Why (& How) I’m Using Snapchat as a Teacher, and Why You Should, Too
Snapchat has been around for about five years now, and I’ve used it for the last three, but in the past year, I’ve been using it as a teacher, and sharing my user ID with my students. I did a survey at the beginning of the year, and more students used Snapchat daily than any other social media (I’m not counting email or GoogleDrive because they have to use that for school). I decided I needed to capitalize on the fact that over 70% of my students were using Snapchat. Once I announced that I had a public account, many students were incredulous. One even asked how old I was. However, over the course of the year, I’ve seen benefits in using Snapchat in terms of sharing resources, reminders, book recommendations, poetry, and, of course, cat videos.
(For a great resource on the history of snapchat, complete with a timeline and tutorials, check out this article: “The Snap Generation: A Guide to Snapchat’s History”)
When I’m planning for our next class, sometimes I’ll share a clip of what we’ll be doing. For example, when we read Hamlet, I snapped a short video of David Tennant‘s version of Act II scene ii. Students arrived to class excited to watch the entire thing (and one confessed she ended up watching a bunch of David Tennant’s Hamlet videos the night before class).
Recently, I was watching Netflix’s Series of Unfortunate Events, which numerous students told me I needed to see. When the episode with all the Moby Dick references came on, I snapped a video and shared it to my story, which let the students know I’d seen it, and then gave us something to chat about before class the next day. I do this whenever I see a reference to one of the books we read in class in other works.
When important due dates are coming up, I often snap a photo of the calendar to remind students about it (in case they haven’t recently opened up my constantly-updated online version of the calendar).
I also share general school announcements/reminders. Posters hang all over the walls of our high school with information about clubs, activities, opportunities, and lectures. I make it a point to snap those posters and announcements regularly. I find that many students take screen shots of many of these posters (you can tell on your story if someone has taken a screen shot) and this encourages me that what I’m doing is useful to some students. In snapchat you can circle the date or add an emoji to your picture.
Book & Poetry Recommendations
I like to share my reading life with my students, so Snapchat allows me to do this in an unobtrusive, but consistent way. I find myself taking pictures of the books I read (I also keep my instagram as a record of books I’m reading, as well as my Goodreads, since they disappear off my Snapchat story.) Students will often screen shot the book covers, favorite passages, or entire poems that I share. This lets me know, again, that some students are benefitting from my recommendations. Often, I’m reading a book recommended by a student (like with the snap below about We Are Not Ourselves) so it is a way to acknowledge how much I’m enjoying something a student shared with me.
Another fun way to use Snapchat as a teacher is to celebrate what happens in the classroom. Now students across classes can see fun things we’re doing. For example, I can video a short performance: our school does singing Valentines and I was able to record some of those on Snapchat, allowing students who were singing to see themselves. When we do creative activities in class (like this illustration of a quote on a page from an old copy of Moby Dick) students can see their own work celebrated and also appreciate what classmates created. (I also hang them up on my classroom walls, but I’m not sure they notice that all that time.)
Cat Videos, Adventures, and Cookies
Finally, Snapchat allows me to share some of my own goofiness / quirkiness with my students. I often snap little videos or pictures of my three cats, or of adventures my husband and I take, or of the hijinks we get up to on weekends. For example, here’s what happened in a Target one Saturday:
When we had a snow day recently, I snapped the process of making chocolate chip cookies. I like my students to remember I’m human, but also to give them ways to connect with me. Students who love my cat videos will share pictures and stories of their own cats. Students who have been places I visit will ask about my trips (plus, there’s a really cool thing in Snapchat called Geotags that allow you to use a filter when you’re in a particular location.) Being able to form connections with students is a step in helping them take academic risks and grow as learners and writers and people.
By using Snapchat, I’ve even shifted the way I think about teaching, and I’ve asked students to use it in the classroom. When teaching Of Mice and Men, I had students create a snap Lennie or George might have sent to each other. This helped them make meaning of the characters a little better, and demonstrate to me they understood what the story was about.
This year, when a student struggled with how to explain his claim about agony and how it appeared in a sculpture (related to Moby Dick), I suggested he use Snapchat to diagram the lines on the image. You can upload an image to Snapchat and draw on it, so this made it easier for him to write about the image once he used Snapchat to modify the it in the ways he referred to in his paper
There’s so much Snapchat can allow you to do for your students and your classroom. I admit, when I first heard of it, I dismissed Snapchat as a silly app, something I would never need or use. However, now I find myself snapping something anywhere from 3 to 10 times a day. It has allowed me to communicate with my students when they’re not in my classroom and it helps me shift my thinking at times.
The important thing I would add here is the way I’ve set up my account. I have it set to public, so anyone can follow me, but I do not follow my students back. I figure it is just better for everyone involved if they can only see my story, but we aren’t actually “friends” on the app. This makes it more professional. You can change that in the settings of the account. If you’d like to follow me, my snapchat ID is k1a9t7e5. Just be prepared for a few cat videos mixed in with the English snaps.