How One Professor Explores Emerging Tools with Her Students


Last month, David Holzmer, Ai Zhang, Beth Holland and I hosted the first episode of our monthly talk show called Reimagine Higher Education.  David, Ai and I met via Snapchat and our conversations were the catalyst behind the new series.  One of our viewers was Dr. Terri Cullen, a professor at the Ohio State University.  As we began sharing our experience with Snapchat she became increasingly curious about the platform.  

The next day she assigned her pre-service teachers a challenge.  The challenge was to determine the value of Snapchat as a tool for professional learning.  Dr. Cullen’s challenge-based approach is a powerful example for other professors, when examining new and emerging technologies.  Too often we see teachers putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Everyone gets excited about a new app or digital tool and it looks fun and exciting so we look for ways to integrate it into our lessons.  

Through Dr. Cullen's approach, her students are researching, exploring, connecting and above all thinking critically about the role of new digital tools in their learning environments. This is a powerful lesson, reminding these future educators that technology should be used with intention and purpose when appropriate.  

That same day, she inspired me to create a special Snapchat story just for her and her students.  I in turn challenged my Snapchat family to share their ideas about the platform.  Here are some of their responses as to why they believe the platform is beneficial:

“As a researcher examining our human’s evolving relationship with technology, I find that the most valuable ideas are outside the margins of traditional linear thinking.  On Snapchat I find a growing community of intrepid thinkers who are not afraid to step away from Industrial-era assumptions to look for new types of thinking that weave a variety of influences and discipline.  In a very real sense, what Parisian salons were for the birth of the postmodern though, Snapchat and related online communities are becoming for the post-industrial age.” - David Holzmer - @davidholzmer


“I like Snapchat because it adds a real-life and authentic dimension to who I am.  One person shared with me today that she first got to know me via Twitter texts, but when she started to watch my snaps, it’s a totally new dimension of me that does not shine through via text alone.  This human dimension is what I love most about Snapchat.  It breaks down not only the geographic barriers, but the invisible yet powerful social hierarchies that add layers of masks onto people.” - Ai Zhang - aiaddysonzhang


“It allows me to get an authentic behind the scenes look at what happens in other teacher’s classrooms that I would not normally see, and on the flip side of that, I get share real moments in real time.  And above all it’s fun! - Jody Green - @peerlessgreen


“The great thing about Snapchat is the authenticity” Other social media platforms may offer us a link or image to click on, but Snapchat gives us a deeper look into what the user is sharing.” - Craig Badura - @mrbadtechgolf


“I still feel like I am new to Snapchat and I am trying to build my professional learning network (PLN).  I like that Snapchat offers more of a window into someone’s world than other social media.  I can see what they are talking about as they explain their thoughts and feelings about it.  Plus someone’s personality comes through a bit more on Snapchat.” - Marnie Lambitz - @mlambitz


“Snapchat is by far one of the most immediate social tools for direct connection with others.  Through Snapchat I can connect with people across diverse networks and have access to alternative points of views and learn about the world of work.” - Helen Blunden - @activatelearn


“I love getting a glimpse into what other educators are doing near and far. It’s all about the connections and relationships we make.” - Maria Galanis - @mariajuly21


“I like, Snapchat and Instagram stories to share quick behind the scenes of learning, maybe capture an awesome idea my students and I may want to temporarily review later, share what’s happening in my classroom and learn what others are doing to gain inspiration.” - Don Goble - dgm2015


“Snapchat and Instagram stories are great tools for professional development because they both enhance presentation skills, messaging skills (think elevator pitch) and provide experience around one of the more important professional learning skills, visibility.” - Chris Hoff - @dharmabum


There’s no doubt that live video platforms are an integral part of the future of how we communicate and share our story, making it a transformative tool for visual storytelling and advocacy.

If you are curious and are thinking about getting started, here is a Snapchat tutorial series on how to get started, and here you will find a great list of individuals who will inspire your storytelling and creativity skills as you begin building your Snapchat PLN.