Social Media Highlight – Instagram

Instagram Overview

Instagram is an app first released in 2012. According to its website, Instagram is a “free photo and video sharing app”. Although the company doesn’t use those words, it is a social network. The main features of Instagram are PostsStories and live video. Posts are videos or photos that show up in a user’s feed. Users can upload up to 10 photos or videos in a single post. Stories are shared with followers and the videos and images in them expire in 24 hours, but any text remains behind. Live video is shared with followers, who get a notification when someone they follow is live. Users must log in to use the app.

The terms of use specify that a user must be at least 13 years old to use the app. The app works on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. It is rated Parental Guidance on the Google Play store, and 12+ in the iTunes app store. The app is owned by Facebook.

Why Kids Like Instagram

Instagram is easy to use for posting photos, and adding filters to them. It’s a very popular app with many users who are under 12. You child likely has friends who use Instagram. As children have smart phones on which they can take photos, they are likely to want to share those photos with others, especially friends and family. Instagram can feel like an extension of their community.

Dangers of Instagram

Although Instagram is about sharing photos, it has many more features than this, which makes it more fun for users, as well as more dangerous for children. There is a risk of a child accessing porn or other inappropriate posts on Instagram. Possible dangers include:

  • If a user likes a public post, other users will see their username and can click on it for access to their public profile.
  • If a user shares a private post to another social network, that post is no longer private, and can be accessed with a link.
  • If you access Instagram with a web viewer, your images may be indexed by other websites, and shared in public.
  • Other people could post inappropriate comments on a post
  • Instagram Direct allows conversations between two or more users of the site.
  • Users can send disappearing video and photos in Instagram Direct.
  • Users can contact people who they don’t follow, or receive messages from people who don’t follow them, through Instagram Direct.
  • Children may hide a story that they post from any user, including parent followers.
  • There are ads built into Instagram.
  • It’s easy to share location in the app.
  • Children may not make good choices on live video, even innocently.
  • Live videos and related comments disappear from Instagram at the end of the stream but can be saved to the camera roll.
  • This is porn and other content inappropriate for children on the site.
  • Hashtags make it easy to search the site for specific content, some of which are inappropriate for children.
  • A child can gain access to unfiltered internet access through the app.
  • Watch out for cyberbullying, and exclusion, which may be difficult for parents to spot. Sometimes teens can have conversations that are difficult for adults to decode.
  • Users can have up to 5 different accounts under 1 profile, so you child could have a finsta account.
  • It’s easy for users to clear web history.

Making Instagram Safer

I don’t think that you should let young children use this app. However, I know that there are many children on Instagram, despite the company’s requirement that users be at least 13. If your child is using Instagram, help them save settings that will make Instagram safer.

  • Create an account to explore the app. Here’s a guide to help you.
  • Follow your child. Also agree on who can follow them, for example grandparents, friends in the class, etc.
  • Make sure that your child turns location off.
  • Set posts to private so that only people who follow them can see their posts, and they have to approve followers.
  • Opt out of Similar Account Suggestions so that they won’t be suggested to other users, and people who follow them won’t get suggestions of other users to follow.
  • Revoke access to third party websites that may repost their images or video.
  • Change their username if someone that they’ve blocked is still mentioning them.
  • Advise your child on deleting inappropriate comments that they or someone else makes.
  • Help your child turn off comments or filter comments for posts.
  • Block people and report abuse as needed.
  • Speak to your child about any inappropriate content that he/she posts, and how to delete it.
  • Learn about who your child is using Instagram Direct with, and how.
  • Speak with your child about how they should respond to messages received in Instagram Direct from people who don’t follow them.
  • For younger children, consider making an agreement that they can’t post stories.
  • For younger children, consider making an agreement that they can’t post live video. If your child is allowed to live video, decide where, when, and under what conditions. As a follower, you’ll be notified of live video by your child.
  • Carefully manage who you follow. This will not completely protect your child from inappropriate content posted by others or from content found in Search and Explore. Teach children to select to see less of a type of post.
  • To learn more about this topic, see reviews from Protect Young Eyes, Be Web Smart, Common Sense MediaNSPCC NetAware, and Instagram Tips for Parents.

Read previous posts in this series:

Social Media Highlight: with logoOverview of is an app first released in 2014. It lets children create and share music videos 15 s – 5 minutes long. In addition to home grown stars, more mainstream stars like Katy Perry use the app, and invite Musers to create music videos of their songs, as a way to promote new singles.


The terms of use specifies that a user must be at least 13 years old to use the social network. The app works on iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire. The app is rated 12+ in the iTunes app store, and Parental Guidance in the Google Play store. Users must log in to use the app. People who use the app are called Musers. is one of a number of apps by the same publisher. Other apps to watch out for are for live video streaming, pingpong video walkie talkie, and squad group video chat.

Why Kids Like Musically is attractive to children, including those below 13. When I first heard about it, it sounded like a fun app. Kids talk about how they can practice different dance moves, explore their creativity, and dance with friends. It’s like video karaoke, with friends. This all sounded good to me, and still does, but the dangers have dampened my enthusiasm.

Dangers of

While focusing on the fun aspects of, children fail to consider the dangers. There is a risk of a child accessing porn or other inappropriate videos on There are a number of behaviors that may be dangerous for kids and teens using

  • Create and share videos that show themselves or others in a negative light.
  • Follow strangers or allow strangers to follow them.
  • Host a party, and invite “friends” to it.
  • If they create a duet with someone else, they may be subject to their friend’s settings for the video.
  • There is explicit content on the site, both songs and adult videos. You child could stumble upon something, or actively go looking for it.
  • Hashtags make it easy to search the site for specific content, some of which are inappropriate for children.

Making Safer

I don’t think you should let young children use this app. If you think that your child is ready to confront the dangers in this app, help them make safer. Here are some suggestions of settings you can teach your child to make, or set up with your child.

  • Create an account so that you can explore the app, and follow your child. Here’s a guide to help you explore
  • Make a with your child to understand the attraction for them.
  • Implement private accounts so that only people who they allow to follow them can see their videos.
  • Understand the privacy settings for accounts and videos. The table shows who can see a person’s videos for each combination of settings:
    Private Account Public Account
    Private video (stored on iPad only) No one No one
     Public video (stored online) Only followers  Anyone
  • If you notice an inappropriate music video uploaded by your child, discuss the problem, and have them delete the video.
  • Use face filters to protect privacy.
  • Carefully manage who they follow. This will not completely protect your child from inappropriate content posted by others as may post featured videos.
  • Enable settings that only allow friends to send messages.
  • Make sure that public information is at a minimun as it can be seen by all users. This includes profile picture, username, and short bio.
  • If you or your child sees inappropriate language, sex or violence, spam, or others, be sure to report abuse.
  • To learn more about this topic, see reviews from Protect Young Eyes, Be Web Smart, Common Sense Media, and the help page for parents.

Emergence of the Technology Coach

The SAMR Model

The SAMR Model; License: CC BY-SA 4.0

I’m a technology coach. Well, I’m not sure what my official title is. When I started at my school almost four years ago, my official title was Digital Learning Facilitator, DLF (almost an ELF but not quite). Apparently, the title of IT Coach had been considered and discarded.

Fourteen years ago, I started out as a computer teacher at an international school in Bangalore, India. This involved me teaching high school and middle school Computer Science courses in the Ontario curriculum, IB Computer Science, and a weekly class to students at every elementary grade level. I was the department head for Math and Computer Science, and taught one semester of Data Management, MDM4U. In addition, I was the computer support person. We had a network manager, but teachers saw me for all their problems from logging on, to printing. During my two years in that job, there was no concept of co-planning or technology integration.

In Khartoum, Sudan, I was the technology coordinator. My first year, my  responsibilities were similar to those in Bangalore. Every child had a computer class with me once a week. I campaigned to change this process and developed an IT curriculum with two prongs: technology integration at every grade level, as well as dedicated computer science course offerings. This was a substantial shift for me, and for the school, but grounded in educational research as well as my beliefs. Elementary teachers started co-planning and co-teaching classes with me. Those classes happened in the computer lab, but the content and activities were governed by classroom goals. We also did some computer science activities with the children, particularly from CS Unplugged. In middle school, I taught programming classes, mostly using Logo, and some technology infused financial math courses. In high school, I taught photo editing with GIMP, web design, and programming. I later taught Adobe InDesign and Photoshop Elements for creating the yearbook. I was employed as a teacher, but did the job of a Tech Director. We redesigned the computer lab during my third year, and I led the research and decision-making about the new equipment. I worked in Khartoum for four years.

In Nagoya, Japan, I was once again the technology coordinator. I led the curriculum through the same process of redesign and change as in Khartoum, from weekly classes to trimester-long or semester-long classes in Middle School and High School. I worked much more closely with elementary teachers in curriculum planning and co-teaching. I consulted with middle school and high school teachers about using technology to augment, modify, and redefine their teaching. In addition, I lead the technology committee and the technology planning for the school, and managed the WordPress server. In my third year, I learned about TIM, and TPACK, and improved my approach to working with teachers. Before this, I used to focus on the technology, but then I started to focus on the curriculum, and how technology works within particular contexts and curriculum areas. I started looking into the affordances of different technology tools. We diversified our technology tools beyond desktops, and added some Macbooks, iPads, and Netbooks. We also invited high school students to bring their technology devices from home, and gradually implemented a BYOT program. I worked in Nagoya for four years.

I’m now in Prague, Czech Republic. One of my intentions in moving to this school was to be in a bigger school where I could grow with colleagues. It was my first opportunity to be in a school with more than one person in my position. Over my four years here, I’ve seen a shift in my job responsibilities, and the expectation of the job. I solve problems for teachers regarding the use of iPads and laptops (tech coach as expert), do some professional development, and am involved in planning meetings. This is the first job where I haven’t had my own classes, and that sometimes feels strange to me, but I still get to work with students through co-teaching, mentoring groups of students, and leading lessons in various grades. I have more time for leading professional development, and for preparing professional learning material than I did in any of my other jobs. That has been great because we’ve more than doubled the number of devices at the school, and I’ve been able to work with individuals and teams to decide how best to use iPads and laptops for learning in different units, and with different children. The major shift for me in this job, is that the job of tech coach seems to be morphing to include being the expert/guide for STEAM, Robotics, design thinking, and for using laser cutters, and 3D printers. I’ve been involved with teachers in design challenges such as Scribblebots, Makey Makey projects, copper tape projects, etc. I also coach a middle school FLL robotics team, host after school robotics activities for elementary school students, and work with teachers to integrate robotics into the curriculum. There is a Tech Director, who I report directly to. I’m not sure what my official title is, maybe Tech Coach, maybe DLF, but the job looks very different than it did 14  years ago. Part of this change is due to location and context, but some of the change is due to changes in education.

After 14 years, I’m aiming for a (bigger) change. I don’t know what I’ll be doing next year. I feel, in some ways, like I did in those days when I just finished receiving my certification from the Ontario College of Teachers, and I had no job and wasn’t sure what I would be doing next. Yet, it’s nothing like those days because I have a wealth of experience, a growth mindset, and an attitude of adventure.


This post was inspired by the Edublogs Challenge prompt to write a post related to the constant changes and the pendulum effect in education. 

Read & Write Extension for Accessibility in the Classroom

rw gdocs


rw extensionRead & Write is a family of tools to improve accessibility of digital resources to all students. As part of this suite, there is a free Chrome extension for teachers. Otherwise, the premium tools are free to use for 30 days. Read aloud and Translation continue to work in Google Docs after premium access expires.

The features of Read and Write include text to voice, dictionary support for digital text, word prediction during writing exercises, and study skills tools to support students in their research. The features work in web pages, as well as in documents saved in Google Drive. There is a handy toolmatcher that determines the appropriate tools in Read and Write for the particular student situation. If you check all the possible accommodations, you get the results below. You can download the results in a Microsoft Word format, which could be useful for documentation in an Individual Education Plan, or Student Support Program.

read and write tools

While I have just highlighted the accommodations for students, the Read and Write extension is also useful for teachers. One of the features that I find the most useful is voice comments/feedback to students. You can insert a voice comment right into a Google document, instead of text. Each recording has a 60 seconds limit. The sound recording saves to Google Drive, and presents to students as a link that they can click to listen. To use the extension after the 30 days trial period, make sure to register as a teacher.

1 minute recording saved voice comment


There is no teacher dashboard to manage this tool with the Google Chrome extension. It is a tool that is meant to improve accessibility and provide support for creating and reading digital text.

Grade Levels

Read & Write in general, and the Chrome extension in particular, can be used at every grade level.

Why use Read & Write

Read & Write is great for supporting students learning a second language, and students with special rights in the classroom. It is also useful for teachers, due to its integration with Google Drive, for teachers to provide feedback to students.

Features of Read & Write in the Classroom

Not all the tools in this help page are available in the Chrome Extension. The link is useful for finding out more details about each of the tools labelled below.

rw tools screenshot

Top image from toolbar in Google Doc; Bottom image from toolbar on webpage

Main Uses

  • text to speech
  • speech to text
  • voice comments
  • read aloud
  • translation
  • dictionary and picture dictionary


Note that you must be connected to the internet to use this resource. It is available for the platforms generally used in schools:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Google Chrome

Subject Area


Professional Learning

Login integrations

Users of the Chrome extension log in with their Google account.


Better Search with Google

Google search box

Google is the most common search engine in the world. It’s likely that you used Google the last time that you wanted to look up something. How good are your search skills when using Google’s search engine?

9 Tips for Searching using Google Search

  • use the most accurate words possible in creating your query
  • ignore case and aim for correct spelling, but Google will suggest alternate spelling
  • put @ in front of a word to search social media
  • put # in front of a word to search hashtags
  • put in front of a word you’d like to exclude from the search e.g. -metal
  • use quotation marks to find an exact match e.g. “prague spring”
  • use OR to search for one of two or more things e.g. prague OR paris
  • use site: to search within a site e.g. to find Czech websites
  • search for a file type e.g. filetype:pptx to find PowerPoint files

Quick Search Features in Google Search

Things that you can do in the Google search box (or the Chrome Omnibox):

  • define Omniboxtype define in front of  a word to get its definition
  • type weather and the name of a city to know the weather in that city e.g. weather prague
  • perform calculations by typing a formula
  • perform unit conversions e.g. 200 eur in usd

Bonus Search Tips

Make it all the way to the end for the rapid fire sharing!

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