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I have an art teacher confession: I am slow to try new things, particularly when it comes to social media. In college, I clung to the back of the Myspace train for far too long. It had derailed at the station, and I was still manically posting about my favorite alternative bands.
When Facebook began to dominate the social media marketplace, I was hesitant to switch. I made most of my user decisions based on comfort and familiarity with a program. Thus, I was a “late comer” to the Facebook fad almost eight years ago.
Now, social media is shifting again as our students engage with platforms we could have never imagined a decade ago; Snapchat, Vine, Twitter, Musical.ly and more. It can feel overwhelming to keep up with the pace of all of these social networks and to prioritize which are beneficial to our programs. But, I’d like to argue that Instagram offers unique benefits to an art program that just cannot be matched.
On a personal and professional level, I engage with Facebook almost daily. I use it to connect with friends and colleagues, get lesson ideas from art teacher groups, and to remain current with updates from my favorite websites and blogs.
I also participate in my school’s Facebook page. This is an effective tool because most of my students’ parents are actively engaged, and they see crucial information for my program in their feed.
But you know who is NOT engaged by my Facebook posts? My students.
Not only are they not participating on Facebook, but they don’t find it “cool” anymore… there isn’t a desire to participate with parental support (*which they need at their age, see below). As one student so bluntly put it, “Mrs. Moss, Facebook is for moms.”
My students don’t place a value on ideas or posts found on Facebook, but they are enamored with Instagram.
Their popular culture heroes are all on Instagram, and they place a premium on the brand. Simply put, from my perspective, Facebook has a branding issue with the younger set, and this will be problematic for them in the years to come as people migrate to newer social media sites. If you want student participation in your social media advocacy, Instagram is the place to encourage it.
*Most social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram included) have minimum age guidelines. Typically, this is 13 years old. So, depending on the age of the students you teach, they may have to access these programs with parental support/oversight.
As I peruse Facebook, I am constantly impressed (and a little freaked out) by how “tailored” the stream becomes to my interests. If I engaged in a little bit of online shopping, that cute item from Amazon appears in the ad feed on my screen. The news outlets that dominate my feed are those I typically agree with, politically. My stream narrows what I see and confirms my worldview.
Conversely, Instagram seems to widen what I experience online.
Because of the variety of niche interests on Instagram, as you begin to follow topics, the results you see open up exponentially. Rather than re-connecting you to people you have lost touch with from middle school, it connects you to people you have never met, based on interests or topics.
As my husband puts it, “Instagram is the world, Facebook is your world.” As art teachers, we seek to know and understand different perspectives, not reconfirm our own. If you want to be stretched and challenged, abandon the Facebook feed in favor of Instagram. You will be pleasantly surprised by the contemporary artists, creative teachers, and visual eye candy you may be missing on other platforms.
As visually oriented people, Instagram is a perfect fit for art teachers. We are naturally drawn to images, and Instagram supports this tendency.
Art teachers are masters of visual discrimination, and Instagram capitalizes on this skillset.
What is visual discrimination? According to Carmen Willings of www.teachingvisuallyimpaired.com, “[It] is the ability to recognize details in visual images. It allows students to identify and recognize the likeness and differences of shapes/forms, colors and position of objects, people, and printed materials.”
Essentially, we use visual discrimination every day to notice similarities and differences in what we see, and make judgments accordingly.
I would posit that art teachers are more adept at this than most because of the amount of visual imagery we consume in a day. We can look at a picture and almost instantaneously process a variety of information about the image’s appearance and meaning.
So, in an increasingly busy world, why not capitalize on these skills to save time? As you research ideas and inspiration for your classroom, use a platform like Instagram that plays to your strengths.
I am currently in my fifteenth year of teaching art, and so I guess that makes me a “veteran.” Philosophies and methods of teaching art are shifting, and I want to stay current. Great ideas come from seasoned professionals, but they also come from those who are newest to the field. Preservice and early professional art teachers have just left a college experience that was incredibly different than mine. They have new ways of thinking and new methods for teaching.
These new art teachers bring a fresh perspective to our profession.
It is important to seek them out, validate their thinking, and try some of their ideas. But, sadly, I am not positioned geographically to have a student teacher, so how can I experience some of what our new professionals have to offer?
They are all on Instagram! At my state conference, I attended a session presented by Kim St.Leger. I loved how she incorporated contemporary artists into her elementary curriculum. And now, I enjoy how her Instagram posts (you can follow her at artasticgws) add a fresh voice to my professional life.
Lately, the news has been dominated by revelations about ways that Facebook may (or may not) be using our private data and personal information. On the surface, blatant misuse of user information should give everyone pause. It might seem reasonable to migrate to a new platform to protect your privacy. But, in the tech world, everything is interconnected. Facebook owns Instagram, so many of their privacy policies are similar.
However, this isn’t a legitimate reason to avoid social media and miss out on all the professional benefits Instagram has to offer. As a teacher, I think it is professionally prudent to be mindful of anything you post on social media. Whether it is a personal account or one used for school, you are your own best filter.
If you are a “Tech Dinosaur” like me, it takes a while to leave the comfort of a platform you know. But, digital life is all about balance and choices. You do not have to abandon your Facebook account in favor of Instagram monogamy. But, given the potential benefits of the platform, it might be time to dip your toe into the Instagram pool!
What is your preferred social media platform?
How do you engage your students and their families with social media?