Some thoughts on teaching with Pinterest [from the archives]

This post was originally published in 2011.

Recently, a friend introduced me to Pinterest, an online pinboard tool designed for creating a network of people sharing great ideas, resources, and information. It’s rare that I find a new online tool through my personal network rather than my professional network, so I have been eager to examine Pinterest’s educational and professional possibilities. In this post, I will talk about some of Pinterest’s key features and outline ideas for using it in teaching and learning.

First, a confession: I’m pretty crazy about Pinterest. Though I was hesitant to adopt another online tool, I was immediately drawn into Pinterest’s interface and network. Here is what makes Pinterest so great:

1. Emphasis on visuals and visual appeal

Pinterest is driven by visuals. Users compile topical resources and pin them to their pinboards. Each pin features an image, which helps users to quickly find topics and resources that interest them. For instance, here is a board that I created featuring all of the DIY projects I want to complete…someday. The pinboard features image after image of items that I have placed in my DIY Woman category.

I can think of several immediate applications of Pinterest to teaching and learning, primarily in disciplines that rely heavily on visuals and visual art. I can envision an art history professor or an architecture professor asking students to contribute to a shared pinboard. View this Architecture pinboard to see what the board of an architecture student may look like. I can also see students in the hospitality industry making travel and hotel pinboards, biology students posting images of animals (classified by genus, phylum, class, etc), or education students posting links to lesson plan ideas. A high school friend of mine, a librarian in Tennessee, posts great library-related lesson plans to her pinboards.

2. Easy collecting and sharing of topics, ideas, and interests

Pinterest allows users to collect and share resources easily, via the Pinterest website or the Pinterest mobile app. When you see a pin that you like, you can repin it to one of your pinboards. Users can categorize their pins to specific pinboards (e.g., Places I Want to Travel) or collaboratively contribute pins to shared boards. For example, here is a board that a friend and I share to collect resources for our canning projects.

For classes, pinboards and shared pinboards may allow students to collect and share resources that contribute to their learning. For instance, in a business marketing course, students can post iconic business images to shared boards as part of a group project. Students in a technical writing class might create boards that feature exemplary practices in writing DIY instructions. Instructors may even consider collaborating on shared Pinterest boards with faculty colleagues at Texas Wesleyan or other institutions. I anticipate that I will be writing a “Using Pinterest for Professional Development” post in the near future. In the meantime, feel free to request access to this Teaching in Higher Education pinboard and start sharing resources today!

3. Easy management and organization of resources

For the most part, I use Pinterest to collect and manage resources that I want to use at a later date. Though Pinterest is designed to help you create a sharing network, you can also use it as a type of bookmark collector. Consider doing this when you are designing your spring courses, particularly if you plan to use several online resources. You can compile those resources on a pinboard and use them as you need them. You can also share that course planning pinboard with students, even allow them to contribute to it, to create a course repository for that class and future classes. My one caution: Pinterest requires that you select an image to accompany the links you pin, so be sure to pin resources that have images.

If you plan to use Pinterest in the near future, I would recommend that you download the browser tool called the “Pin It Button.” This button on your browser toolbar will allow you to quickly pin web-based resources to your pinboards. Get the button and learn more about using it here.

Do you use Pinterest for personal or professional uses? Please share your thoughts on using Pinterest for teaching and learning! Happy pinning!

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