Last fall, I took a group of my sophomores to Fiesta Island for a bonfire as part of a storytelling unit. After the live storytelling concluded, we relaxed, chatted in small groups, and ate s’mores. After awhile, I noticed two of my girls had their cell phones out. My first reaction was frustration We were off campus having an authentic experience and they were on their phones! But, instead of snapping at them, I just observed. One was filming the other as she talked about her s’more. I inquired. They showed me a Snapchat story documenting the entire night. They were not avoiding the experience, they were actually documenting and sharing the highlights. They were still storytelling--just not the type I has pictured when I planned a night around a campfire.
Currently, I am a daily Snapchat user. I eagerly share my Snapchat excitement with other adults and have facilitated many tutorials filled with giggles and silly faces. Like most new social media tools, Snapchat is easier to just try than to try to explain. Snapchat feels natural because the messages are meant to be quick and temporary--just like face-to-face communication. However, the the back and forth sharing of photos and videos layered with drawings and text is a novel way to communicate. Snapchat is not just about sexting or selfies--it is a disruptive literacy. As Casey Neistat’s (2014) explains Snapchat is “about giving people an easy way to tell a story.” In his video “Snapchat Murders Facebook” he explains that Snapchat stories are different because they are disappear after twenty-four hours to create a sense of urgency and provide an authentic timeline (2014). However, he does not elaborate on how Snapchat creating a new form of communication that blends together images, text, drawing, and videos.
As an English 9 and 10 teacher, it is my responsibility to help my students become literate young adults. Snapchat is another reminder that literacy now extends beyond simple reading and writing. I have not yet directly integrated Snapchat into a lesson (it was offered as an option on one project, but no one used it). However, I encourage my students to use it in class to record and share fun and interesting moments. I also model this by adding the moments to my own Snapchat story.
Neistat, C. (2014, October 2). Snapchat Murders Facebook. Retrieved June 14, 2015.