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Taking care of business

Pin it — Pinterest for Educators

Jul 06 2016

What's the best way for busy teachers to find — and share — ideas about lesson plans, classroom games and activities, apps, and a myriad of other topics?

Increasingly, the answer is Pinterest. Just five years old, the site now attracts 70 million people who use it as a giant digital clipboard to capture ("pin") information — pictures, videos, text and websites. Because of its easy information-gathering and storing capabilities, it's become a hit among teachers, who use it to collect, share and organize resources into themed collections ("boards"). 

For example, Teachers on Pinterest boasts 111,000 followers and is organized into 32 boards, which are divided by grade, subject, interests (such as tech and classroom decor and management), and so on.

Pinterest also has an education category that covers core curriculum areas (language arts, science, social studies, math), as well as physical education, nutrition, special education and classroom management. 

This doesn't include countless other boards by individual teachers, schools and educational organizations. Indeed, about 1.3 million education-related ideas are pinned each day, says Pinterest spokesperson Jamie Favazza, who adds that teachers have "been among the most creative, collaborative and engaged Pinners," taking ideas and translating them into action in the classroom.

It's perhaps not surprising, then, that 38% of teachers surveyed last year by the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education listed Pinterest as the top platform for teaching resources — second only to Twitter.

With so much content out there on Pinterest, how do teachers find what's relevant without falling into the rabbit hole?

"One pain point for teachers used to be the ability to narrow their search by grade level or subject," says Favazza. However, Pinterest has recently introduced new guided search tools to help people find information more easily.

Teacher Vicki Davis in Edutopia suggests another way to find good Pinterest resources: use the site PinGroupie to find people who collaborate on boards together. Or you can go to popular education pinners' profiles and see who they follow. An easy way to see who someone follows on Pinterest, notes Davis, is to type "/following/" into the URL after the user's name.

Besides using Pinterest to find information others have pinned, you can create your own boards and either pin things you find yourself (use a Pinterest extension on your browser for easy pinning), or you can re-pin things others have posted. This is a good way to organize, curate and track information you find most helpful.

If there's a downside to Pinterest, it's that it doesn't leave much room for messaging or conversation between teachers, Utah principal and teacher John Hughes tells Slate. However, he says, teachers can use other social media, such as Twitter, for this purpose. So, for example, at a conference, teachers could find each other on Twitter using a conference-related hashtag, but also collaborate on a Pinterest board to gather notes and handouts.

Other uses, suggests Edudemic: showcasing student work, pinning current event articles for students to read each day, and providing a forum for students to critique others' work. 

These are just a few of the many possibilities Pinterest provides educators. No wonder Madeleine Cummings in Slate says Pinterest fills a gap left by short-term professional development programs. It can't replace face-to-face workshops, she says, but it can help teachers gather much-needed ideas and inspiration from each other — creating a better classroom for all.

 

Lorna Collier's articles on education and technology have appeared in US News, AARP Bulletin, the Chicago Tribune, Mind/Shift, GetEducated.com, THE Journal, Learning Solutions, MSN.com, and many others. Follow her on Twitter @lornacollier.

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