Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Snapchat. Yes, snapchat!

I have had been using Twitter in the classroom for diverse activities for pretty much a while.  Among these ones, I usually send out a question and students tweet their answers.  First tweet gets the prize. It has always proven to be pretty engaging and students love it.  Of course, you can also use some other quizzing apps such as Socrative or Exitticket.  However I find Twitter a bit more engaging due to its social aspect.

So it all happened during a Physics class.  The topic was temperature conversions.  Since I knew that most students were good at temperature conversion from past courses I thought of this class as a review.  So I planned to use Twitter contest.  I sent out a temperature reading and they would convert it to another unit.  To avoid them cheating and using Google search to get an automatic answer I had them solve the problem on paper and take a snapshot of the process and tweet it.  We kicked off but we encountered a problem.  For some reason, two of the teams were having issues with their mobile Twitter (I only allow them to use handhelds for this particular activity since a PC or Mac server might send tweets faster than a mobile and some of my students have handhelds only.).  Their tweets were not sending out so the game was a bit uneven.  After three trials we realized it was not going to work.

Then my students had an idea: they suggested we use Snapchat instead.  I had heard about Snapchat in the past but was not really interested.  For those of you who do not know what Snapchat is, it is basically an instant messaging service such as Whatsapp or Line, except that it sends snapshots only.  So, you take a picture, send it to any of your Snapchat contacts and they get to see it.  The picture is not saved, it disappears after certain seconds and is not retrievable.  Teenagers have been using this application to send selfies or fun snapshots to each other;  all of my students had accounts!  We had a recess break and they convinced me to install it.

Snapchat was really fast!  It sent pics almost instantly and in the order they were sent, so I could see who had finished the development of the problem and sent a picture first.  Needless to say, student had lots of fun and they felt they were mastering the procedure.  Good thing was that the winner team was not always the same one.

Now, as with all good things, there are probably some pitfalls about using Snapchat in class, student privacy being the main one.   However, Snapchat has some interesting features that seem to avoid this issue.  This is good if you, your school, or your district have strict policies regarding student/teacher interactions off school.  You need to sign up with an unique username, but you do not have to add your students and they do not have to add you back.  I did freak out a little when the service asked for my birth date, but this is because the application has age restrictions.  Pictures that you send or are sent to you are not stored, they vanish in seconds.  You decide how much time (within a frame that has a limit of 10 s) you allot your friend to watch the picture.  There is also a feature that allows your friends to store a picture but this only for a 24-hour period.

My students asked me if we were going to be using Snapchat again.  So now I´d like to ask you:  Have you used Snapchat in your classroom?  If you have not, would you use it?  What advantages or downfalls do you think it might bring?  I would really love to read your thoughts on this one and learn from each other.
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