Until last month, my experience with Pinterest was limited. I saw it as at best an apparently limitless source of cliched quotes, fashion & food ideas, and inspiration for Home Beautiful makeovers and ‘how to be a supermum’. The worst part of PInterest was its potential to foster anxiety and agonising mother-guilt – none of my three pitifully deprived children had ever been exposed to “57-ways-to-use-dried-pasta-shapes-to-transform-your-toddler-into-a-creative-genius” (shame… shame). Basically, Pinterest equaled Disinterest for this humble Facebook-ophobe.

Pinterest ‘double-take’…

Having recently begun studying a unit on “Youth, Popular Culture and Texts”, I was prompted to take another look at Pinterest as a popular form of social media. Leading by example, our lecturer prepared a board on her own formative popular culture. Always an advocate of project-based learning,  I followed suit and immediately my worst Social Media fears were confirmed. For me, Pinterest is a veritable BLACK HOLE for available time. It was like stepping into the Tardis. I created an account, logged in… and 5 hours later I vaguely wondered why I could no longer feel my legs and why my eyes had turned vaguely square-shaped. That’s five hours I will never get back, but I can boast a mighty fine board which covers 2 decades of my favourite TV Shows:

Yeah, “so what”? …My sentiments exactly. I cannot deny the personal satisfaction I derived from making the list, hunting down the websites and images and revisiting my formative years as I prepared that board. Later I lamented the time I could have spent catching up on essential readings for the unit, housework, my novel, sleep… and I only got as far as TV shows! I still have draft lists of Music, Fashion and Toys waiting in the sidelines. My conclusion was that Pinterest is for other people with far more time on their hands.

To be fair, Pinterest’s interface is very intuitive, making using the site very easy. The layout is visually appealing but I find the inability to move tiles around on the board a limitation. I would like to be able to use ordering and placement to prioritise items or to indicate chronology, but haven’t yet found a way. Like a blog on which you cannot edit the date of a post, those tiles are placed in order of creation – newest at the top.

The last thing i need in my life is another demand on my time, so as with any Social Medium, if it doesn’t have  potential as a viable tool for teaching and learning in a primary classroom, then I won’t touch it with a barge pole.

How does Pinterest measure up as a resource for teachers?

A search for “Science” led me to this promising board:

Results for a search on “sustainability” are more difficult to evaluate. The metadata below each pin yields far less to my eye than does a Google search result, with the URL’s telling domain suffix and  excerpts from the text content. It is the visual information that seems to define Pinterest. In short, Pinterest lets me down in terms of resource searches. I’d rather stick with Google, Scootle, ABC Splash and my other favourites, where I can ‘strike gold’ far sooner and far more reliably.

How about Pinterest for students?

Teachers are always on the lookout for alternative ways to have students communicate their interests and share what they know and understand. Some ideas for using a tool like Pinterest are:

  • Collecting inspiration or online resources for a project
  • Visualising settings or characters from literature
  • Demonstrating knowledge about classifications
  • Displaying examples to illustrate understanding of a concept
  • Brainstorming ideas about a topic
  • Sharing personal reflections or preferences

Pinterest could be a scary fish for primary schools however, where considerations of children’s safety and information security are paramount. A few cautions for minors are outlined in this article which, though produced by a security software company (Bullguard Internet Security) with obvious commercial interests, does outline important issues which should be taken seriously by teachers and parents. Read more about Pinterest user considerations for minors in this Dad Lab’s blog post (by “Daddy Clay”). Vic Hardgreave has more to say about Pinterest’s privacy risks here on his Fearless Web.

Like other social networking tools created for adult users, the terms and conditions specify a 13+ age bracket for account holders. By default, anyone can view and comment on any boards. Users can create “secret boards” which are explained here in Pinterest’s Help Centre, which are only visible to the creator and those invited to view.

One of the best things about Pinterest for me is the obvious lack of advertising. However, Frank Gallagher (2013) outlines some imminent changes to Pinterest’s policies which will come in to effect in two days’ time:

“Recently, the company announced a new privacy policy, which will go into effect August 26th [2013] and which will now include the possibility of sending users targeted advertising.  For now, Pinterest will use the data it collects only to suggest or recommend other Pinterest boards to you, but analysts think it’s only a matter of time before targeted advertising arrives.”

[Source: iKeepSafe Blog]

The Verdict…

I thoroughly support the notion of children learning about online safety and good digital citizenship by actually engaging in real online tools. However, Pinterest offers no protection from the public adult arena. Teachers could conceivably create an account for a class or student group and carefully supervise access. Because of the age restriction however, primary teachers would be well-advised to seek permission from parents before their students used the site.

Frankly, there are better visual communication tools available for classroom use. Here are a few suggestions:

Padlet – probably the most similar in concept and appearance to Pinterest but with oh so much more. This is a sensational way to create a pinboard. Post images, text, links or Word documents. Collaborate in real time. Place items wherever you wish. Drag to rearrange. Backgrounds are fun and plentiful AND you can embed finished boards. Pinterest, eat your heart out! No account required for students. Teachers can create a board then provide the link to student collaborators.


A Padlet example

A Padlet example

EdCanvas – a personal favourite and a boon for teachers and students alike. EdCanvas makes it so easy to provide engaging digital content. Post links, images, embed videos with a simple drag and drop tools. Even search for content from within the app. Add your own text on the flip side of each content tile – questions, instructions, things to think about, extension ideas etc. Change the order of tiles by dragging and dropping. Canvases can be embedded or shared via links. You do need to register with an email address to create an account for this one and it’s really designed for teachers to deliver content, however I can see that students would love to create their own canvases.

An EdCanvas example

An EdCanvas example

ThingLink – another current favourite of mine. Enhance an image by pinning additional content to particular points on that image – the usual links, text, embedded videos or other images.

A ThingLink about the Wright Brothers.

A ThingLink about the Wright Brothers.

Glogster EDU – This one’s been around for a while. Create a poster with clickable links to added text and any online content: video, images and websites. To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of Glogster but I have colleagues who use it extensively in primary classrooms. I think I was put off in the early days by seeing boards from other users which were not great examples at best and at worst, displayed images of their favourite film clips and bands to which I wasn’t really comfortable with exposing younger students. ThingLink is newer and I believe does it better, though you don’t have access to the clip art, templates and other fun elements that appeal to young users.

An example of a Glog at GlogsterEDU

An example of a Glog at GlogsterEDU

Care to share your thoughts about Pinterest?
..Are you an addict or a dubious skeptic? Why do you feel this way?

How have you used Pinterest personally or professionally?


One thought on “Pinterest: Black hole or shining star?

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