Companies are starting to flock to Snapchat.
- McDonald’s and Taco Bell are using it to get Snapchatters interested in their products.
- The NBA and MLS are giving behind-the-scenes footage from their sports worlds.
- CNN is reporting news content, and The Food Network is providing an extension to its programming.
They’re providing content that’s interesting.
They’re surprising their audience.
And they’re having some fun along the way.
If companies can do it, teachers and schools can, too … and we can learn some lessons about how to engage students by watching how they engage their customers.
I’ve just recently jumped into the Snapchat world, and I’ve learned a lot. In this post (Snapchat 101 for teachers — What you need to know), we saw that …
- It’s focused on pictures and videos and lets you add lots of fun extras to them
- When they’re shared, pictures and videos on Snapchat “disappear” after 10 seconds or less (although they can be replayed once and can be captured with a screenshot)
- A study showed that more users age 12-24 use Snapchat than any other social media
- Snapchat can be used for one-way communication (i.e. a classroom/school account can broadcast content but not receive or see content from others)
- Snapchat Terms of Service states that users must be at least 13 years old
With all the eyeballs of students of many different ages (with parents jumping in all the time), Snapchat can be a place to have a presence that will be noticed.
Classrooms, schools and districts can leverage Snapchat to connect with students and families.
Think about this first
Before launching into a new Snapchat account, there are several things to consider, including:
- Will you add students, parents or others in the school community back as friends?
- If so, you’ll have access to their content and will have two-way communication with them. (This could give districts and school leaders a new channel to connect with families and students.)
- If not, you’ll be broadcasting content one-way — to them. (This separates schools and classrooms from students’ personal Snapchat posts — and distances them from potential pitfalls of inappropriate use.)
- What are your goals for using Snapchat? What kinds of pictures and videos do you intend to use?
- What’s your tone going to be? If you’re a classroom connecting with students, too serious a tone will likely chase students off. Remember, you can’t make them follow you on Snapchat (and you probably shouldn’t try), and when it feels “too much like school” they’ll likely bail out.
- How will you draw a clear line between your personal and professional lives? If you have a personal Snapchat account, you might want to create a separate one for your classroom or school (and have a separate set of rules for who you’ll follow, how you communicate and what kind of posts you share).
The best way to share for one-way communication
Snapchat’s “stories” feature lets you add new pictures and videos to your story. Then your followers can view the story any time for 24 hours. The “stories” feature is designed to let your followers catch up on what you’ve been doing for the last day all at once.
You must have a two-way following relationship to send pictures and videos to another user. Therefore, the “stories” feature may be the best place for teachers (especially middle school and high school) and conservative schools and districts to share content with their students. The drawback: users must go to and click on your story to view it. You can’t send snaps directly to someone you’re not friends with. (Note: I’m still learning about Snapchat, too, so if you think this is incorrect, please comment below and we’ll get it straightened out!)
Schools and districts with more liberal social media policies may choose to add students, parents and community members as friends. College/university professors may want to follow students, too, because their professor/student relationship is different than those of K-12 teacher-student. If so, that opens up new channels of communication — including sending “snaps” directly to everyone all at once.
Ideas for using Snapchat in education
Here are 15 ways that classrooms, schools and districts and use Snapchat to connect with students, parents and the school community:
1. Vocabulary — Brain research tells us that spacing out learning (as opposed to cramming all at once) is more beneficial for long-term memory. Add to a story snaps of funny, interesting or breathtaking pictures with vocabulary words as the text caption. (Take your own pictures or take a picture of a picture in a book or on your computer.)
2. Real-world examples — Michael Britt, an adjunct psychology professor at Marist College, finds interesting examples of his psychology content. He sends it to his psychology students in video or pictures on Snapchat. (via NPR) When you see a perfect example of your content in real life, take a picture or video of it and add it to your story.
3. Have some fun with drawing — Drawing on a picture before sending it on Snapchat may be one of my favorite features. Have fun with it! Draw costumes on students. Add something to the picture that isn’t already there! Letting loose a little and showing students your personality can improve the student/teacher relationship. (Note: Be sure to follow any school/district social media policies and do so in good taste.)
4. Mark up images — If you follow students back, they can send you pictures of your content marked up with drawing or text. Kari, a Spanish teacher, has students add text captions in Spanish to pictures for class participation credit. “Many have a lot of fun with it and others don’t use it at all,” she wrote in a comment on my blog. “I see it as real world application just like any other tech, most kids will connect but not all.”
5. Congratulate — Did a class score well on a test? Did a student win an award or perform well in an academic competition? Add a congratulatory snap to your Snapchat story!
6. Reminders — Don’t let students forget that upcoming quiz or homework assignment with a reminder snap. (Remember, don’t get too heavy with these or other “academic” posts … if it feels too much like school, students may abandon your Snapchat account!)
7. Virtual study session — Add your top 10 most important things to remember for a quiz or test as snaps in your Snapchat story. Students can watch your story and it becomes an instant study session.
8. Movies — Tell a story 10 seconds at a time. Add short video clips to a story with each video as a scene in the “movie”. If students follow you, this could be a great, fun way for students to engage in content. They could craft their own Snapchat movies incorporating what they learn in your class. Teachers can create fun content that students will want to watch. Schools and school districts can do the same to tell about a sporting event or other community event.
9. Amusing/humorous uses of content — Ever seen a funny science joke on Facebook? A clever math meme? Take a picture of it and add it to your Snapchat story to show students that there’s fun to be had in your subject.
10. Field trips — Tell the story of your adventure by adding pictures and videos of field trips to your Snapchat story. If parents follow your Snapchat account, they’ll have a blast seeing what happened first-hand. If students follow you, they’ll love reliving the trip!
11. Be a reporter — Schools and districts can bring news the entire school community through Snapchat. Report on a basketball game by showing quick video clips with score updates. Go backstage at the school play for exclusive access!
12. Do a student take-over — Let students take over the school/district Snapchat account! After some clear expectations and ground rules, students can be very creative and give a fresh perspective to student life. Second grade teacher Kayla Delzer does this all the time with her second-grade students on Twitter and Instagram. What better way to teach digital citizenship than to give students some guided on-the-job training?
13. Follow content-related Snapchat accounts — With more and more corporations and organizations joining Snapchat, they’re also trying to engage their followers with interesting content. (And if they’re on Snapchat, they’re targeting the demographic that lives there — the 12-24 year olds … yep, students!) Connect students with interesting Snapchat accounts in your content area and they’ll be learning 24/7 through social media. Example: GE has a Snapchat account (@generalelectric) and shares snaps about science, space travel and “all things geeky”. They even introduced followers to astronaut Buzz Aldrin through Snapchat!
14. Speech bubbles — Once you’ve taken a picture in Snapchat, use the drawing feature to add a speech bubble (draw an outline of it and fill it in with white). Add a funny, interesting or thought-provoking quote next to someone (or something’s) picture. If students follow you, they can send these snaps to you to engage in your content.
15. Ask a question — Want to bring up an interesting question in class? Stoke the fire by asking it on Snapchat before class. It’ll give students time to think about it beforehand. If students follow you back, they can reply with a snap of their own!
Remember, we can learn from the companies that are utilizing this social media platform. To engage our students on Snapchat, provide interesting content, catch them by surprise and have some fun along the way.
Question: How could you use these ideas in your own class, school or district? How have you used Snapchat in education? What are other ideas you have? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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