Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Using Pinterest for Educational Projects

Pinterest (pinterest.com) is a social networking site through which users share their favorite images of interests, hobbies, and activities.  It is estimated to be the fastest growing and third largest social media site, only behind only Facebook and Twitter, with over 48 million users as of April 2013. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 12% of online adults and nearly a fifth of online women (19%) use Pinterest. 

The user space is the equivalent of virtual bulletin boards, within which one can pin or collate images from all across the Internet. Users can have multiple boards for different topics or themes. Postings are called “pins” and users can either use Pinterest buttons embedded by owners in their web sites or a “Pin It” button in their web browser to create a pin. Each pin includes a caption, a short descriptions of the image, and links back to the site from which it originated. Other users can comment on pins and also repin items to their own boards.

While many hobbyists and retailers use pinterest to collate pictures of projects from the internet, pinterest can be used to support teaching and educational functions. Students can use it to collect resources for a project by pinning them to a board, adding captions and writing comments. These boards can be public or private. For a private board the only person who can see the board is the creator and individuals who are invited. Thus a student could collate a collection of pictures and resources that might only be available to a teacher or other students. Pinterest boards can also be group boards that allow all the members of a group to work together on a board that can either be public or private. Basic directions for setting up a pinterest boards can be found here.

All kinds of student projects can be supported by pinterest. For example, an earth science class might ask students to prepare presentations on different weather phenomenon and each student can create a board for their topic and share it with the class. Current events lend themselves easily to pinterest projects. Student assignments may want to include directions for a certain number of original pins rather than them simply repining from other boards. Students may be required to do in-class or online presentations using their pinterest boards.

In Purpose 5 Systems, MCNY Human Services students are required to develop a website for education, prevention and outreach. The development of a pinterest board can provide a preliminary step to this project and can be developed in an earlier purpose. For example, in Purpose 2 Systems, I  have my students develop and post to moodle fact sheets with internet images and resources based on their readings in Trattner's From Poor Law to Welfare State. This assignment could easily use pinterest boards. Students can provide captions that explain the images used and other class members may be required to comment. For additional ideas you might wish to look at  Using Pinterest in Education.

While learning management systems used in schools may be limited to use by students, faculty and staff, pinterest boards can be shared with others. A Constructive action project might include the development of a a board with community resources that could be linked to an agency's web site.
Faculty can use boards to to collect and share resources with others. For an example of these, check out my boards:

The first board is clearly to collect resources for myself and share with other faculty. I often find myself going to my pinterest board to find to locate a resource. The last three are listed as resources for students on all my moodle shells and the last two boards were in response to students asking me about books to read or films to use in presentations or their agencies.

There are some limitations for using pinterest for projects. For example not all web sources have good quality items that can be pinned. I have sometimes been known to find a picture from one website and use a URL in the caption to go to another site. I often had to do this with the book and film boards since I wanted a picture of the book or film, which did not appear on the page with the review or article about the material. Also pins can not easily be rearranged on a board, so it requires planning and or sometimes removing and repining. Captions are limited to 500 characters so that students have to write clearly and succinctly, but it is significantly more characters than a twitter posting. Students will have to add a "Pin It" button to their web browser or use the "Pin It" app on their phones and tablets. Faculty will need to decide if they want to set up a class account that can have a board for each student or group. Faculty will own these boards, will need to add students as pinners using student email and can delete them these boards. If students are required to have individual accounts they can be asked to add faculty to their boards as editors and a method will need to be devised so that other members of the class can view the boards. If others are required to view the boards online, I suggest using a moodle forum to have students post the links to their project boards. And currently analytics are only available for business accounts.

Pinterest offers a tool for helping students and faculty to collate and share resources from across the web and is only limited by one's imagination. I would love to hear how others are using pinterest in their classes.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Using Blogs to Create Life-Long Learners: Sample Student Blog

I assign blogs in some of my classes, and believe that blogs fill some of the goals of this college's mission of Purpose Centered Education.  Blogging invites students to form their own opinions, reflect on their experiences and the material, and craft responses that are then published in a public forum.  Recent scholarship shows that blogging promotes active learning and accountability.  Ellison and Wu found that students “attend more carefully to online writing opportunities (as opposed to papers submitted to an instructor),” and that they “read these texts [assigned] more carefully when they know their interpretations will be online and therefore accountable to a larger audience.”  In their study, Ellison and Wu identify some of the positive outcomes of student-generated, new media enhanced assignments such as blogs and E-portfolios, including:  increase student engagement, enhance informational technology skills, harness intrinsic student interest and involvement, promote ubiquitous and asynchronistic learning, provide evidence of student progress and teaching effectiveness. 

Scholarship shows that blogs help students become better writers and more invested in their work both inside and outside the classroom.  Further, it has been suggested that writing a blog can become a productive, life-long process, one that helps students to develop a voice as they express issues of concern to them in a public forum.  Some students who are introduced to blogging in my class continue to do it outside of the classroom setting.  One of these student blogs received the attention of the college and eventually local media as he was featured in an ad campaign promoting the college's Purpose-Centered Education model.  Blogs, and social media more generally, can lead to "Education that Works," as they invite students to become citizens who actively participate in a democratic society.  I have written more fully on this here.