“Learn this” and “Pin This”: The Pinterest Model for a Connected Learning Platform

On the train, returning from the DML 2012 conference in San Francisco, I am sorting through the interactions and sessions I experienced at the conference. So many of the themes — connected learning, tinkering, the importance of failure in learning — resonated with me and inspired ideas that I can take back to Stanford.

Today, I am dissecting one of those ideas while the train gently rocks me back and forth all the way to Palo Alto. I had a lunch conversation with Maria Anderson, better known as  @busynessgirl, who shared her perspective on personal learning. She argued for a “Learn This” button on websites that connects users an “informal personal learning platform” she calls SOCRAIT. The button would ask the user to save a couple of questions related to that learning experience for later recall. If you want to know more about Maria’s idea, I encourage you to Learn This at her educational futurist blog, Edge of Learning.

Maria’s idea sparked an association for me with the popular visual bookmarking tool Pinterest and the connected learning model we discussed at length at DML 2012. Like the “Learn This” button, Pinterest has a “Pin This” button that you can add to your browser and easily pin new items to your categorical pin boards. In many ways, “Pin This” is a “Learn This” button because pinners often collect DIY resources, like “Reversible bag, how to and pattern.”

There are elements of Pinterest that we might want to remix (that’s right, not replicate) for connected learning. One particularly interesting characteristic is that the community of pinners gathers around top pinners, people who are recognized for their expertise and/or curation skills. Popular pins, like delicious recipes or easy DIY projects, spread like wildfire across pinners’ boards because of the “followers/following” feature of Pinterest. And Pinterest provides the option for creating shared boards, to which multiple pinners can pin resources and ideas.

I began to wonder about the possibility of an online connected learning platform that allows users to “pin” together a dashboard of learning interests and resources. This idea is inspired by Maria’s “Learn This” and uses Pinterest as a model because it is highly visual, community driven, built on sharing, and it often inspires users to learn, build, make, even bake new things.

Here are some of the reasons for a Pinterest-esque learning platform:

It’s social
The Pinterest community thrives on sharing and mutual appreciation of interests and creations. A connected learning platform too should thrive on a social network of sharing, collaborating, and learning from others. One of the central principles of the connected learning model is that social interactions create a sense of meaning for learners and therefore improve the learning process. Learning is also supported when that social network provides useful feedback to the learner.

It’s maker-focused
The most popular pins on Pinterest are those that highlight a product– a handmade handbag, a vegan banana cake– and people who consistently make or share high-quality products are considered to be experts. The connected learning model emphasizes that skills are developed and strengthened when learners become makers. A learning dashboard should be focused on makers and making, and should create a sense of apprenticeship around learning.

It’s interest-driven, not institution-driven
Until recently, very few corporations were on Pinterest. The corporations who are now on Pinterest feature their products and services to appeal to pinners, but they have no control over whether their products will generate buzz. Rather, Pinterest is interest-driven and the individual decides what information to view and save. Similarly, I think that the learning dashboard cannot be institution-driven. The learner should be free to select the learning experience that best suits his interests and goals. Some of this learning may be formal and credentialed, but some may be informal.

With all this said, please note that I am not advocating for Pinterest to BE this learning dashboard, especially with the recent concerns around copyright and Pinterest’s terms of service. What I am advocating is that we can learn from and remix some of Pinterest’s strengths and create a robust online connected learning platform.

So, check out Maria’s Edge of Learning site and connected learning site, then come back and share your thoughts on a Pinterest-like connected learning platform.

One Response

  1. Mentormob.com tries to do some of this–interest-drive, curated, share and/or learn. I’ve just started exploring. They went with “playlist” rather than “pin board” as framework, which changes the dynamic, forcing a more linear approach to learning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to Top