Categories: Social media / photo sharing
Availability: iOS, Android, Windows 10
Uses: Photo & video sharing, Communication, Archiving, Encourage creativity, Foster discussion

What is it?
Instagram is a photo and video sharing application for mobile devices that allows users to share content publicly or privately. Photos and videos can be shared with accompanying text to contextualise the content and Instagram uses the hashtag feature to allow for quicker searching of the photos and videos. Instagram recently added a live video function, although it does not save the video after the broadcast, and the ability to attach up to 10 photos or videos to the same post. 

How can I use it?
Instagram can be used for personal or professional use but has significant benefits in the field of education. The app can be downloaded for free and it is possible to create a private account for a class, group or team and carefully vetting those who wish to “follow” the account to ensure the content can only be seen by the intended users.

To get started:

  • Get the Instagram app on your mobile device through the App or Play Store (or equivalent).
  • Register for a new account using your email address and a new password, or using your Facebook account.
  • If you wish to make your account private and control who views your photos and videos you can access your profile in the app and under the options/settings, slide the toggle to the right to enable the private account.
  • If using a private account with your class, share your username with your students and ask them to follow you. You can accept their follow requests before they can see your posts. If you are not using a private account, choose a hashtag for your class, using this every time you post something you want your class to see. The students can search for the hashtag and see any new updates.
  • Search for related or interesting accounts and follow them for inspiration
  • To post a photo or video, click the + icon and choose a photo/video from your gallery or take a new photo/video.
  • Instagram will let you select multiple images to post before you add filters or make adjustments.
  • You can then choose who you want to post the content to and include a caption, location and tag people if you wish. You can also send an image directly to particular people as a direct message.

Why should I use it?
As a photo sharing tool, Instagram offers a sleek interface with filters available to quickly and easily adjust and share photos with the public or with a private group. This function alone can be a useful means of encouraging creativity and self expression. Beyond this, Instagram regularly adds new features to improve the app for its users, further extending its application in an educational context. For instance, photos can be grouped into a single “post” allowing users to scroll through a series of related images, and users can record “stories”, short videos and annotated images that can be added together to form a larger story. 

Instagram can be used as a digital archive, allowing users to store photos and videos and choose which to share with other users. It can be used for visual storytelling, as the images are stored chronologically, or in projects to record work and help document progress over time through photos and videos. Educators and students can also follow educational instagram accounts like NASA, National Geographic or the Smithsonian, local or national museums and art galleries, etc. to spark ideas or facilitate discussion in related subject areas.

Educators can use Instagram for classroom activities, encouraging and motivating students through engagement with the app. A common use of Instagram (and indeed Twitter) in education is to use the app as a literary or historical figure - choose a real or fictional person and post images that they might have posted. Instagram can be used across a variety of subjects, however, and can be a particularly good means of engaging and motivating students with smaller tasks, from documenting work to reflecting on topics or sparking discussion (in class or between classes).

Students could be asked to post a short reflection in response to a photo or video that you post on Instagram. They could also be asked to share resources relevant to a particular topic and elaborate on the images with text in the caption. Students could use Instagram to document an experiment or an individual/group project with annotated videos or photos. They could also capture or record and archive school events or field trips.

Top Tip
Instagram is owned by Facebook and connects well with the platform and other social media platforms. This means that users can easily share content on Instagram and choose whether to cross-post to other connected social media accounts to save time and maximise the audience of one post.

Where can I find it?
Unless otherwise stated, all reviews and recommendations are solely those of the Department of Technology Enhanced Learning team and do not reflect the views or opinions of any organisation, including Cork Institute of Technology. The Department is not responsible for any inappropriate, offensive or illegal content viewed or accessed through the tools and products reviewed.