Instagram moments #nofiltersscience


He waka eke noa

A canoe which we are all in with no exception

This weeks whakatauki reminded me of one of challenges of social media in the classroom and the question of…

“what is the predominant social media platform (or canoe) that students are using

When some students do and some don’t you can end up trying to broadcast, receive and manage multiple sources of information and create a voice across different platforms.

You would lose your mind. 

I was talking to my class to see what social media platforms they used and what was the favourite flavour of the moment, I was amazed to find nearly every student was an Instagram subscriber. This matches data from Statista from February this year, that 73% of American youth aged 13-24 used Instagram. A survey from Chicago University in April this year stated their has been a shift of preferred platforms by youth to Instagram and Snapchat.

I am an Instagram user so Instagram was a logical choice and I was then left with the challenge of finding ways to leverage this into my teaching. LSU offers a course for Scientists to learn how to use Instagram to promote their work. Instagram is used to promote science, so what better way to learn about science than to use one of the tools used to promote science.

We were studying light and it’s properties and behaviours, linking this to cameras, shutter speed and how lens work to capture light, and seeing how this makes “light painting”  work. There are some fantastic examples and tutorials online where you can learn how to do all manner of effects and photographic magic. Importantly this topic is broad and is totally student driven where many results are possible.

light painting.jpg

If we can all be in the same canoe – it puts the social into social media. Some ideas that I have used are;

  • photo challenges – e.g. create a light painting and explain how you managed to create it, how did you learn to do it? what help did you need? what problems did you have to overcome to get a good photo? What feedback helped you? A student’s light painting below was liked 65 times and received two comments, a much wider audience for a homework than just one teacher. I aim to increase the feedback among students beyond a ‘like’ and get them to improve their feedback skills.


  • Sharing of day to day science that relates to current teaching (or doesn’t)
  • setting challenges (like below)
  • sharing photos of our experiments in class, as evidence of experiment results, homework.


I can see that in the future I would like a way to be able to search for photos easily so getting some consistency in hashtags among students will go a long way to achieving this.

The greatest benefit has come from creating a chance to talk science through a medium that they enjoyed using. Some of the challenges I have set have got others involved, siblings, parents and demonstrated their interests outside the class, another happy outcome. It created so many conversations and opportunities for teaching inside and outside the classroom. It made me look further online to see how others use this app in Science, all of a sudden my world of science and Instagram in education expanded. I enjoyed Katie McKissick’s article (2015) in Scientific American, Using Instagram for Science Communication and her personal goals and reflective thoughts of her journey so far. I liked the way she explains good health behaviours such as vacinations, and explains doctor’s visits and technology such as x-rays and uses them as everyday scientific interest.

My biggest challenge was finding ways to access images, almost every student operated a closed account. I did not want to follow them but in some instances I wanted them to share their work. We got around this when students taught me how to direct message in Instagram.

So far we are all in the same canoe, (the majority with their private cabins). I am excited by the motivation and the enthusiasm shown by students and look forward to developing the use of  further (until the youthful heard moves off to greener pastures and some other new and shiny app).



McKissick, K. (2017). Using Instagram for Science Communication. [online] Scientific American Blog Network. Available at: [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].

ScienceDaily. (2017). New survey: Snapchat and Instagram are most popular social media platforms among American teens: Black teens are the most active on social media and messaging apps. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].

#SciFund Challenge. (2017). New Class: Using Instagram to Boost Your Science. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].

Statista (2017). U.S. teens: most popular social media apps 2017 | Statista. [online] Statista. Available at: [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].




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