I’m surrounded by students with smartphones. Not every student, but it seems like the majority. It’s a handheld, personal device that they have with them at almost all times. I’m constantly looking for ways to combine our classroom objectives with the personal lives of my students. I believe that when learning is made personally meaningful to the life of the learner, it’s truly transformative.
The was the main philosophy behind bringing SnapChat into my classroom assignment portfolio. SnapChat is an application where users take photos using their handheld devices. They can add text, annotate or draw on the picture and send that picture to another user. The uniqueness about SnapChat is that the picture can only be viewed by the recipient for 10 seconds and then it ceases to exist. Short shelf life, easy concept.
When introducing a new section of Spanish vocabulary, I often have my students do some type of immersion project: something that requires them to spend some time getting to know their vocabulary better. I always include options in these types of projects. Some students prefer to do more artsy things with their vocabulary words, some prefer typing or online gaming drills, others prefer writing projects, etc. Giving options is important in letting the student create a unique learning experience for themselves.
One project option that I usually put out there is a photo labeling type of assignment. Find words from our vocabulary list in the real world, take a picture (or find a picture on the internet), label that picture and assemble all your pictures in a slideshow for me. My students usually made these on VoiceThread or by putting the pictures together in an IMovie. I see the picture + they have the word labeled correctly = project completed. They have met the objective to recognize and identify the vocabulary.
Giving the option to SnapChat this project seemed like a perfect fit. The application (which the majority of the students were already using and familiar with) is the perfect way to capture a photo and label it. In a matter of seconds, students can SnapChat their photos with Spanish vocabulary captions and “turn them in” by sending them to me. Easy. Instant. Real life.
I was extremely pleased with the results. As with any project, I went back to reflect on weak spots or any potential problems for the future.
- SnapChat is essentially social media and I think you have to be careful mixing with students in the social media world. That’s why for this SnapChat assignment I created a neutral Spanish SnapChat account (espanoldhs) to make it “official”. I feel like this established that you are sharing your photos with “Spanish Class”, not “Emily Huff”. By not connecting the SnapChat to myself personally, I feel like it keeps a wall between me and the students.
- Once it was established and understood by the students that this was an “official” school related SnapChat account, we discussed posting ethics. Particularly that if anything inappropriate was shared, it would result in school consequences. (Equivalent of standing in front of the class and doing something inappropriate)
- One potentially negative effect of SnapChatting the assignments is the short life span of the photos. Ten seconds is enough time for me to view and assess the objectives (did the student label and identify a Spanish vocabulary word?). The work can’t be saved and shared but I think I’m ok with that. The purpose of these assignments is just to make sure my students have some time with our vocabulary. I don’t really need for the project to exist after the objective has been met. And I’ve seen enough students throw projects away immediately to know that isn’t a main concern for them either.
- I don’t require this from students. It is one way to complete one of the options they have for an assignment. I don’t give special consideration for students that choose this option vs. any other option. I grade the objectives only, not the method of delivery.