What would Abraham Lincoln share on Instagram? Social Media for Teachers

The non-digital Instagram app from the 1980s

This is the fourth post in a series about social media strategies for the classroom. Previously, we discussed using TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest in instruction. Today, we’ll explore Instagram.

Instagram has a reputation as the social network for self-obsessives and narcissists. It’s true that the most popular Instagrammers often fall into those categories, but there is still a lot of value to be found in a platform that puts the visual ahead of the written. The truth is that it’s one of the most popular social networks among our students, an engagement slam-dunk.

Here are some great ideas for how to use Instagram in the classroom. You don’t even have to use filters.

Scavenger hunt

We’ve talked about the process of the brain moving information from the short-term to long-term memory. In that process, the brain needs to be able to attach meaning to whatever it’s trying to store.

Sending students on an Instagram scavenger hunt is a great way for students to add context to content. For example, maybe you’re studying types of triangles. Students can go to Instagram and find examples of those triangles in real-life pictures.

Share student work

With visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, their use as a digital brag board for your student work is invaluable. More people get to see the artifacts and you get to save space on your walls. In particular, Instagram pictures are easily sharable on other networks, so parents can send their kids’ work around to the grandparents, etc.

Be a person

Teachers sometimes have trouble showing their students their personal lives. I had a teacher once who never told us he played guitar in a band until the last day of school. That’s a huge missed opportunity for connection and credibility. You can use your own Instagram feed to highlight the places you go, the things you find funny around the Internet, or anything that can give the students a 3 dimensional view of you.

Student of the week

When you start a class Instagram feed, students will inevitably ask how they can contribute some of their pictures. As an incentive, grant (limited) control of the feed to a different student each week and allow them to post whatever they like, within reason. Yes, you’ll have a lot of pictures of cats, but it will make the student feel special.

Recreate famous images

Reading about famous events or art is not very high on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Instead, have students try to recreate famous images for the class Instagram feed. The Mona Lisa would be fun, as would other points in history. Just don’t let them use an actual column of tanks when trying to recreate Tiananmen Square.

Create a famous person’s Instagram feed

I think this strategy has appeared in each post in the social media series, but that’s because it’s so valuable. Pretending to behave on social media as a person being studied is a great way to add depth to the topic. What would Abraham Lincoln share on Instagram? The students will rack their brains trying to figure it out. It also helps with online awareness and safety, key skills in the 21st century.

Market a product

Instagram has become a valuable marketing tool in the real world. Although your students might not be interested in marketing as a job, it’s still a valuable exercise in economics and math classes. Simply tell them to sell a product as best they can using an Instagram feed to add context and instructional content for potential buyers.


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