What is....Instagram?

How many times have you been in a meeting, or on a train or in a crowd or at a party, and someone starts talking about some social-web-internetty-media-thing-a-ma-bob like it's the second coming of you know who and you have no idea what they are talking about? It might as well have been a new laundry detergent in Croatia.

Me too. I don't pretend to know everything or even a lot of things or more than the next guy. What I do have going for me however is a want, no need, to know about things. New things and in particular, techie things.

So here's something new. I will endeavor to explain, in as few words as possible, stuff. Stuff like Facebook, Twitter, DropBox etc. If you have questions, feel free to ask.


Instagram's name is a mashup of "instant" photograph like Polaroid, the old Kodak Instamatic cameras and "Telegram" for messages. It is an app on iOS and Android phones and is in beta (testing but not quite done yet) on Windows Phone 8. The app has a web browser version that allows users to browser pictures and modify their account settings but to add pictures the user must be "in app". 

The app allows users to take pictures from their phone and upload them to their Instagram account. They can use filters to modify the images and hashtags, as used in Twitter, to help other users find them based on the photo's subject. Photos are sized to reflect the look of old Polaroid and Kodak photos (4:3 space ratio for you photo aficionados).

Instagram has been the subject of much angst among parents and educators as there have been instances where teens and adults have shared inappropriate pictures of themselves and others. There was also some controversy when Instagram changed it's terms of use to allow the company to use user's pictures in advertising without their prior consent as Facebook does. After users began to flee to other apps the language in the Terms of Use were removed. 

Instagram was founded in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger with $500,000 in seed money from venture capitalists and sold to Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion in cash and stock.

Like everything else under the "Social Media" umbrella there are good and not-so-good things about it. Teachers have begun to use the app in middle and high schools. There is a great thought starter article at We Are Teachers.

The take-away here I think is that your students are already using it, why not use it in class? Engage them by meeting them "where they live". Just make sure that your school and/or District has policies in place that allow for it and protect you and your students.