The Social Media Phenomenon Encroaching Into the Classroom

Courtney Williams's picture
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Educators are finding a new way to organize and collaborate resources for transition to the Common Core, curriculum mapping, and classroom activities.

On its surface, Pinterest appears to be cluttered by posts predominantly from women looking for fun fashion, kitschy designs, savory recipes they may never bake but “like” nevertheless, and do-it-yourself beauty remedies. The site, which allows users to create digital bulletin boards and to post images of quite literally anything they want, now sits third behind Twitter and Facebook in social media popularity, garnering well over 100 million users in 2012 thus far alone. As with any social platform, however, once you sift through Pinterest’s initial onslaught of chaotic posts, you’ll find a new medium for sharing, collaborating and expanding your personal learning network (PLN).

Eric Sheninger, principal at New Milford (N.J.) High School and winner of the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ Digital Principals Award for 2012, is one Pinterest pioneer who explored the site and found considerable benefits for administrators and teachers.

“I quickly became fascinated with the idea of ‘pinning’ together all of my professional interests,” wrote Sheninger in a blog for Edutopia. “As I began to piece together resources on personal learning networks, I lost track of time,” says Sheninger. “The point here was that I was engaged.”

To begin, Sheninger found that Pinterest’s visual appeal and ease of use made it ideal for gathering together images, links and videos. Boards on Pinterest can be open to multiple users to allow for brainstorming among teachers or administrators and for student collaboration. The highly visual and collaborative nature of the boards is an intriguing way to engage students, says Sheninger. The organization of the boards allows administrators or teachers to organize Web sites and videos they find at conferences to share with their colleagues.

Teachable Moments

Sheninger embraces this new face in the social media sphere also for its ability to educate kids on how to use someone else’s work appropriately. “I see this as an opportunity to teach students that many images and photos are creative works, which need to be cited appropriately when “pinned,’” he says. “For the boards I have created, I have given proper credit to any image or picture where I feel there might be a copyright issue. My personal advice, though, is to shy away from pinning professional photos unless you have written permission from the photographer.”

Sheninger has six boards for administrators on Pinterest: iPad Apps for Administrators, Personal Learning Network, Chrome Extensions, Educational Videos, Web 2.0 Tools for Educators, and Twitter Resources, Apps and Tools.

Teachers Too

Teachers have a large and growing presence on Pinterest, primarily at the elementary level. Jessica Meacham, a first-grade teacher at Winfield Primary School in Gibraltar (Wis.) Area Schools, has 45 boards dedicated primarily to teaching and learning. One comprehensive board offers resources for educators and curriculum directors alike for transitioning to the Common Core State Standards. It also includes information on curriculum mapping, language arts, mathematics, crosswalks for transitioning material, and free ebooks for educators on the subject.