Saturday, June 18, 2016

Snapchat: Meet Them Where They're At

Snapchat is a platform that I have been dragging my feet on for a myriad of reasons. The premise did not appeal to me; I don't like to be in pictures. Also, I find myself utilizing other platforms so frequently - adding another type of social media to my life seemed tedious and time-consuming. As I have watched students use it over the past few years, my initial hesitation has transformed into a heightened curiosity. From first glance, the time spent snapping and time spent actually chatting or engaging meaningfully did not seem to equate. One of my former speech captains and senior in my speech class at the time, came into class often with his arm extended high as he snapped pictures of himself all day long, documenting his day (He ended up winning a senior superlative on overusing social media. The award was quite fitting). As I question the reasoning and purposes for using 

Snapchat this summer with incoming freshmen enrolled in my district's reading program, I do have to admit that my thoughts and opinions on this platform have officially changed. The students in my current class are energetic, creative, and have been excited to participate in the various activities we're working on to help improve their reading comprehension, student skills, and high school preparedness. While reading nonfiction articles on technology, selfies, and social media, I have come to the conclusion that using Snapchat has great potential in the classroom. It has the power to spark conversation and bridge the gap between academic learning and learning in the world. Here's what I've gathered: 

The Benefits of Snapchatting:

1. Snapchat is visual.

The cliched notion that a picture is worth a thousand words comes to life in Snapchat. Visual learning is far more effective than simply stating something aloud and is far more likely to enter into long-term memory. Snapping a few pictures of important class content and then adding it to a story that students might view later reinforces visual learning. Capturing pictures of a successful class brainstorming session, documenting an exciting lab, or filming a few seconds of a presentation shows a great deal of learning in only a few seconds.

2. Snapchatting is highly engaging.

Snapchat is easy to use, fast, and often results in immediate feedback. People's individual stories are often humorous in nature and provide quick insight into friends' days. And if a snap is not entertaining or irrelevant to the viewer, he or she can tap the screen, and the next image will appear. The fact that pictures disappear after one view or after 24-hours depending on the manner in which it is delivered creates a sense of urgency. This image is limited and therefore has an increased value. Since we have been discussing social media and its implications in class, my summer reading students have walked into class each day talking about each others' snaps. They have shared their usernames with each other and are talking about their lives and learning. The camaraderie that has been built in a class comprised of students from all four high schools in the district has been fun to see and has made the learning environment positive, actively, and friendly. 

3. Snapchatting CAN elicit conversation.

It has been fun to watch my summer school students talk with one another in the classroom and beyond. Their friendships have formed fast, and their willingness to share has made the tone of the class optimal for learning. With Snapchat, stories play automatically making content accessible and integrated into their lives. This act of sharing creates conversation and keeps it going. It can spark a memory and serve as a reminder to students to re-engage with course content outside of school. Students are far more willing to snap someone than back or send someone a reminder while on Snapchat, thus increase the amount of communication they are having with one another. See a picture or a quick video reminds them to share and talk back to one another.

4. Snapchat can be used to promote content learning. 

What better way to extend learning opportunities then to make content learning part of our stories? Snapchatting is a great way to capture great moments in the classroom and remind students of what they learned later in the evening. When students are playing through their stories, having a visual reminder of an exciting lab, fantastic presentation, funny moment, etc. can encourage recalling information, reflection, and remind students to review their homework for the next day. A science friend of mine does not have Snapchat but encourages students to have their phones out, take pictures, and share lab experiments.

5. Snapchatting is fun! 

Taking and sending goofy pictures is a way to socialize, connect, and have fun. Showing a non-academic side allows students to remember that learning and life happens beyond the walls of the school. A teacher friend of mine snaps pictures of her daughter playing, singing and enjoying life and integrates that into her school related story. While she does not follow her students, she also does not hide Snapchat from them, and as a result, her students cannot get enough of her kids! (And neither can I!)

I try to remind myself that the world is constantly evolving. As such, I also need to transform my thinking, my understanding of how communication works, and my ability to reflect on the purpose of each platform my students use. In the coming school year, will I become Snapchat friends with my students? The answer is a resounding no. Will I allow them to follow me? Yes. With Snapchat, I will have the ability to:

1. Capture important moments in class,
2. Share out homework,
3. Celebrate educational successes,
4. Demonstrate digital citizenship, and
5. Share a little bit of my life every once in a while to strengthen the relationship that I have with my students whose lives matter to me.

Students are using Snapchat - constantly. They're excited about this form of communication, it is relevant to them, and it IS meaningful. Adopting Snapchat and opening that conversation will allow me to "Meet the people (or my students) where they're at."
Tweets by @Steph_SMac