Pinterest is a popular social media platform. With an estimated 48 million users in 2016, its growth projection is much higher than Facebook , Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. These statistics probably do not surprise you. Odds are that you, a family member or a co-worker access Pinterest at work, at home, and on a mobile device on a daily basis. Educators and parents are, in fact, one of the most common categories of pinners.
Why Another Blog Post?
After skimming that first paragraph, you may be asking yourself: “If Pinterest is such a well-known tool, if it is so ubiquitous, then why do we need to keep talking about its use? Why should I bother reading another blog post about something I’ve already mastered?”
I’d like for you to take a few minutes and examine Pinterest and its uses through a different lens. The majority of us use Pinterest to curate – to collect and maintain boards of lesson plans, classroom activities, bulletin board designs, and other personal projects. One market analyzer called this type of use aspirational. However, if this is the only way you are using Pinterest professionally, then you are missing out on some very creative approaches to Pinterest in education.
Recently, I interviewed Lucas Jensen, a social media researcher and instructor at the University of Georgia. I attended one of Lucas’s presentations on alternative ways to use Pinterest in the classroom and I was blown away by the upsidedown-ness of his examples. These are not dramatically different or difficult Pinterest uses, but the approach and philosophy that inform Pinterest application in these situations were so student-centered, so creative, I had to find out more.
Pinterest as a Learning Management System
The first use Lucas discussed was by a K-12 teacher who wanted to share assignments and links with his students. This particular teacher taught in an economically depressed area and he found that his students struggled to access assignments and resources he shared using the school system’s learning management system. Students used the inability or difficulty of logging in or finding things as an excuse for not using the materials he shared. Finally, in desperation, this teacher turned to Pinterest. His reasoning was that Pinterest has one of the lowest entry barriers of any tool – it is, quite simply, one of the easiest and most navigable platforms around. Once an account is created and the student logs in, he or she can remain logged in, easily finding assignments and materials organized by boards.
Pinterest as a Resource Bank for Class
In a course on Social Action and Service Learning, the professor uses Pinterest as a live resource bank. Before each class she collaborates with students to collect and pin resources that help scaffold and support that week’s theme or assignment. Then, in class, she pulls up the board (students can also access the board on mobile devices) and the resource bank becomes an integral part of class discussion and student work.
Pinterest as a Class Portfolio
Lucas likes to use Pinterest as a class portfolio. He describes the end product as a “tapestry of the class’ work.” Collaborating with students to collect and showcase artifacts of learning makes sense. Jeff Bullas explains: “The average useful lifespan of a Tweet is measured in minutes. Facebook posts exist in newsfeeds for a few hours. Want to take a guess how long an average pin can remain relevant? Not minutes, not hours, and not even days. We’re talking months. The average pin can come up in search months after it was posted.” Having students select and reflect on the work they complete in class, asking them to comment and critique each other, can be a powerful learning experience. Pinterest is a handy tool for supporting this approach.
Pinterest as a Thematic Discussion Board
Another example from one of Lucas’s Visual Literacy classes uses Pinterest as a thematic discussion board. Lucas told me that after switching over to Pinterest for discussion, he will never use a traditional discussion board again. In his experience, students invest more time and effort in describing their pins and explaining the logic and reasoning behind their choices, than they ever did when posting text by itself. Perhaps it’s the visual component, the immediate reminder of the idea a student is sharing, but the discussion posts made by Lucas’s students are fascinating to read.
Sometimes we use a tool or a technological device in the most comfortable way for so long, that we miss out on other approaches or more creative applications. I encourage you to explore nontraditional uses for Pinterest, to examine Pinterest through the viewpoint of the learner. Can you think of ways Pinterest could be used in your school library, in your co-teaching, in student work? Consider turning your approach to “pinning” upside down this coming school year!
Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee 2015
Author: Heather Moorefield-Lang
Heather Moorefield-Lang is an associate professor at The University of South Carolina in the School of Library and Information Science. To see more of Heather’s work visit her website at www.techfifteen.com, email her at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter @actinginthelib.
Categories: Blog Topics