the content/skills, their interest level, and effort. 

How does that data inform the roles of educators, students, and families in a virtual academy?

Educators in a virtual academy are no longer primarily responsible planning and delivery of content. Their role instead focuses more on managing students and providing them the necessary support they need to be successful largely informed by the data. Teachers should be conferencing with students at least once a week where the OCP data can inform the conversation. Weekly conferences can be used to go over a struggling skill, review learning to check for understanding, or alert teachers to ask questions about what supports a student needs who is falling behind. It would also be wise to determine a threshold, based on activity data, that informs additional communication and intervention between education staff and family for students who are falling behind the pacing of their course. In addition, this data can help inform differentiation appropriate to different student groups. Likewise, families get access to their student’s assessment and progress data. Families can support their students by monitoring course progression, due dates, and use assessment data and teacher feedback to help their learners. Students get access to both assessment and instructional adaptive feedback from the OCP. This data would be helpful to inform office hour opportunities to drop in and meet with their teacher or tutoring support. 

What is Enriched Virtual learning and why should virtual academies offer this option? 

Enriched Virtual school models are built upon students receiving instruction and content online. These students are then only required to attend the brick-and-mortar school on designated days if at all. This model of school is great for students where the traditional style and seat time of school do not work for them. The physical face-to-face time of this model serves to enrich students’ learning experiences through social learning, teacher-led instruction, or as-needed support for students to check-in with teachers and advisors. Many early adopters of this model emerged from fully virtual schools who shifted to blended learning to provide stronger support for students who otherwise struggle to stay on track in the online only model. Enriched Virtual models of school provide learning opportunities where students control time, path, pace, and the place of their learning to a degree. The Enriched Virtual model can also help to support social learning opportunities for students. Educators can facilitate small group discussion so that students have an opportunity to present their stance and hear from the perspectives of their peers. This is a very compelling option to consider for my district’s first ever virtual academy. We know we have to design a highly flexible school that can meet the wide diversity of needs of our students. For some students, this may very well mean a fully online experience while others may need the flexibility of online learning, but desire in-person learning and support to a degree. We should consider the following when considering an enriched virtual environment: 

  • Are the online, offline, and off-campus learning connected and mutually reinforcing? 
  • Are students staying on track to earn core academic credits and demonstrating authentic mastery of learning to their teachers, mentors, and peers? 
  • Is the required face-to-face time used to intentionally engage students, helping them grow both academic and social-emotional skills?

(White, 2019).

Conclusion:

My initial research into a few common OCPs approved in my state was helpful in gaining a general understanding for how these products work and what kind of data they provide stakeholders. The data generated from OCPs shift the roles of educators from primarily responsible for delivering curriculum to more of an interventionist and coach. The time gained from not having to plan curriculum allows for teachers to focus on relationship building and analyzing assessment data to provide personalized and targeted support for their students. I am still left with some lingering questions that I may pose to the design group of my district’s virtual academy and/or representatives of the OCPs:

  • How do we support our educators in providing culturally responsive pedagogy for a virtual school?
  • How do we build in social learning and collaborative opportunities for our students? 
  • What opportunity is there for inquiry-based learning with use of an online course provider?
  • How do we support our students furthest from educational justice to ensure they have reliable access to their courses and their teachers? 

I also recognize that a virtual academy isn’t appropriate for all of our students. Some have really struggled with remote learning. Technology issues, self-discipline, lack of social interaction, and communicating and collaborating online are just some challenges that have negatively impacted student learning over the last year (Klein, 2021). However, it would be inequitable for my district to not offer this option for the students who really thrived with online learning. These students want more control over the time, pace, and place of their learning. The push to create a virtual academy isn’t a temporary solution to address challenges caused by the pandemic. This is an option we must always provide our students moving forward. After learning more about OCPs and Enriched Virtual learning, I am convinced that part of this option must involve a brick and mortar school to some degree. 

 

References

Approved Online Course Providers. OSPI. (n.d.). https://www.k12.wa.us/student-success/learning-alternatives/online-learning/approved-online-course-providers.

Klein, A. (2021, May 3). How Virtual Learning Is Falling Short on Preparing Students for Future Careers. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/technology/how-virtual-learning-is-falling-short-on-preparing-students-for-future-careers/2021/03.

K–12 district partnerships. Pearson Connexus. (n.d.). https://www.pearson.com/us/prek-12/products-services-teaching/online-blended-learning-solutions/pearson-connexus.html#.

Online Curriculum & Coursework for K–12 Education: Edgenuity Inc. Edgenuity Inc. (2021, April 12). https://www.edgenuity.com/.

Online Public School Programs: Online Learning Programs. K12. (n.d.). https://www.k12.com/

 White, J. (2019, July 25). Is the Enriched Virtual blended-learning model the future of high school? Blended Learning Universe. https://www.blendedlearning.org/is-the-enriched-virtual-blended-learning-model-the-future-of-high-school/

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