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Schools teach long-term lessons with Snapchat

K12 students use “snaps” to report on football games and create “how to” tutorials

Journalism classes at Junction City High School in Kansas—100 miles west of Kansas City—use the short-lived social media app Snapchat to learn long-lived lessons of storytelling.

The students in those classes use “snaps”—which are either pictures or 10-second videos taken with their smartphones that are saved for 24 hours—to report on Geary County Schools’ events such as football games and pep rallies.

They record an introduction, then string together the images with captions or use a series of videos to create a digital narrative.

A how-to guide for Snapchat in K12

Schools planning to incorporate Snapchat into a curriculum should establish a formal written policy. Junction City High School journalism teacher John Walker suggests including four key elements:

  • Mission statement specifies how the social media account will be used, such as for only promoting the school newspaper.
  • Style guide sets standards for use, such as ensuring all posted information is held to the same fact-checking standards and unbiased reporting as any school publication.

Students, who act as social media editors, curate stories from the reporters and post story snaps to the Snapchat feed of The Blue Jay, the school newspaper.

“We’re teaching new forms of storytelling that real journalists in the field are embracing, and it’s a new way to create content,” says John Walker, student media adviser and journalism teacher at Junction City High School, one of many high schools reportedly incorporating the platform into its journalism classes.

Walker says it’s important to connect with and motivate students through the technology they already use and understand.

Tutorials and marketing

In another Snapchat assignment, students created a “how to” tutorial for an activity (such as making a sandwich) with a series of images and captions. Even though snaps last only 24 hours on the app, snaps can be permanently downloaded and then submitted as an assignment to Walker.

When it’s public and being used to tell a story, students think twice about posting anything inappropriate or whether it can be construed as cyberbullying, Walker says.

Using the app as a storytelling device also helps build marketable skills. “Years ago there weren’t social media editors, but that’s now a career that students can pursue in college and their post-secondary options,” he says.

A how-to guide for Snapchat in K12 (cont.)

  • Best practices detail how the account should be handled on a practical basis, including properly vetting information from multiple credible sources, avoiding unfounded speculation, and sourcing administrators as necessary.
  • User’s role and responsibilities include expectations for proper use, including the need to engage an audience in a professional manner, and to acknowledge and make corrections where necessary.

Walker and other teachers also use Snapchat to remind students about upcoming homework assignments and to share content related to classwork, such as a current events story.

Social media as teaching tool

Embracing social media as a teaching tool helps support technology education standards for strengthening digital citizenship and online awareness encouraged by ISTE. It also promotes collaboration between students and teachers as they explore and experiment with new technologies together.

“Using an app that many students already use increases engagement,” says Carolyn Sykora, senior director of standards for ISTE. “It also still achieves the same student learning outcomes [as traditional instruction].”