Engage students with Snapchat

My students are all on Snapchat. I have an account too, and so I often get students asking me for my account name because they want to connect with me. I always tell them no because I don’t want to see anything I shouldn’t. I’m not naive. I know that Snapchat can be used for activities such as sexting, even though the founder says that activity wasn’t the idea behind the app.

Of late, I’m thinking I might need to reconsider my stance, though. I still don’t want to see things I shouldn’t, but maybe I should be using the app to engage with my students, which I could do without necessarily seeing what they post on the social media platform.

John Walter, writing for KQED Learning, wrote an article titled “Getting Started with Snapchat in your Classroom” talking about how Snapchat can be used in positive and impactful ways. He said:

Rather than being reactive about new technology in our classrooms, we should look for ways to be proactive and utilize Snapchat as a learning tool instead of viewing it as a distraction.

A few of the ways he suggests using it are as follows:

Reminders: Snapchat can be used for one-way communication, so it is a great tool for reminding students about an upcoming assignment or activity.

Content Examples: When you come across interesting information or real-world examples that apply to class content, Snapchat makes it easy for you to share it with your students and colleagues.

Draw and Annotate: Snapchat makes it easy to draw diagrams or annotate text on the fly.

Study Session: Use Snapchat to share the top ten pieces of information about an upcoming test or assignment.

These are great ideas and things I had never considered. It achieves the same goals I have for my “teacher” Twitter account and website. The difference, though, is I would be reaching my students where they are instead of expecting them to come to me on my platforms. A recent Piper Jaffray survey suggests Snapchat is the most popular social media platform for teens with 80 percent of respondents saying they use the service at least once per month.

But why are students so engaged with Snapchat? Walter suggests the following:

At its heart, Snapchat is a social storytelling platform [. . .]what many educators fail to understand about the app is that students are not just taking a picture. They are having a conversation. They are telling a story.

Just as an educator having a Snapchat presence available to students could increase engagement, the same could be said for journalism programs. Snapchat is a great opportunity to connect with the consumers of the school newspaper, magazine, yearbook, broadcast, website, et cetera.

What’s more, it would be a fairly innovative approach because there aren’t too many school journalism programs doing it, and, important for me as a journalism adviser in Kansas, there are only a few publications in the Sunflower State doing it, according to a list compiled by the Journalism Education Association. Walter said his students use Snapchat for very specific purposes:

It is not enough for us to publish a student newspaper. We have to look for ways to engage with our audience and encourage them to view our content. Social media is one of the tools we use to do just that. In my journalism class, we use Snapchat to engage our audience and encourage them to check out our website, YouTube channel and social media platforms.

Whether using Snapchat as a teacher or as part of an engagement campaign for a student media outlet, there needs to be a plan and policies in place. Walter shared his policy as an example of what could be implemented, and I think the idea of having a plan is crucial. If you don’t go into it with a plan, it will flop and a prime opportunity to engage will be lost.

I’m not saying I’m going to jump onboard and start using Snapchat in this way, but I’m leaning toward it. I think it presents an interesting opportunity. Before I do anything, I want to really think about how I would use it and develop a solid plan and policy before implementation.

A big part of my plan will be to decide which filter will be my go-to choice. I’m thinking either the butterfly crown or Indiana Jones . . .