In recent months Instagram – of which I am a very infrequent and frankly unskilled user – has given me a great example of the inspirational and creative power of community, sharing, and audience – all of the things that educators are always saying should be part of projects that encourage student learning and achievement.
The example worked like this: I am a terrible photographer. I’m shy and hate being on either side of a camera. I feel like taking pictures of people is a really invasive and weird thing to do, so I usually only take pictures of large buildings and monuments. But I feel so self-conscious and trite standing around pointing my camera at large buildings and monuments that I rarely take the time to focus or even point the camera properly. During an entire year abroad in London, I took a total of 2 rolls of photographs, and half of them are of my thumb, the other half of Stonehenge.
But Instagram has changed something. I’m still a terrible photographer, but I feel the urge to take pictures of things. It’s not a lot by most people’s standards, but I’ve probably posted more photos to Instagram in the last few months than I’ve taken in the last five years combined. And I want to add more. The only real reason for this shift? Having an audience, even if it’s just a few people.
I can’t remember having personally been part of such a clear example of how an audience can energize creativity (or at least interest) where none existed before. I’ll try to keep the lessons of Instagram in the back of my mind when planning projects for students.