Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2016
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Stellar photo app promotes sharing, creativity but has risks

Subjects & skills
  • Arts

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (5 Reviews)
Privacy (See details)

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4 images

Pros: Cool filters, super-simple features make it easy to share photos.

Cons: Even with your profile set to private, there are some concerns.

Bottom Line: An absorbing, endless gallery of images that's fun to browse but tricky for classroom use due to privacy and content concerns.

Instagram is all about images, so it's a great way for students to share their own photos or digital images they've created. You might create a class account and invite multiple students to share a password and contribute posts. Consider having students submit posts related to a theme; find images across the internet or create your own, or have your students create their own memes related to a novel or a historical event and post them on the feed. Art classes might invite students to post photos of their work and use Instagram as an easily browsable gallery of your class's work. 

Also, think about how to use Instagram's privacy settings to your advantage. You might create a public Instagram account for announcements or daily updates for your students. Your students can follow your class account from their own (hopefully private) accounts without sharing personal information with you or anyone else. 

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Instagram is a popular social media platform for sharing and instantly enhancing photos and videos with cool effects. Users who create logins also can share their own photos and 60-second videos. As of 2016, you can also live-stream video, which will disappear after the stream ends or share private photos that will disappear. After taking or choosing a photo, you can modify the lighting, contrast, and color with preset effects, which usually make the photo look high-quality and interesting. You also can add a border, blur effects, and brightness. Users then add a caption, share the photo on Instagram and, if desired, via email or other social networks. @music is a feature that allows musicians to share photos and videos specifically related to their bands or performances, which may give rise to more focused content. Photos and videos are public by default, but you can choose to make your posts private in settings, as well as choose to share photos and videos with 15 or fewer friends via Instagram Direct. Similar to Snapchat, Instagram offers "Stories," which are series of photos or videos strung together that only last 24 hours.

This social network offers cool photo effects powerfully combined with the social seduction of Facebook, the popularity filter of Reddit, the hashtag and follower sharing models of Twitter, and the curse and blessing of commentary on YouTube -- and that's just within the app. Instagram makes your photos and videos look cool and then makes it easy to share them instantly, across multiple platforms, allowing you to broadcast how #awesome your life is right now.

Overall, Instagram does a remarkable job of implementing a neat idea with an easy and fast interface. All that being said, this app is built for fun and not necessarily for learning; students will find a lot of inspiration in browsing others' photos, but it's also a bit of a Wild West out there, and students will quickly stumble on things that aren't school-appropriate. Still, it might be a useful tool in the hands of a creative teacher and under the thoughtful guidance of your school's privacy policy. As with any social network, it's helpful to talk to your students about digital citizenship, especially how to manage privacy settings and how to share safely to protect digital footprints. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

What's not to like? It's endlessly entertaining to scroll through your friends' photos or search what's publicly shared. Plus, filters make anyone a photo pro.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

On its own, there's not much to learn beyond light photo-editing. Students could get inspired by what they see, though, and teachers could scaffold students' use to be more about creative expression.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

While there's not a lot of in-app help text, navigation is straightforward, and using the app's features is a snap.

Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 5 reviews) (5 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Mindi M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Bellarmine Preparatory School
Tacoma, United States
Community Building
This tool is wonderful for promoting upcoming school events or informing current events or projects. A quick and easy way to inform a large audience.
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