The Teacherpreneur: Instagram and Educators

teacher sitting at a table with an iPad

The teacherprenuer: Why teachers seek out social media.

We all like to belong. Belonging to a group whether virtual or real is important for humans. These online groups are called affinity spaces. It is a place where people with similar interests can go to connect and share ideas.

Instagram is one form of social media which educators are beginning to use more. It is interesting as Instagram does no come to mind as a text-based social platform for the exchange of ideas. Instagram is primarily for imagery, however, as with all things on the internet and social media, its use can change or diversify over time.

There are benefits and drawbacks to using social media. Indeed, many stories about social media are about the problems associated with it. Social media, for all its benefits also creates challenges for those using it. 

Instagram’s visual nature distinguishes it from many other social platforms. So it’s interesting that educators are using Instagram more as a meeting place. Social media can provide a neutral platform for discussions, but social media through their algorithms can also shape the content and direction of experiences for many users.  Interestingly, the visual nature of Instagram has the appearance of being a more credible and trustworthy source when compared to text-only social platforms such as twitter (Pittman and Reich, 2016). 

What is an affinity space?

An affinity space is an online or offline location where people can convene due to a shared interest. This is nothing new, although social media and the internet has made much easier for individuals to find like-minded others. In many cases, affinity spaces are related to avocations (a minor hobby or occupation) rather than professional vocations. The benefit of online affinity spaces is the ability for large groups of people to connect and create new audiences for user-generated content.  For example, teachers can use social media to share ideas and resources related to their subject area. 

The online affinity space can be a great resource but it can also be a place of challenge. Online affinity spaces are often open to anyone so its community can become diverse. Norms and cultures can develop in affinity spaces which may differ from the original conception. This can cause friction among community members. For example, teacher affinity spaces could result in socialisation which reverts to traditional or ineffective teaching practices (Little, 2003).

Teacherpreneurship

Teachers can join an affinity space due to their shared interest in education. Other teachers join an affinity space for the purpose of seeking to influence beyond their own classroom (Berry et al, 2013). Teacherpreneurs use social media to advertise products, resources and to pursue individual financial interests. This distinguishes them from other community members in that they seek memberships to share information for financial gain. This can affect the character and culture of an online affinity space. For some, this type of information is valuable and useful and for others, it is spam and a nuisance (Carpenter et al, 2018).

Benefits in the use of social media for educators.

Educators can use social media to fulfil needs related to professional identity, community, and support. These can evolve into learning networks and communities of practice. This is a welcome online phenomena as many teachers work in isolation. Social media is ofen used to build momentum for social movements and ideas. This is a valuable resource for educators and offers a platform and meeting place which is often not afforded in work environments. Social media allows educators to take initiative in areas they cannot do at the workplace due to constraints. 

Challenges of social media for educators.

Online communities are absent of the traditional gatekeepers commonly found in social groups. The absence of gatekeepers means more diverse voices can appear in online communities. The participant can become the voice. The absence of gatekeepers means quality of content can be questionable. Who is vetting the content? In the online space, educators need to develop critical skills in analysing social posts to ensure material is of quality and beneficial.

There are also challenges of discourse. Unlike a referred journal, online spaces tend not to have quality robust and productive discussions. There is the trend towards polite talk. The openly public nature of discourse on social media may in fact restrain content and dialogue rather than pursue controversial and probing discussions. Furthermore, online affinity spaces can also tend towards homophilly where users will gravitate to more like-minded others and thus remain from pushing them to consider the points of view. 

Research on teacher’s instagram use.

This is a very understudied area of social media use. There is a significant gap in knowledge surrounding how and why teachers use social media, and in particular Instagram. Carpenter et al (2020) explored educator use of Instagram. The results found that many educators mix personal and professional lives in their instagram use and posts. Much of the professional content related to advice, instructional examples, and examples of curriculum and organisational materials. 

In the study, educators reported they used Instagram for ideas and resources. Learning from others was rated most highly in responses. Collaboration with others the next more cited reason for Instagram use. Less than 10% of participants reported using Instagram to sell products related to education. 

Many (62%) of the research participants reported that they commented on posts. The comments mostly related to showing that they liked or agreed with the post content an ideas. Asking questions and advice was another popular reasons for commenting on posts. Liking and agreeing is commonplace, so little evidence was found of teachers using Instagram to disagree or have a debate. The idea of support was the prime motivator in reasons given for likes and commenting on Instagram.

Overall, Instagram allows educators to facilitate exchange of ideas, resources, and receiving support. The desire to help others was a common theme. Additionally, social media was used as a way of deal with professional isolation. 

Highly curated Instagram Accounts

Interestingly, some educators found that the very curated Instagram accounts of other teachers (teacherpreneurs) to be off-putting, as these teachers reported feelings of inadequacy when viewing posts from these accounts. Professional Instagram accounts often have a team of people behind them and produce very high quality material. This is seen by some educators as setting unrealistic expectations in the education community. 

There was an acknowledgement from some that Instagram use allows teachers to make things ”look pretty” rather than have any real meaningful and educative value. One example is the comment that the poplar teachers on Twitter are just making a “prettier worksheet”, alluding to the fact that there is no real substance to their content. This is the kind of critical eye that is needed to be cast over the content of educators on social media. 

Teacher Lifestyle Content

The visual nature of Instagram and the mixing of personal and professional content by educators could well be a form of teacher lifestyle content. However, not all teachers users of Instagram shared the same experience. Some teachers reported making unhealthy comparisons when the standards seen in the highly curated content on social media are so high, that they felt they failed to meet these expectations. More research is needed to understand the complexities surrounding social media use by educators and how social media can be utilised for the betterment of education in general.

Additionally, the mix of professional and private posts by some educators in a teacher lifestyle portrayal, may make them seem more authentic and trustworthy and should receive further attention. The use of social media for professional exploration is commendable. There is great potential for educators to exchange ideas and provide support to others through social platforms.

How has COVID has affected student learning and assessment?

We are in the midst of the COVID pandemic right now. Schools have closed and re-opened. See have closed again. Teaching has moved from face-to-face to an online mode for lockdowns where they can. This is a completely new mode of delivery for school-aged students. Technology has been present in classroom education for at least 20 years now. But this is different. Technology is being utilised for delivery and instruction. This is a very novel approach for many teachers and students.

Stress, anxiety, illness, and being forced to learn in a different mode leads many to new thoughts and feelings about teaching and learning. Students may feel overwhelmed, teachers exhausted from the additional workload of preparing everything for online delivery (I can speak from experience). It has been very challenging. Teachers undertook that change to online learning very swiftly, and for many there was no formal training for it. There was no time to prepare. Additionally, lack of contact with students and colleagues means it is difficult to remain buoyant and energised.

Overcoming Challenges

Many challenges are found in online teaching and learning which currently do not have answers. How does reliable assessment take place? How does teaching and learning continue at the same pace, depth, and quality we are accustomed to in the face-to-face environment? How do we develop our pedagogy and instruction to meet the online mode? These questions do not have an answer at present. It is very likely that fluctuations between face-to-face and online teaching and lining will continue over the next 12-24 months as the COVID virus moves through the population.

As teachers, we need to continue to move forward and work to the best of our current knowledge and understanding. This is to ensure our students can maintain the standards of learning they are accustomed to. COVID should not be a reason for students to fall behind. However, for some it may unfortunately already be the case.

Student Assessment

Student assessment during COVID may have been impacted more than is typical by stress and anxiety. Having to complete assessments in a form different from what they are accustomed to, many students may have struggled to complete learning tasks required for an assessment. Thus, the groundwork needed to be covered was not there. Assessments completed during online learning may not best reflect a students’ knowledge and understanding due to the above factors. That assessment may not be a reliable indicator of a students progress.

Furthermore, during COVID online learning, students could have experienced defects in their learning. The new approaches taken by teachers in the online mode may mean that content is not as readily taught and learning not as deep. Some adjustments have been made by various curriculum authorities for crucial assessments and other  requirements for Year 12 students. However, this may not be enough to adjust for the impact on student learning and progress.

Variance in assessments

The variance in classroom instruction during COVID can create variance in assessment results. The ability to compare one student to another on the same assessment becomes difficult. The ongoing pandemic may further exacerbate this situation. The impact may be seen for several years to come. The impact COVID has had on student learning is unknown at this time and as the pandemic rolls on, we may see more and more variance in student assessment results.

© teacher-motivation 2020

Online versus traditional homework

coloured text books

Right now we are in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the world has got into lockdown. This meant that school have closed and moved to an off-site and online learning mode. Students are at home and their learning is taking place through online methods. There has been a sudden shift to online teaching and learning. Now more than ever we need to understand the benefits and pitfalls surrounding this new mode of education.

For the moment, the shift to online learning appears to be temporary. When lockdown eases, schools will return to classroom delivery. In fact, I have returned to work and am back in the classroom following on from several weeks of off-site working and online teaching.

Benefits to working online in education

Literature has for while described the benefits of working online in education settings. Homework is one area which has had considerable research since the advent of technology and platforms suitable for educational environments. There is evidence of benefits for both teachers and students. The research literature has considered how homework allows for increased student engagement, improved  depth of subject matter, and increased skills in self-regulated learning. For teachers, it provides the opportunity to extend the time of learning outside of the classroom as well as to monitor student progress. Homework however, does have a downside. Research has shown that homework needs to have value, fulfil a purpose and not used as a pressuring tool. 

Technology in education

Technology provides students the ability to learn and access information on demand and without geographic restrictions and limitations. The use of technology and platforms provides many benefits to students such as immediate and individualised feedback, the opportunity to correct errors and refine work and resubmit. This can allow students to develop a mastery-approach t learning where mistakes are a valued part of learning and the end result is for understanding.

Computer use in education is prevalent throughout the world. Little is understood how online use for homework outperforms traditional forms of homework.

Research on online homework

A large-scale meta-analysis of comparisons of rational versus online homework was conducted by Magalhaes et al (2020). The focus of their study was to understanding what format of homework has more benefits for student performance. In this meta-analysis, college students were the prime population although some secondary school students studies were also included.

Most of the papers surveyed used convenience samples and this may have methodological issues such as the ability to control for influences that might interfere with the sample results.

Research Findings

Overall, the researchers found that after allowing for the differences in the studies used in the meta-analysis (differing measures, outcomes, non-standardised instruments), they found that there was little difference in benefits between traditional and online homework. Both modes of homework appear to be equally effective for their intended purpose.

There were differences were found in the responses by students to some of the research questions. Students’ perceptions and opinions of online homework were more favourable than traditional homework. The majority of students in the meta-analysis favoured online homework over more traditional modes of homework. Furthermore, the meta-analysis found that students’ believed online homework more beneficial for their engagement and academic success. This has to be a positive outcome for students despite little rigorous evidence to support their views. This is a strong argument in favour of online homework for academic success.

Educational implications are students’ believe online homework is more beneficial for their engagement, learning and academic success. Beliefs form a very large part of academic achievement and the more we can do as teachers promote positive academic self-concept, the greater the potential for students.

© Teacher Motivation (2020)

Magalhães, P., Ferreira, D., Cunha, J., & Rosário, P. (2020). Online vs traditional homework: A systematic review on the benefits to students’ performance. Computers & Education, 152.

Homework and academic achievement: is there a relationship?

Female student carrying lots of books up some stairs

We all have opinions on the value and place of homework. Some authors have called homework the “job of childhood” (Corno and Xu, 2004). It is a point of disagreement for schools and parents. Homework can be time-consuming. It’s difficult to see a direct relationship between the time invested and academic achievement. Many things can intervene between homework and academic achievement. Is it the time spent or the quality of homework set which makes the difference?

Homework research

Research has been mixed in the area of homework and academic achievement. Some research finds positive link between homework and achievement, while other research finds homework of little benefit in overall academic achievement. Separating the noise from the data is a particular issue in homework and achievement research. What I mean by noise are all the other variables which can affect homework and achievement that are not directly measured in research, confounding results. ## Does homework lead to a significantly better academic achievement for students?

At present research suggests there is little evidence that the amount of time spent on homework is related to primary school students’ academic achievement. Jerrim and Lopez-Agudo (2020) studied the results of several European countries via PIRLS and TIMSS data. In fact, the researchers found almost no association between the amount of homework set by teachers and primary school children’s academic achievement.

Other researchers Dettemers et al, (2009) have found mixed results between homework and academic achievement using the PISA data. In some countries, they found a positive relationship between homework time spent and academic achievement. Conversely, in other countries they found there was little support for the amount of sometime spent on homework and academic achievement.

Another large study conducted by the U.K. Education Endowment foundation found that although high school-level students do benefit academically from time spent on homework there is little evidence in support of similar benefits for primary school students (Education Endowment Foundation, 2017).

So what is the issue?

On the quality of homework set, there are differences in homework. Homework can be related to content-only or homework can be based on more real-life situations. Content-only based curriculum develops knowledge. Homework based on real-life skills in can extend the content knowledge to apply to improve real-world competencies. These are skills that students will use later in life.

Real-world competencies would seem to have more benefits to students in the long term than competency-based homework derived from curriculum only content knowledge alone. Therefore, quality of homework is suggested as an area for investigation into the benefits of homework for academic achievement.

Student motivation is connected to homework. Students’ perception of homework quality set by the teacher as high has positive benefits for student motivation (Trautwein et al, 2006). This requires a more thoughtful approaches to setting of homework so primary school students may improve connections between homework and academic achievement.

The amount of time spent on homework is not found to be a predictor of academic achievement for primary school children. Quality and type of homework appears to be more beneficial to primary students than increasing the amount of homework given and therefore the amount of time spent on its completion. 

Greetings

This is my first post to this blog. However, this website has been up for a while for the purposes of collecting data for my Ph.D (still ongoing but close to finishing). All good ideas take time and this is no exception. I have been in education for over 25 years and no day goes by where I wonder about students’ motivation to learn and teachers’ motivation to teach. Anyone who is a teacher or knows someone who is, no doubt understands the challenges of the role. My interest in how people learn has always been strong and my research has allowed me to explore and develop a good sense of learning and motivation in education.

My Path

My research has taken me from music technology in the classroom to deliberate practice with musicians to educational psychology and motivation of learners and teachers. The areas covered is quite vast and though the Ph.D has given me focus, I still read widely about forms and theories of motivation in general and educational motivation in particular. Hope this blog will be able to bring some of this to my readers and to draw attention to not only new research data, but also some of the educational reform and policies in place which can support but equally hinder the work of teachers in the classroom.

Its’ Ok to disagree

I understand that not everyone agrees some of the findings in educational research. I used have (and maybe still do) have some biases about teaching and learning, but over the years I think have become a little less polarised and more open to new ideas and ways of thinking about education. What I don know is that the research I have undertaken has helped to dispel common educational myths and learn how to interpret research and educational policies for what they are. Look forward to you joining me on this journey.