Journey into Media App Review: Instagram

Instagram burst onto the scene in 2010.  It rapidly gained popularity and boasted 1 million registered users in the first 2 months.  It has since become one of the most used social media apps in the world with subscriber numbers rivaling those of Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.  It has since been purchased by Facebook in 2012.  It has become vastly popular with teens and continues to attract new users all the time.  The photo-sharing app allows users to post photos, apply various filters and even use geotags to organize and categorize their photos.  Photos can also be organized and tracked using hashtags which help users find and take part in common themes.  I signed up last year but did not use it as much as I thought I would.  Over the course of the past few months, I have been exploring the features of this app as well as conducting student interviews.  I have come to appreciate the simplicity of the app as compared to something like Facebook as it allows you to focus on photos as opposed to filtering through loads of comments and text.

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The more recent addition of the ability to post short videos in a feature called stories has been a welcome addition and has been used widely by teens and adults alike.  In fact, over 250 million people use the feature daily.  The stories feature in itself has been one of the most successful additions to a social media app in recent years and functions much like Snapchat.  The feature allows you to build a story as a collection of photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.  Along with adding filters to photos and video, there are a whole host of other options available as well.  Drawing or adding text to pictures or videos allows for some customization.  An algorithm dictates which avatars pop up first in your feed and you can scroll through their content from left to right.  Experts have hinted that other features such as geofilters, face filters, etc which are very popular right now may be added in the near future.

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Terms of Service 

In the exploration of the Terms of Service for this app, there are several important pieces of information that both students and teachers should keep in mind when considering the use of this app.  Firstly, students must be 13 years of age or older to use the app.  This is on par with most other social media apps in this category although it does not prevent children younger than 13 from using it.  There is also a strict policy against sexually explicit images, violence, hateful or pornographic photos.  The result of these actions could warrant further action taken by the company.  The other interesting term involves the responsibility of users for the content that appears on their account.  In essence, this means that even if someone borrowed your phone and posted inappropriate photos, you are the one responsible.  This is certainly an instance where digital literacy will come into play as students must be sure that precautions are taken with passwords, etc. The terms also state that “you must not defame, stalk, bully, abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate people or entities.”  This is important language for students to understand but unfortunately, there is at best little the company can do about these kinds of abuses.  Reporting them may shut down the account but people will always find a way back in.

Student Perspectives

When asked about Instagram students had this to say,

Mr. Braun: “Is Instagram an app that you use often?”

Student: “Instagram is the first app I open when I wake up in the morning”

Mr. Braun: “What do you enjoy about the app?”

Student: “It’s a great way to connect and meet new people.  I love using the explore feed”

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Mr. Braun: “Do you use the messenger part of the app to communicate with friends?”

Student: “I don’t do much commenting but I love sending and receiving photos/memes.  I think kids just like communicating through photos”

” I like finding relatable content while exploring Instagram and then sharing with my friends”

Mr. Braun: Do you find that there is often inappropriate content in the app?

Student: “There is always going to be inappropriate/racist/sexist content on Instagram.  You just have to be sure to ignore it because Instagram will show you more of what you like.”

Mr. Braun: Do you use a finsta or Spam account?

Student: “I use a spam (finsta) account for posting the majority of my content.  I have lower numbers of followers on my spam.  I use my main account for browsing content and my spam account is for posting and communicating with friends.”

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As with any social media app or online platform, there will be those that abuse their privilege.  There is nothing inherently dangerous about the app itself.  It is attractive to teens because the app caters to mixed media communication which is how today’s youth interact with one another.  However, there are things to be aware of.  The first concern that I came across with the use of this app is that like, snapchat, the interface is designed to keep you scrolling and hitting that like button.  The powerful algorithm used to determine what shows up on your feed is designed with a purpose.  It will show you more of what you like and less of what you don’t like.  This could potentially lead to inappropriate videos/photos being shared with or by students.  Knowing how to have conversations with youth about how and why they share is crucial in addressing these concerns.  This parent guide to Instagram gives a good overview of potential risks and how to avoid them.  For instance, many students may not know that the default setting for sharing content is always public.  There are also tips and tricks included for reporting abuse and blocking users.  Another concern that is sometimes discussed alongside Instagram is its addictive nature.

Mental health concerns surrounding this app have been discussed for some time now but it is something to take into consideration when discussing social media with students.  Many students have reported feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, or depression associated with this app.  As stated in the article above, some experts suggest pop-ups which would warn users of overuse. The drive to continue to check your likes and shares for certain photos even sees some young people deleting photos that don’t receive many likes.  Some also draw attention to the fact that due to the filters and editing tools built into the app, it is a distortion of reality.  Others claim that the app causes a fear of missing out and that users struggle to be present in the moment.  However, in all of this, we have to remember as well that the technology is used by people!  Therefore, it is crucial that educators teach digital citizenship.

Overall Review

Instagram is a great way to connect with others and share important moments with friends and family.  In using the app over the past few months, I have come to appreciate the ways in which youth communicate through media.  I believe the app also has potential to be used to some extent in the classroom perhaps as a photo journal of what learning is occurring.  While it remains immensely important to have honest and open discussions about how and why we share using the app.  In considering the use of the app for a health/wellness intention, I believe that it could prove useful as a photo slideshow or journal of what students are doing in class.  It could also be used as a broadcast app for the teachers to demonstrate skills via video in order to have students practice.  However, due to it’s addictive and at times damaging nature, overall I give this app 3 out of 5 Luke Heads.


Journey into Media App Review: Sworkit

When I began using this app the goal was to evaluate its merits as a tool to be used along with the Wellness 10 curriculum.  The second criteria I was investigating was whether the app could facilitate a healthier approach to technology use.  The app took off after an appearance on the hit show Shark Tank and an investment offer from billionaire Mark Cuban for 1.5 million for 10% of the company.  The name comes from the abbreviation of the phrase “simply work it”  So far the app has been downloaded for than 14 million times across both ios and Android platforms,  The app caters to those who may not have time or resources to work out at the gym and it’s main selling points are ease of use and accessibility.  Even if you have just a few minutes the app will personalize a workout for you using a variety of exercises that include cardio, flexibility, strength or yoga.  It offers a range of different styles of workouts and the exercises are demonstrated to users via video of trainers in action.  Voice prompts also give you cues as to time remaining or type of workouts.  It is free to download although there are certain features that are only available with a paid subscription.

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The features included with this app are impressive for a free program.  The free version runs on advertisements but they are not overly distracting.  As mentioned earlier, users are offered the choice of strength, cardio, Yoga or stretching exercises when they first log in.  They can then choose anywhere between 5 and 60 minutes for their workouts.  The video trainer will then take you through the exercises.  You can pause anytime or even adjust the workout for injuries.  For example, if you’ve had a shoulder injury, you can deselect the exercises that you are not capable of doing.  You can also customize your workouts by creating your own or download a whole host of premade workouts including Full Body, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced workouts), runners’ Warm-up, Office Chair Stretch, Plyometrics, Golfer Sworkout, Around the Office, Surfer Sworkout.  The paid version can be had for the small price of $2.99 a month and gives you access to ask a trainer 24/7 as well as ad-free use among other features.

Terms of Use

Like many other apps in the app store, you must be a minimum of 13 years of age to download it.  However, it can be used in a teaching format.  For instance, I use my projector along with the app to have classroom workouts or fitness center workouts that all students participate in together.  Or, I may invite students to chose a workout of a certain length on their phones and then let them go through the session on their own.  The terms of use also state that the company is released from any liability resulting from an injury and does not claim responsibility in the event of injury.  There is also an option on the app to post photos to social media but the terms clearly state,

“Although we are not liable for defamatory words posted on our Site by our Users even if given notice, we do prohibit defamation under this Agreement and we may, if we believe the situation warrants it, take action against the offending User, including but not limited to telling their mom on them. Please notify us at if any of our Users has posted anything that you believe is defamatory.”

Therefore, it seems as though the app creators have taken precautions to guard against defamation and inappropriate posts.  Another possible concern that has been much talked about in the tech world lately is the protection of personal data.  As fitness data can be something quite personal, companies must be sure to safeguard against data collection.  As Strava found out recently, releasing workout data can course privacy issues for people all around the world.  Luckily, Sworkit has covered this area fairly well through a very simple to use interface that requires little to no entry of personal data.  Whatever data is collected is strictly protected and will not be given to third parties according to the terms of service.  Finally, the terms of service also have a disclaimer of liability which releases the company from liability due to unforeseen circumstances.

Pros and Cons 

This app has tremendous potential in education, especially for Health and Wellness classes.  I have used it as a whole class activity and have even had students evaluate the workouts based on the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.   This provides some excellent higher level thinking and analysis opportunities as well.  The app is simple to use and even provides a Sworkit Kids version for younger users.  The platform itself is simple and you get quite a lot for the free version of this app.  As mentioned above, there are not many negatives that come with this app.  When examining this app through a media lens, there are some concerns surrounding posting content or personal workout data but once again, it comes down to having a discussion about digital citizenship with students.  The Yoga poses and stretching also allow for students to decompress, and take care of their mental well-being.

Overall Review   

This app has been a great tool to use over the past year or two especially for a change of pace in our regular Wellness 10 routine.  As mentioned above it gives students some choice as well as providing guided exercises with the proper form being demonstrated to users.  Other than minor concerns with the possible sharing or personal fitness data, this app allows students to get exercise, have fun and stay active while alleviating stress.  I give this app 4 out of 5 Luke heads and would highly recommend it for teachers.

Journey into Media App Review: Remind

At the outset of this masters course we were tasked with using and reviewing a suite of apps that were either used by youth to connect with others or by teachers as pedagogical tools.  I chose to look at some apps that could help students with stress, help them stay healthy and promote wellness.  One of the apps I chose to review for my main project was Remind, formerly known as remind 101.  In essence this is a messaging app designed to aid communication between teachers and students.  It is quite simple in operation but has been very useful to me over the course of the past semester.  The app allows teachers, coaches, etc. to send instant messages to students and/or players regarding upcoming events, quizzes, or homework reminders.  Here’s how it works.  The app allows for instant messaging direct to students cellular device in real time.  Students may choose to message back but only if allowed by the administrator.  There is also the option to receive email notifications.  The app also includes a variety of useful features.

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One of the most useful features I have come across is the ability to schedule announcements to be sent at a certain time.  This means that if you need an announcement to go out at 8:00 pm and will not be available to send it, the app will do it for you at the appointed time.  Another useful feature is the ability to send file attachments with your reminders.  I have used it to send homework attachments, or even notes or information sheets.  There is also a useful feature that allows teachers to post their available hours in order to be contacted.  This allows for greater connection to home and gives teachers some flexibility with regard to when contact can be made.  The app also allows for multiple users to be administrators on the site.  This way teachers can collaborate together to post content or reminders.  They can also see read receipts for which students have read the messages posted.  In addition, teachers can choose to allow students the ability to respond to messages as well.  Finally, there is an option to send group messages as well.  This can be a useful feature when discussing options with parent groups, having students discuss content or posting discussion questions.  I’ve used this app for both teaching and coaching and I was very impressed with it’s possible applications in a variety of situations.  As a coach I found it useful for posting when games were rained out or cancelled to avoid making phone calls to all the parents.  I also used it for planning purposes.  As a teacher it has been very useful especially in Wellness 10 where we might be in different locations from day to day.  I use it to post reminders such as, “be sure to bring your skates today” or “remember that we are starting archery tomorrow.”

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Terms of Service 

One of the biggest surprises when reading through the terms of service was the fact that students under the age of 13 need to have signed permission from a parent in order to use the app.  This is something to in mind if you are teaching in middle years or elementary.  In addition the terms state that as a user of the platform you are required to comply with the children’s online privacy protection act or COPPA.  In other words, personal information collected can not be used in any way.  It seems as though Remind takes these concerns seriously as they do not wish to be noncompliant with COPPA.  If privacy concerns become an issue, contacting Remind directly will trigger the company to look into the allegations and possibly to take further action if necessary.

Pros and Cons

I had very few initial concerns with the use of this app.  It is a simple yet effective way to send out reminders to students and allow for quick and easy communication as well.  Many teachers complain about answering emails at home and constantly feeling like they have to be on call.  However, with a tool such as this, I have found it allows for quick access to students’ comments or questions as well as a more immediate response to student needs.  The beauty of the app is that no phone numbers are used therefore there is minimal risk of privacy issues arising.  Some parents are concerned about messaging contact between students and teachers if they have not understood that there is no exchange of phone numbers and that the app is usually only one way messaging in large groups.  If there are parent concerns about privacy, Remind has also written a handy guide for parents which helps explain the app and its’ purpose.  With cell phones now in the hands of most students over the age of 14, this tool allows for assurances that messages will be seen.  For those who teach younger children, this tool may not seem as useful but would still apply in situations where teachers need to contact parents quickly and efficiently.  Another issue is the concept of digital divide.   The app is rendered somewhat ineffective in situations in which not all students have access to a device.  For example, I didn’t use Remind very much in my previous teaching assignment due to the fact that messages sent would only reach about a third of my students.  In considering the use of this app with parents, it is also important to weigh the pros and cons.  For instance, a school with a large immigrant and refugee population might mean some significant language barriers and therefore some difficulty setting up and using the app.  This could be addressed with a simple parent tutorial tech night for example.  However, if all students have access and can use their devices throughout the day, there should be no issues.

Overall Review

In speaking with students who have used the app, several things were mentioned in relation to the app.  Most students mentioned that they appreciated receiving updates on things like due dates and assignments.  Some also mentioned they liked the ability to post questions to the teacher or in a forum.  However, some did draw attention to the fact that since Google classroom has many of the same features as well as the ability to post assignments and grades, Remind seemed, at times, redundant.  One of the advantages of using Remind is that the messages stream seamlessly to students cell phones with no surrender of cell numbers.  This safeguards both teachers and students from potential privacy issues.  In general I have found this app to be very useful and simple to use as well.  Often I will find myself at home and suddenly remember that there is a piece of information that I needed to share with students before the next day.  The app allows me to send a quick message so that I know that we can hit the ground running with our next activity the following day.  In closing, I would give this app 5 out of 5 Luke Heads and would highly recommend it for teachers and coaches.


Summary of Learning ECI 832

It’s hard to believe that I am doing my final summary of learning for my Masters Degree.  I feel as though I’ve learned a great deal during the course of my years in the Med Program and this class was no exception.  The course included discussions of key topics in Educational Technology such as ethics in a connected world, the role of technology in education, the right to be forgotten, etc.

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However, the ideas that resonated with me the most had to do with the discussion around digital natives vs digital immigrants, media literacy, and the the role of schools in teaching media literacy/digital citizenship to students.  In examination of the former topic, there was meaningful discussion around questions like; are the current generation of students born into a digital world as natives? What will the next generation look like in terms of digital integration?  Can those in older generations become a part of this new world or are they merely visitors?  I found myself wanting to place myself in the shoes of the younger generation.  This allowed me to look at technology in a different way.  As I stated in a previous post, because I grew up overseas, I was really not a part of the generation that grew up with technology at our fingertips.  Therefore, the examination of the these topics was very interesting to me as somewhat of a Canadian immigrant and a digital immigrant.

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The idea of digital identities and digital duality was also a large part of reforming my thinking on digital spaces and our place in them.  The role of the educator in this discussion becomes increasingly important as we examine what it looks like to conduct ourselves as professionals while modelling positive online behaviour for students.  Students are growing up with little distinction between their virtual world and their physical world.  Many would argue that there is none, therefore students need to be exposed to discussions of citizenship from an early age.  Critical thinking through media literacy then becomes the key to unlocking positive digital citizens.

Exposing students to different types of media as a practical way of teaching digital citizenship is a great way to start.  As students and teachers come together to examine issues like bias and ownership of content, positive digital communities will be formed in which true and meaningful learning will happen.

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Students and teachers can then engage in the creative process and tackle deeper issues as well.  This is something that needs to happen in the classroom and must be incorporated throughout the curriculum.  Building these types of communities that focus not on policing and prevention, but on engagement, reflection and critical thinking will foster growth of positive digital citizens that will be proud to continue the work into adulthood.  As classrooms across the world begin to take up these topics and conversations, students will need guides and mentors alongside them as they begin to navigate.  Scenes like the one below will hopefully become increasingly common.

You may be wondering how we as educators can undertake such a monumental task?

The proliferation of social media and new technologies does not necessitate a change in our pedagogical philosophy.  It simply requires that teachers continue to educate students to be good humans.

Below I have attached my final summary of learning.  I have enjoyed this course immensely and look forward to what the future holds.


A Day in the Life of a Media Consumer…

When we were presented with the task of cataloging our daily internet use, I got a little worried about a true reflection of my time spent online on a daily basis.  I wasn’t sure what this might reveal about me but in a way I also was excited to reflect on how I was using my time online.  I am of the opinion that time is a valuable thing and therefore, the time I spend online has to have meaning or it does not have value.  In a world of 3 preschool aged kids, my time online is limited at best.  My day typically starts out with breakfast and the news.  I prefer to use apps like BBC, Reuters , The Economist etc.  These give my a brief view of top stories from around the world.  In other words, one of my main strategies for making sense of media and avoiding fake news is making sure that sources are reputable.

After that I’m off to work where I primarily use media in my classroom for teaching purposes.  Apps like Youtube, Brainpop, mentimeter and Kahoot offer opportunities to review material, stimulate discussion and summarize new learning.  I also use apps like remind to let my students know about upcoming events or announcements.  Lately, I have been using Sworkit with my Wellness 10 class.  The App is one of a suite of three I have chosen to focus on for my final project including Remind, and Instagram.  As I present information to students and have them synthesize information using various forms of media, I try to remind myself of a few key questions and concepts that I highlighted in my resent vlog.

It’s important that we share and model this with students as well because as we have seen in recent years with the rise in misinformation and fake news, it is not always easy to tell the difference.  Students and teachers have a great opportunity to engage in conversation around the use of apps in the classroom, where messages are coming from, and why they are being sent.  It’s so important for students to have a critical eye and ear on the world around them in order to help them make sense of the world.  Using and teaching technology in the classroom does present constant challenges as Lindsay Mattison points out in her blogpost.  Issues such as confidentiality, cyberbullying, ethics and plagiarism, to name few, need to be a part of regular classroom conversations. As Mattison rightly points out, clear and concise expectations are key to any learning environment and the online world is no different.  Looking at how to choose reputable news sources is also an important piece of the media literacy puzzle.

As the day wears on I take every effort to use teachable moments to reinforce key points and information that is necessary to get kids thinking about what they use, share and create online.  However, another big area I am beginning to navigate is the use of online spaces by my own children.  Although they are still quite young, they are already at this age being affected by messages they hear all around them.  Whether it’s the Paw Patrol who’s on a roll or hearing the lyrics to a Selena Gomez echoing from the kids’ bedroom because they heard it in Walmart, media is everywhere.  I have come to realize that my use of, and relation to media is tied inextricably to my own personal values.  Our experiences ultimately determine how we interpret these messages so we must first seek to understand ourselves.  As I watch my kids interact with different forms of media after school, I am struck by the fact that they have much less life experiences and therefore are drawn to types of media that are geared toward their emotions and interests.  They need guidance as they interpret what they consume.

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Safety concerns for younger online users are becoming more and more important and as I consider how to teach my own kids to view and evaluate media content, the risks must also be counted.  As Krista mentioned in her recent blog post, marketing geared towards youth in media is becoming harder to deconstruct.  Schools have begun using social media monitoring software in some cases to intervene before it’s too late.  As stated in a recent CBC news story  ,

“You can’t argue with the importance of keeping our students and staff safe,”

As I sit with my kids and play on the tablet, watch tv, or listen to music, I think about how to start conversations with them about what they are consuming.  I also need to be better about fact checking and deciphering media for myself.  Even as I write this blogpost, I wonder who might be reading it and how they will interpret it.  In summation, Jana said it well in her recent post when she stated

“We must move past traditional methods of teaching and learning – memorizing facts, regurgitating information, and giving answers that we (adults) want to hear – and instead, challenge our students to become independent, critical thinkers.”

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Media literacy skills continue to be vitally important not only for ourselves but also for the next generation.  In a world where truth is relative and everyone can publish their point of view for millions to read, scepticism is more important than ever.


Literacy for the Digital Age

Being literate has always been a sign of progress, I sign of success.  It was seen for many years as a way to bring oneself to a higher level.  To be literate was to be above the illiterate.  To be educated.  To be free.  It opened a world that was closed to so many.  Being able to read meant that you could access services, learn new things, be connected to a wider world and share your thoughts with others in the form of text.  It has historically meant the difference between having jobs, wealth, status or being a second class citizen in many countries.

In more recent years, it could be argued that there is a similar technology divide that exists in society.  Certain skills are quickly becoming necessary to properly function in day to day life.  Having an email address and being able to access it is one example of a skill that is becoming increasingly necessary in today’s world.  So many important pieces of important information are stored an accessed online as well.  Things like banking, mortgages, subscriptions to services, media content etc are all using technology to provide an experience of ease to the consumer. 

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In comparison to traditional literacy which was usually considered reading and writing, the literacies of the 21st century look much different.  Many argue that learning to write in cursive handwriting is no longer a necessary skill, whereas checking email would be considered very necessary.  In terms of what we would consider necessary skills in today’s world, above are 13 literacies broken into broad categories that are touted as being for the digital age.  Interestingly, a category entitled traditional is still included.  It is crucial that these types of conversations continue to occur in order to flesh out those literacies that are needed in society.  Many would also site physical literacy and mathematical literacies as important tools in preparing for the world of tomorrow. In the following video, I outline the importance of Media/Digital Literacy.  I also highlighted the fact that being media literate is about more than just tools.  It is about thinking critically.

The more we can encourage students to think critically about the world around us, the more aware they will be of the varied nuances of digital messages.  In addition, as stated in this Media Smarts article, students must also be able to be smart consumers of products, recognize the role of media in culture, create media responsibly and recognize point of view.  In a changing and intense world, the biggest asset teachers have in media literacy education is parents.  As stated below, it is at home that kids will grapple with ideas and become independent thinkers.