Using Pinterest in Academia

Using Pinterest in Academia

By Dr. Rebecca Cory

Do you think of Pinterest and immediately think of weddings and cupcakes? So did I, until I found out that there are faculty and student services staff using Pinterest boards to curate incredible collections of resources for their students. For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a technology that allows you to create virtual pin boards. You can curate a collection of links to websites. The links are displayed in a visual medium, so that you have quick access to the content. You can also annotate each pin, to help inform your thinking about them. Here are three great examples:

Sue Wolff, City University of Seattle Instructor and Academic Technology Specialist has put together a board of great academic technology to support her students in EAD 525- Instructional Technology In Support of Learning, a required core class in the Master of Education in Adult Learning program. On this board, Sue models how to collect and curate items for the class. She makes an important distinction between simply collecting and curating. One collects without annotation or careful scrutiny of the resource. One curates a page, by making sure that everything on it is high in quality and annotated as to its usefulness as a source. Her page is a good model for students as to how to curate a board on instructional technology.

At Clackamas Community College outside of Portland, OR, the disability services office has curated a Pinterest board for their students. The pins include resources on common disabilities and common accommodations. The students can use this board as a starting place for gathering information. Pinterest allows them to create a resource guide for students that is “living”, in other words it can be updated regularly, and that is organized in an aesthetically pleasing visual way. The visual organization is especially appealing to students with some reading related disabilities. (It should be noted that although Pinterest can be accessed by screen reader technology, it is not always straight forward or easy to do so.)

Chris Linder, a professor of College Student Affairs Administration at the University of Georgia has an interest in social justice curates a Pinterest board for her personal use on social justice topics. She keeps ideas related to student activism and uses it as a spring board for thinking about her research projects research.

My research on this topic has introduced me to others who also use Pinterest for work, including a rabbi that I know who creates curriculum resources for her congregants in Pinterest and I found a Pinterest page that does a great job of explaining Chickering’s Seven Vectors of Student Development, a topic I’m teaching this quarter.

In order to really try to understand Pinterest I decided to pin a few boards of my own. I made three that have to do with my professional interests, one on Universal Design, one on Student Engagement and one on Research and Dissertations.

I learned that Pinterest boards are hard to create on demand, but now that I have the basic ideas in place, it will be easy to keep adding pins. Doing the initial pinning took time searching both Pinterest and the internet, however, I found it to be a good repository for image based ideas. I think Pinterest will be a technology for me to continue to explore and see if I can optimize its use.  Like any new technology, there is a learning curve for Pinterest. Ultimately, I think my biggest challenge will be adapting to a visual medium, which means I cannot use the text-based resources I tend to like.  I can’t wait to see how this technology is embraced in academia long term.

Published April 29, 2014



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