Powell, G., & McCauley, A. W. (2012;2011;). Blogging as a way to promote Family–Professional Partnerships. Young Exceptional Children, 15(2), 20-31. 10.1177/1096250611428491
The article is a case study of the introduction of blogging as means to facilitate communication between family and an early childhood centre for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The importance of facilitating strong communication between home and school was noted as of importance to children with special needs in order to develop individualized programmes that meet the child’s needs. It was noted that special needs educators to use strengths-orientated communication. Previously, the centre had used handwritten anecdotal notes as a means of communication. However, this form of communication wasn’t always effective in terms of timeliness, portability (if a family member was out of town they did not have timely access), the communication was primarily one way (teacher to family) and was primarily written communication. Blogging offered the centre a number of affordances including timely information that family members both immediate and extended could access at any time. The article noted several benefits to the parents, children, and teachers including the ability to add multimedia as prompts to help children communicate their day, families of non-verbal children to understand their children’s context and the opportunity for extended families to participate and the ability to communicate more effectively ESOL families.
This article is fairly recent (2012) and has appeared in a peer-reviewed journal. Although the research is specific to a particular context, an early childhood centre for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, it highlights a number of affordances that are relevant to an international school. The first is the use of multimedia to build relationships between school and home where language barriers are present. The second is the issue of portability which is particularly relevant where a child may live in a different country from the parent and/or extended family. The third is an issue of timeliness of information. While a blog may access information in a more timely manner than handwritten notices is the information as accessible as it was when this article was written? Blogging is primarily accessed through a browser which requires a parent to access a desktop computer. As the penetration of mobile devices has increased, the use of social media apps to access information has increased. The ability to set notifications to alert users of updates is a key affordance. Blogs often rely on the user visiting the site to see updates unless they have subscribed through RSS or email. The article also highlights some key features for schools and centres to consider before embarking on a programme of blogging which would be applicable to other social media platforms.
Carpenter, J. P., & Krutka, D. G. (2014). How and why educators use twitter: A survey of the field. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 46(4), 414-434. 10.1080/15391523.2014.925701
This article surveyed 755 K-16 (kindergarten to post-secondary) educators used Twitter, a microblogging service, in their teaching practice. The article identified that educators primarily used Twitter for professional development including the sharing/acquiring of resources, networking and participating in Twitter chats. In the classroom, educators were using Twitter to extend student-student and teacher-student conversation outside the classroom, in classroom formative assessments such as to tweet as a historical character, to connect with authors and experts, and finally to model digital citizenship. Schools and individual educators have also used Twitter as a medium to communicate school events and policies as well as give parents a ‘window into a child’s day.’ However, teachers in the survey reported that they used Twitter in class activities as well as to communicate with students and their families far less than for their own professional learning. The authors note that that the social media platform is blocked for students, but less so for staff members.
This article is peer-reviewed and scale of this survey in terms of the number of respondents makes a generalization of the recent uses of Twitter by teachers particularly useful. There are some limitations to the survey as the respondents self-responded moreover the demographics of those who participated were not representative of a typical Twitter, being older than the traditional user. Those educators who responded to the survey were likely early adopters of Twitter and therefore not representative of the wider education community. The authors noted the use of Twitter in class activities needed more research as although the participatory element of the medium did lend itself to modern pedagogies. While the use of Twitter by respondents to engage in professional learning was discussed in-depth there was not much discussion of how educators using the medium to make connections between home and school was not covered in particular depth. The use of hashtags to create space for both students and share information is a particular affordance to give leaders and those responsible for promoting schools a whole-school view of activity.
Mills, K. A., & Chandra, V. (2011). Microblogging as a literacy practice for educational communities. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(1), 35-45.
This article is a case study of 166 pre-service teachers use of Edmodo as a microblogging community. The authors define microblogging as brief texts that can be sent to “friends” or “followers” using “multiple sources and tools, including websites, third-party applications, or mobile devices.” The authors define the difference between a microblog and a traditional blog are mobility with many users accessing networks through mobile devices, brevity in content, the rapid interactions that blur the line between reader and writer, and the dynamic nature of threads that are open to being reauthored. A further key affordance of microblogging services is the ability to add supporting links and images to communication and the use of hashtags to create online communities within a larger social network. Microblogging can exist in both an open and closed communities and extends classroom communication beyond the physical space of school. The authors note the importance of using microblogging is so classroom literacy practices reflect the ecology of the classroom in ways that are ‘meaningful and consistent’ with student use in the real world.
This article is fairly recent and peer-reviewed. Although the article examines the use of Edmodo by student teachers, there are several implications that make this useful when looking at the use of Instagram in classrooms. Firstly, Instagram is a microblogging platform that promotes rapid social interactions and responses. However, while Instagram does afford users multiple means of using multi-media communication linking to other content cannot be done in posts but through the user’s biography or using the stories feature. What makes this article particularly useful is placing classroom literacy practice as being part of rather than separate from the ecosystem of the learners. The use of images to communicate ideas and brief captions, when used over time, can build up a narrative of classroom learning. When institutions use hashtags they are able to create a multi-writer narrative of classroom learning and extracurricular activity. Schools would need to build up a shared understanding of appropriate use of content by both staff, students and family members to ensure that the content aligns with school values.
Moran, M. J., & Tegano, D. W. (2005). Moving toward visual literacy: Photography as a language of teacher inquiry. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 7(1)
This article examines the use of photography as a language of teacher inquiry in preschool and early elementary-school classrooms. Instead of viewing photos of classroom learning as representations of the truth, the authors argue that photos of student learning hold the same subjective, interpretive potential as words when teachers “read” photographs from an interpretive view. They argue that photography can be used as a method of research by teachers through creating a series of photographs and/or pairing photographs with artifacts and text in order to develop a contextualized interpretation of the photos. The act of the mechanical (taking photographs), the metacognitive (studying photographs), and the communicative (systematically using photographs) help teachers to gather, interpret and act on the knowledge they have created through taking photos of classroom learning.
This article appeared in a peer-reviewed journal however the sample size is unclear. Nevertheless, the use of photography as a visual language for teacher inquiry is important to the use of Instagram in the classroom as the platform is a photo sharing application. This article brings up a number of implications that the act of taking and sharing photos is not just an act of sharing snippets of goings-on in the classroom but has an important role to play in professional learning. Firstly, if teachers are ‘writers’ of photography through publishing them online they will need to be mindful of how their photos could be ‘read’ by members of the school community. Secondly, a class Instagram feed over time is a useful source of evidence of meeting the professional standards and a catalyst for ongoing professional dialogue. Thirdly, school leaders could be using a school’s hashtag as a data point to develop an understanding of practice across the school.