Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 11

Accepted Abstracts

The Instagram Identity Project: Improving Paragraph Writing through Social Media

Sarah Hopkyns, Zayed University (United Arab Emirates)


Social media offers new platforms for digitally native students to learn, engage, interact and collaborate (Alm, 2015; Gamble & Wilkins, 2014; Mondahl & Razmerita, 2014). Increasingly, higher education faculty across the globe are taking advantage of social media platforms as spaces to bridge formal and informal learning through student writing composition, content analysis and digital identity formation (Vie, 2015).

Although many studies have investigated educational uses of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, there is currently relatively little literature on using Instagram in language classrooms. In the Arabian Gulf context, using Instagram is a popular pastime to the point where it can be a distraction in the classroom. One challenge is to utilize such a popular tool for teaching and learning.

The presenter shares findings from a mixed-method study which investigates how Instagram can be used as a motivating tool for paragraph writing. The study takes the form of classroom-based enquiry, and gains the perspectives of thirty Emirati university students in an English foundation program. Instagram was used as part of a six-week project on the theme of identity, which involved posting pictures and paragraphs weekly on a private class account and giving and receiving peer feedback. The final week of the project involved students making a short movie from this content to be shared with the class.

From pre-test and post-test questionnaires and semi-structured focus groups, using Instagram in this way was viewed as motivating and engaging. The majority of participants felt the peer feedback they had received on Instagram had encouraged them to spend more time and effort on their paragraph writing. An additional benefit was the improved rapport felt as a class due to the sharing of important aspects of their identities.

The presentation will explain how the project unfolded and provide examples of student work. The findings regarding student perspectives on the use of Instagram for teaching and learning will then be analysed before exploring how the project can be adapted to various contexts. There will be time allocated at the end of the session for questions.


Alm, A. (2015). "Facebook" for informal language teaching: Perspectives from tertiary language students. The EUROCALL Review23(2), 3-18.

Gamble, C., & Wilkins, M. (2014). Student attitudes and perceptions of using Facebook for language learning. Dimension, 49-72.

Mondahl, M., & Razmerita, L. (2014). Social media, collaboration and social learning -- A case-study of foreign language learning. Electronic Journal Of E-Learning12(4), 339-352.

Vie, S. (2015). What's going on?: Challenges and opportunities for social media use in the writing classroom. The Journal of Faculty 

Key words: social media, Instagram, mobile learning, writing, motivation


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