Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Interest in Pinterest: New Social Media for the Tech-Savvy Educator


Today's blog has been hard to write.  I've started it at least six times.  Maybe it's because Pinterest is so different from other social media.  Perhaps it's the fact that Pinterest, as a social media, is surprisingly image-driven as opposed to verbal--it's causing my own verbal resources to break down.

I have seen a couple of posts by friends on Facebook using Pinterest recently, but generally ignored them (I'm not all that into social media in and of itself, and Facebook is realy it for me when it comes to being actually social online); then I read an article by the International Society for Technology for Educators over Pinterest that made me start thinking about the site and its possible educational applications.

The article mostly recommends Pinterest as an idea-sharing resource, and yet another place to build your Personal Learning Network (a really worthy goal, and I would add a dedicated Google+ circle to the resources described in the linked article).

When I look at Pinterest, however, I see it as a wonderful way to gather resources for my students at the click of a button.  When you join Pinterest (which is still a bit wonky--you have to use either a Facebook or Twitter account to join, and it takes a process of approval), you are given a button to add to your web-browser.  The button simply says "Pin It", and that's what it does.  You will set up "boards" according to whatever themes you think are most appropriate, and whenever you are surfing the internet, reading websites, articles, blog posts, etc., you can just click that button to "pin" the resource to one of your boards. It's that easy.  Suddenly, gathering materials for my classes has become something I can do as a second thought--and that is what makes Pinterest a great format.  

So often, I'm reading something that inspires me to share it with my students--but I don't, because it would either require me to print it out or link to it on my website, etc., and I am essentially a normal human being (read: lazy).  Now I just have to push a button!  

What's even better, once I have supplied a board with resources for my students, I can let them "like," "repin," or comment on each resource.  This excites me because, as a Latin teacher, there just aren't that many resources out there for simple Latin reading.  I have already begun my board for Simple Latin Reading, mostly taken from TarHeelReaders.  I am excited to unveil it to my students--they will have the chance to chime in and let each other know which stories they enjoy reading and which ones they recommend (using "like" and "comment")--and it will all be organized on the board, in one place, and all I had to do is push a button on my browser!  This is what technology is for--to make our lives better, more efficient.

That's not to say there aren't still some bumps when creating and running your Pinterest account.  Aside from the aforementioned awkwardness of enrolling only via Facebook or Twitter (I recommend Twitter if you don't have either account already--it's a great place to build education-related resources and contacts), the site still feels experimental despite the fact it has existed for two years already.  I can rearrange the order of my "boards" but not the articles pinned to my boards.  I had to wait around 24 hours before I was okayed to join.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the "pins" by my friends on my home page, and it can be confusing to navigate the site itself.

That said, I think it's an invaluable resource for educators--imagine the thematic boards you could create (science and math as well as art, language, literature, etc.)--and it is emphatically family-friendly: when you join you agree to keep your boards clean and nudity-free.

And, did I mention, it's free?