Each year a group of us attend CUE (Computer Using Educators) Convention in Palm Springs and this has been a valuable experience, providing the teachers and myself with new ideas and with the convention being out-of-town, collaboration is inevitable during our downtime. Most of our best ideas have come from a discussion over dinner or by the pool.
There is usually at least one session at the convention that really gets me thinking or blows my mind with the endless possibilities. In 2013, I went to a session presented by Daniel Ching and Mike Niehoff from Minarets High School, titled Building a 21st Century School and How it Relates to You. What they were doing with social media, got me so excited to get started on our own digital footprint. I continued to do my own research, looking at other schools with a strong social media presence and attended other sessions at future CUEs on social media.
When it came to Instagram, I was completely new to it, but I had done my homework. I thought Instagram would break down the four walls of the classroom, as well as the walls of the school. Instagram gave me the ability to take a quick snapshot of a memorable moment and post it for our entire community to see. For teachers, what a valuable tool! No longer do they need to e-mail photos, paste them into a newsletter, or upload them to a photo site. Parents can get daily insight to their child’s school-life, thus feeling more connected to the school and their teacher. And what a great conversation starter! How many times have you asked your child, “what did you do in school today?” And they respond with, “nothing.” “How can the response be ‘nothing’ when I just saw the photos from the BMX bike assembly!?” “oh yeah, that…that was awesome!”
We got our feet wet with the school account, WoodburyIUSD, and after building a little confidence, I started encouraging teachers to create private classroom accounts on Instagram to share photos within the classroom community of parents. I had learned at CUE to make sure teachers all use the same username template for consistency and easy searches. We agreed with wo_teacherlastname, for instance, wo_chaky. I was surprised at how many teachers started an account. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an overnight buy-in, but here we are just over two-years later, and almost every teacher has a classroom Instagram account.
One unexpected result from the class Instagram accounts, was the strengthening of community. We have nearly 1200 students at our school, with over 40 teachers. With Instagram, our large school, suddenly felt much smaller, much closer, and the walls slowly came down. Teachers loved following their colleagues accounts and seeing what was being done in the classrooms each day. Teachers were asking each other about projects they had seen on Instagram. Instagram set the stage for cross-grade level articulation and many new friendships were made.