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Using Social Media to Promote Your Program (Ep. 027)

We all know art teachers need to actively look for ways to promote our programs. We have to show off all the great things we’re doing or we run the risk of being easy to cut when budgets get tight. A great way to advocate for your program and reach students and the community at large is by adopting social media in your classroom. In this episode, Andrew brings on his good friend and teaching soulmate, Ashley Cardamone, to discuss ways you can leverage the power of social media to best promote your art program.

Andrew and Ashley go over some practical tips and tricks for choosing the social media platform that’s right for you and your classroom (8:15). They discuss possible pros and cons to using social media during the day (13:00), and finally, some time-saving tips and best practices to make sure sharing doesn’t become too time-consuming in class (14:30). Full episode transcript below.

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Transcript

Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for our teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education and I’m your host, Andrew McCormick. There are a couple of different ways that I could get this intro rolling or I could hit on the idea that as art teachers we need to really grow and promote our programs. That we’ve got to advocate for ourselves and show off all the cool stuff that we do or we run the risk of heading up a department that might be easy to downsize when budgets get tight. I could talk about how much of the lives that our students are leading are digital. They are online.

You know that to truly engage students, we as art teachers need to adopt the language and tools that these digital natives are using so fluidly. I could pull two birds with one stone type move and talk about how these two ideas are really well covered when art teachers start using social media to promote our programs. I’ve got a great and very special guest on today to talk about how easy and effective adapting social media is and promoting our art programs in the work of our students. It’s my privilege to bring on my long time friend and amazing art teacher and colleague, Ashley Cardamone.

Ashley: My name is Ashley Cardamone. I teach art at Holmes Junior High in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Andrew: I had the amazing fortune to work along side Ashley last year as in our school we were next door neighbors. We like to say that she was the book end as she taught 7th grade art and then advanced 9th grade art. While I did the tech and art classes and the 8th grade and 9th grade art class in the middle. We spent last year deeply engaged in collaborative curriculum development and what was especially rewarding is that we worked on using social media to promote our art program together.

Ashley: I think social media is great because it’s an engaging way to promote your program and include your students in the happenings of the art department beyond what they see when they are in your classroom.

Andrew: Now, Ashley and I didn’t invent using social media to promote our students’ work. In fact, I want to give another big shout out to AOE writer, Abby Schukei. She has a couple of great articles over on the Art of Ed site. Now, specifically she’s written about how the art classes really can stress and teach digital citizenship and also how using Instagram hashtags in the classroom can add another layer to what we’re doing. What I love about Abby’s approach and Ashley’s approach is the willingness to adapt and use the technology that we know that our students are using to get them right where they live and breathe.

You know, I don’t think I’m hearing or seeing many of the concerns about social media that I heard and saw four or five years ago, that it’s a fad or that’s an evil trend that’s distracting the youth of today. It’s here to stay. We have the opportunity to leverage its power for good. I could easily talk with Ashley for hours on any number of topics. We kept this conversation focused on just one little aspect of what makes her such an amazing teacher using social media. We ran an Instagram account together last year and it was a triple win situation.

A huge win for us professionally as art teachers. A huge win for our program overall. Most importantly, it was a huge win for our students. In this talk, we really just start to scratch the surface but I want to say off the top that I hope all of you listening out there get to experience the joy that is working with an amazing colleague. We complimented each other very well. She’s like my teaching soul mate. I recently had to move away from my former teaching gig and leaving a great working environment that Ashley help create was undoubtedly one of the toughest parts about leaving. This podcast episode is pretty straight forward.

It’s heavy on the practical and lighter on the philosophical. It dawned on me that one of the unusual side benefits of implementing a social media outlet for student work is that you’re able to show student growth. This isn’t just showing it to the teacher or to the student but you’re really able to show it to the entire world. It’s not just a series of finished artworks but you’re actually able to show the evolution and growth and learning in a specific artwork as the student works on it. Eventually, students start to see how cool it is to see visual documentation of how the artwork evolves over time.

Showing student growth is such an important and vital part of what we as art teachers do that if you need to brush up on some strategies on how to do this, definitely head on over to theartofed.com and check out the showing student growth and art course. Student growth is a two credit class and it’s great at allowing teachers to think about specific assessments, timelines and digital tools to adapt to show how students are learning and growing through the art. Head on over and check it out under the courses tab on theartofed.com.

Despite the fact that Ashley is my teaching soul mate or maybe because of it, I think I’m actually a little nervous to have her on today. If this talk is a fraction as interesting and captivating as our daily lunch time or early morning planning talks are, I think it’s going to be a good one. Let’s hear from Ashley now. All right, Ashley. Thanks for joining us. We’re talking social media in the classroom so I want you to set the scene and I’m going to warn you I got a lot of questions that are three parters within subsets even in those three parts.

Ashley: All right. I love it.

Andrew: Okay, how long have you been using social media? What kind do you prefer the most? What kind of platform are you using? Then, briefly if you can, maybe describe in a nutshell the experience that you’ve had using social media for you, your program and your students.

Ashley: Okay. I’ve been using social media to promote whatever type of art teaching I’ve been doing since I was actually doing field experiences in college. I would say about six or seven years ago. I’ve been doing it in a few different ways. When I was doing field experience and student teaching I had a teaching website which was more to promote myself as a teacher as I was looking for a job but it also had a section of student work and the lessons that I had taught in that sort of thing. From there, when I got my first teaching job, I had to run this student or school photo gallery that was connected to the school’s website. I had a section on there just for the art department and I would promote student work that way and post what we had done.

I realized that that wasn’t specific enough to the art department. From there I made a separate just art department website where I would post a selection of student work from every project that I taught and just a summary of what the project was, why we did it, that sort of thing. I did that for three years and then when I switched schools and went to the junior high, Andrew and I started an Instagram account for art department which was actually the great idea of a 7th grade boy. We were talking about posting work online and he’s like, “We should have an Instagram.” I was like, “Yeah, we really should.” We started one that day not knowing where it would go. That’s what I’ve stuck with since then.

Andrew: Okay, part three. Briefly, what do you think you get out of it, your kids get out of it and your program gets out of it? I know that’s like the meat of the whole show but let’s just get that out of the way right now. Why are you doing this?

Ashley: Sure. For me selfishly, it is a great artifact for my portfolio. It shows other people what I’m doing in my teaching which I think is really important. It’s a good way for me to also keep track of things I’ve done. I can always go back and look at what did this project look like, how did we do this and I have a good reminder. For my program it’s been really helpful in promoting the classes that we teach through showing the projects to students and other people. Also, if you’re promoting events and for students I think it’s just a super engaging way to display their art work and it’s also an incentive for them.

Andrew: Yeah, we’re going to talk about that a little bit later. When we think about which ones to choose because I want to ask you about you said you started with a website and then you went to Instagram. I mean, just off the top of your head if you can shoot me all the different types of platforms and apps that are out there for teachers who don’t really know or want to get involved. Then, how do teachers know which ones they should use? Are there some criteria that we should be aware of when we pick something to run with?

Ashley: Definitely. That’s something that I’ve learned the hard way as I’ve evolved through this different ways of promoting student work. I think one great way is connecting to whatever website your school has, that can be really easy depending on what type of web builder your school uses and how brave you are about tackling that. It is right there connected to the school website. Another way is through building your own site through free builders like Weebly and Wix and Google Sites. Of those, Weebly is my favorite. Then there are the classic social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat.

Of those things, this is like how I would choose what to use. I’m looking for something that can show a lot of images because I have found that people are way more attracted to pictures of the work than a paragraph of what was made. Something that can be followed I think is really important and something that has privacy settings. You can adjust or you can control the level of publicity of the social media that you’re choosing to use. When I was using a free website builder and I used Weebly and I loved it, it was super easy and I could customize it however I wanted to.

You can follow a Weebly. I felt like it didn’t get as much traffic as I thought that my students’ work deserved. With Instagram I feel like I meets all my criteria. It’s just images. People can follow it. I can make it public but I don’t have to tag students in it so it was not an issue of confidentiality. I just think it’s the perfect thing at least for me and that’s really fast to use also.

Andrew: Let’s just clear this up here. Neither one of us works for Weebly or Instagram or anything.

Ashley: No.

Andrew: I think you’re right. I mean, Instagram it’s super fast, super easy, it’s all just about the quick visuals. The confidentiality thing is great. The other criteria and I know you’d agree with this is you got to use something that the kids are going to use.

Ashley: Totally.

Andrew: You could say, “Boy, I know all the parents out there and all the people on the school board they love them some Facebook,” but we know that kids are on Facebook but not really. It’s not cool anymore because everyone, the grandmas on it. Instagram is where they are at. I would say in a couple years Instagram may lose its cache and then it’s all Snapchat. Then there will be even a newer thing that the parents aren’t on. I mean, it’s going to be always evolving so I do think that as teachers we’re going to have to be hip and be with the times and not just bury our heads in the sand when it comes to this stuff.

Ashley: Definitely. We’ve both mentioned Snapchat. I had thought about that just briefly this year. I was like, “I want to keep this Instagram. I know everyone has Snapchat now.” I actually think right now that Snapchat is a little too social. Instagram is a place where I can be comfortable in my own little zone. I don’t have to be really social with the kids online but they can still access the images.

Andrew: That’s so true because I mean, Snapchat it just seems like the wild west of social media and apps. I feel like there’s really no way to control who sends what to whom and when and how. That’s kind of like maybe a pitfall or con of this thing is like there might be some schools out there who have principles or administrative teams who’re like, “No, we’re not doing that.” I can kind of appreciate that but I feel like Instagram is pretty legit like there’s totally ways that you can block people, you can monitor what get set and all of that stuff.

Ashley: It is and I also like that depending on the settings you have with your account my students don’t have to have Instagram to look at it, they’ll have one to one Chromebooks. They can go on their Chromebook and type in the URL and see the Instagram page even if they don’t follow it.

Andrew: That’s true, right, and then they don’t have to even look at it on their phone or have it and be following it. You could still just say, “Hey, we just added seven really awesome clay bowls on Instagram. You guys should totally check them out,” and they can just look at it online anywhere. I want to ask you, kind of switch gears a little bit here because we’ve kind of talked nuts and bolts about all the different platforms that are out there and how we choose. Do you think that teachers could possibly do this too much and, I mean, does this already saturate the digital lives that our students are living?

Ashley: Andrew, I feel like this is going to be maybe a controversial answer but I think not at all, I don’t think we can do this too much. I think that we’re actually tapping into something that students are already doing and bringing their art learning into this digital space they’re already in. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of that opportunity? I really don’t see a downside to it especially if you’re using it in a way that your school approves of, you can even have parents involved. I just think there’s not really much of a downside.

Andrew: I agree with you and I am playing devil’s advocate here a little bit. Let’s spin this in the worst case scenario, if you had a teacher who was like, “Kids, don’t bother me right now because I’m Snapchatting photographs of your artwork.” There has to be a balance between like digitally promoting your program and then actually working in real time with your kids, right?

Ashley: Sure, sure. I think the important thing there is social media promotion super important but it’s definitely not the top priority and unless you’re really engaged with your students and teaching them in the moment. There’s not going to be a lot to show. I think more than doing it right then in class all the time it’s just important that you’re somewhat consistent whatever that means to you in terms of fitting with your schedule.

Andrew: Okay, let’s talk about that. Do you have some time savings tips on how do you take pictures, when do you post, that sort of thing?

Ashley: I keep my phone in the pocket of my apron because that’s what I take pictures with. I rarely post right there in class. I’ll take a bunch of pictures and then either during lunch or my prep time or some time after school even in the evening when I have a minute I’ll go through them and choose the ones I want to post and even if I post like six at a time I still got that day out there. It’s not always the situation of doing it right then and honestly the students probably aren’t going to see it right then anyways because they’re working on stuff. I just do it when it’s most convenient for me and taking the pictures really doesn’t take all that long especially because nothing is post, I’m just taking pictures of the work.

Andrew: Right, yeah you’re right, I mean like you can take a bunch of pictures throughout the day but none of the kids should really be on their phones like looking at it in real time. It seem to me like we were doing this last year we both kind of co-owned the Instagram account together. We did a lot of kind of like dumping at the end of school like, “School is out, okay here’s seven, eight photos,” and then like our phones would blow up with like the kids, “I like that. I like that. I like that,” because it mean it’s like they’ve kind of been without their phones for like the whole day and now they’re like gorging on technology, right. We did, like I just said we did this together for a year. Are there any things that you wish when you first started doing this with Instagram that you wish that someone would have told you like time saving tips or just things to work smarter and not harder?

Ashley: Definitely. I think the big thing that helped me out was when I figured out that I could add my school Instagram account to my personal one so I didn’t have to sign in and out of each account each time. It took like almost the whole school year to discover that but once you get it figured out in the Instagram settings you can add an account and then you can just toggle back and forth really quickly so it’s not a huge hassle. You can also link your Instagram account to a Twitter account or some other account you might have.

If your school has a Facebook art page that you’d like to also post those images to, you can do all that at once instead of posting them separately to each type of social media that you might have. I think it’s important to turn off your notifications because like you just said Andrew all the kids like the pictures at the same time so you might have like 30 students blowing up your phone. I didn’t really like to have those notifications all coming all the time so I turn those off.

Andrew: I leave it on because I like feeling special, I was like, “Look how popular I am.”

Ashley: We were really.

Andrew: We were.

Ashley: I think the last thing is that’s really important for the teacher to take the picture and post it to the page not the students. I don’t think I would want all my students to have access to the Instagram and then be posting their own selfies instead of maybe their self portraits. That’s kind of my last tip there.

Andrew: There are certain website or Instagram accounts like that where everyone can just all be posting together and that just seems like madness to me and you would have no control over like quality and confidentiality. Kind of the way we did it we took all the photos but I think we both agree that if a student took an awesome photo like I’m thinking specifically in my digital art classes that they could send me the photo in Instagram and then I could repost it. There are ways where students could send you a photo but even that didn’t happen all that often, most of the time it was just us shooting pictures.

Ashley: Yeah, there definitely are ways but I also think that maybe students don’t necessarily have the eye to capture what we might want to show.

Andrew: That’s true. That’s true.

Ashley: I think students are really focused on showing their final product when they feel like it’s really good but sometimes the best thing to show is the process not just for students to see what they made but even for parent who might follow the page or another teacher. I think that when you get to control that as a teacher you get a little more variety.

Andrew: Right. Mentioned that you realized towards the end of the school year that you could link both of your accounts together. One of the things I wanted to share with people who are our best Instagram technicians that we have access to, our students. Our students can solve any problems that you might have like how do you not make it be a square, how do you put a border on it, how you do a collage, how do you do this, how you do that. Our students know this stuff better than we do. We’re kind of wrapping up here Ashley, I wanted just ask you for anyone out there who’s kind of like undecided or maybe wants to get into social media and just hasn’t really done it with their school program yet. Any parting tips that you might have for those on how to get started?

Ashley: Definitely. I think the biggest thing is it doesn’t have to be something huge to tackle. If you’re going to start something like an Instagram even if it’s not Instagram you don’t have to do a write up about everything. The photos are the most important so it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time and it shouldn’t be a hassle that way. It should be something really quick that you can do as you have the moment. The other thing is I think you can let the students promote it for you.

You can let them really be a part of it and let them remind you to post even when you haven’t posted for a little while. It’s something that they’ll definitely be engaged in and that will even motivate them to work a little harder sometimes. I think between letting students do some of the work and kind of reminding you and pushing for other people to follow it and just focusing on the pictures, it can be a lot more manageable.

Andrew: Right. I want to circle back and then I want to see if you can kind of guess what my parting words of wisdom would be. I want to ask you one last question I didn’t get to, tag or not tag students in photos of their artwork?

Ashley: Andrew, I don’t know, that’s real tough. I think it kind of depends, sometimes it’s really important to students that you tag them but I always look at their Instagram before I tag them to make sure it’s private because I don’t want to publicize the student’s Instagram. I don’t want there to be anything inappropriate or that I wouldn’t want to see or want other parents to see. I’m really careful about it. I usually don’t even offer it but sometimes it’s very important to them.

Andrew: Good answer.

Ashley: What’s your parting word of wisdom?

Andrew: No, you have to guess that but I want to go back to the tag or not tag because I always used to, always, we ran it for like a year really. The first half of the year was just like, “No, I’m not doing that,” and then as students were so excited to get their work recognized on Instagram, I would usually just ask kids like, “Hey, do you want me to give you like a shout out, you wanted like direct mention?” Mostly kids were like, “Yeah,” and then there are few that weren’t but I like the steps that you took which is like really check and see if their account is private because if it’s not private and they’ve got all sorts of stuff on there that may not be good then you’re basically telling all the 300 people, 400, 500 people that follow the account like, “Hey, look at this person,” and then you’re promoting all this other crazy stuff, right.

Ashley: Definitely.

Andrew: Yeah. Okay, now you have to guess what you think my parting words of wisdom would be to listeners out there. See how well you know me.

Ashley: I feel like you would just tell people to jump in and do it and then also to follow my account.

Andrew: That was it. That was the answer. That was it. You know me so well. Sometimes I think as teachers we get so worried about, “Well what if this and then they don’t and then I’m in trouble and I can’t because of this,” and I’ve said this on countless episodes of the podcast. It’s just like, “Man, it is just so much easier to just do it and plead ignorance and beg for forgiveness than like clear all the bureaucratic tape ahead of time.” Just do it.

Ashley: Absolutely and once people see how great it is and what it’s doing for your students, I mean I think that sells it by itself.

Andrew: Yeah. Hey, Ashley, thanks for coming on. I got to say like outside of family members you’re like one of my all time favorite people ever.

Ashley: Back at you.

Andrew: Hey, have a great year. We’ll talk to you later.

Ashley: You too. Thanks for having me.

Andrew: Yeah, bye. All right, I hope I pulled that off and didn’t sound too nervous to talk with my good friend. The Instagram account that we set up last year is definitely worth checking out. I’m super proud of the work that Ashley and I did but more importantly I’m super proud of the work of our students. You can check that out at homesartdept, that’s all one word but it’s homes art D-E-P-T on Instagram.

While you’re online dig around and see what other art teachers out there are doing to promote their programs on Instagram. You don’t have to just limit it to Instagram. There are plenty of other platforms out there be at social media, blogs, digital portfolios or websites. I’m sure however you do it, whether you do it with a group of colleagues, you do it solo or unless your students to help. The big thing is that you enable students to share their work outside of the safe and unrealistic confines of the school walls. It is a big bold world out there and our students’ work could and should occupy a little piece of it.

Art Ed Radio is developed, produced and supported by The Art of Education with audio engineering by Michael Crocker. Tim and I get emails from time to time from listeners that are really appreciative for the art education specific content that this podcast is providing. If this is you, you can do us a big favor by heading on over to iTunes and give us a ranking or positive review as this totally helps us find new listeners when they type in art or education into whatever podcast listening app they’re using. As always new episodes of Art Ed Radio are released every Tuesday and additional content can be found under the podcast tab on theartofed.com. Thanks for listening.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.

6 years ago
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