Four Ways Quick Ways to Promote Understanding of Place
Through the Use of Primary Sources and Instagram

Have you found a neat primary source somewhere in your travels? Have you snapped a photo of it and said “I’ll use that later in the classroom?” Well here is a way to put those Instagram photos to work in the classroom (and gain a larger understanding about historic places and primary sources to boot!)

First: Access Resources Normally Unavailable. Have you ever wished you had a copy of a really great artifact? Or you are able to take one yourself without a flash so that you have it for use in the classroom? Be brave! Ask for permission (PLEASE check with your museum professionals about that requirement!)  and then shoot away and bring those resources into the classroom. Not only can you print or digitally share the resource to use in the classroom, but you can connect with your students through Instagram and let them review a series of artifacts to start an inquiry lesson.  You know the flipped classroom idea? Here is a way to have your students access them by:

·       #Hashtag a series of photos to have them analyze a group of artifacts or photos from a historic location to think about what they are seeing. Need a quick analyzation resource? Check out the Library of Congress resources located at http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/guides.html

·       Have them review an Instagram pic on a #hashtag with a key question in preparation for a classroom discussion the next day.

·       Are you travelling? Is a colleague or family member? #Hashtag a series of artifact or place photos to share with a team of colleagues. No need to print the pics ~ instead just share the #hashtag and encourage collaboration across schools on a common topic of study and share resources at the same time.


Second: Challenge students to investigate places they are unfamiliar with, a historic site, a connection to a place they have read about in a book, etc. by:

·        Following #hashtags on Instagram to see photos about events and people visiting the location at different times and sometimes in different eras!

·       Go to the site and snap a picture and share a description with other students on a common #hashtag. Better yet, put yourself in the shoes of someone else who has been there and tell a story about that place from THEIR perspective using Instagram photos.  Succinct writing about non-fiction, and evidence-based learning activities are tied to National Common Core, but more importantly to plain good practice!

·       Are you at a museum that has a collaborative #hashtag? Have students add their photos to that organization’s stream of photos if allowed. To extend the partnership, have students collaborate with a small museum, historic house, non-profit, or other agency and let students take the lead on filling their photo stream on Instagram with photos from their perspective which highlight their connections to a place. They will see things differently than an adult or historian and it will help provide capacity to that local site.

 Third: Change it up! Use Instagram as an editing tool for altering photographs to use in the classroom. Instagram can help you differentiate instruction by:

·       Instagram has great filters that spark creativity. Let students use them to their advantage and present photos in a different way to their friends and in presentations to spark engagement and interest and support creativity.

·       Consider shooting a picture of a map or other item dependent on color and filter it block and white. By removing color, the inquiry level is often raised and it will spark new and different conversations.

·       Use Instagram to as an impromptu cropping tool to take unwanted items out of a photo to help reduce learning distractions for students.

·       Use the crop tool to pull out sections of text from a primary source so that students can focus on it while reading instead of being overwhelmed by too much text on the document, or difficult vocabulary.


Fourth: Engage Others to Promote Learning ! The best learning comes from engaging others with the topic at hand. Although the above ideas tie into this idea because of the natural uses of social media, here are some extended activities:

·       Create a classroom #hashtag for your Flat Stanley project and share where he has been in addition to the traditional snail mail version of artifact collection! Create his own collection of primary sources that can later be used in the classroom but also are shared on Instagram in a public or private account.

·       Challenge students to post an Instagram photo to a common #hashtag and ask the question and answer it to using  “what is this?” Designs in architecture, bugs, historic sites, environmental challenges… the list is endless and let their imaginations run wild.

·       In the classroom, bring up the #hashtag images and use them as creative writing prompts, or map them on a wall map, Google or other social media sites for all to see!

·       Use re-photography and compare the then and now of a place. Print out a historic photo and take it to a place. Shoot a new one and compare! Take a look at examples at:

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