Instructors today seek creative ways to use technologies with which students are familiar as a means of improving student engagement. One good technology is Pinterest. Pinterest is a social media tool that has been described as a “virtual bulletin board.” It allows students to group links from the Internet to individual or shared pages with pictures and content. By designing effective Pinterest classroom assignments, instructors can integrate visual representations of their course content while providing students with useful resources that they can continue to access after they have graduated.
At our university, four instructors from a variety of backgrounds designed different classroom assignments using Pinterest.
) Teaching the course Cultural & Spiritual Care in Nursing requires time devoted to discussing diverse cultural and spiritual practices, beliefs, symbols, and foods. This class started by placing students into groups of four. Each group was assigned to a unique cultural group. Most of these cultural groups have a large presence in our community, and nurses frequently interact with them. Students were asked to pin links to relevant health practices, dietary practices, and information regarding spiritual beliefs. Attention was given to beliefs on medications, herbal remedies, family values, and death and dying that would be pertinent to professional nurses. Students were required to caption their pins with why they were chosen, descriptions of the links, and why they thought the links would be relevant to nursing. Students presented their boards and what was learned about each culture. All students continue to have access to these links, and have a way to reference cultural links when preparing for clinical experiences or as they enter professional practice.
One of the other principles of this course is learning about visual affirmation and how marketing media tries to be inclusive of such things as gender, race, and ethnicity as a means of recruitment and of appealing to a large variety of demographics. Students were asked to post to a single classroom board with examples of how companies use visual affirmation. Not all students pinned correct images, which led to great discussions of what constitutes visual affirmation and what does not. Instructors also have the ability to comment on their individual pins, or those can be discussed in the classroom.
Pinterest was used in a first-year seminar course on emotional intelligence. A class of 15 students was divided into two groups. One group pinned examples of how social media was a positive influence on securing a job post-graduation, and the other was a board on how social media could negatively impact someone seeking a job post-graduation. Students were required to caption their pins and comment on other pins. This sparked debate related to responsible use of social media in college and beyond.
For this assignment, students were placed into teams and invited to a collaborative Pinterest board based on the diagnosis of an assigned case study the teams developed. Each member of the team was required to pin a minimum number of links that met the criteria. Pins needed to include a research article that made use of evidence-based practice, a treatment technique, a theory or model of practice, evidence of collaboration with other professions or specialists, an international resource, an evaluation or assessment, and discharge planning or documentation. These areas meet specific objectives of the course, which in turn meet accreditation standards for the occupational therapy program. Pins were required to have captions that related back to the diagnosis and the case study so that students could easily find meaning in the exercise. Students were asked to evaluate the websites that they pinned using five criteria: accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency, and coverage. After the teams presented the case studies to the class, we discussed the Pinterest boards and how these resources could be helpful. Students retain access to these boards so they can potentially refer to them in the future when they treat patients with similar diagnoses during fieldwork or in practice. These can be great study tools for those preparing to take the national board exam to become an occupational therapist.
) Students in two sections of the course Jesus Yesterday and Today were assigned to search the Internet for images of Jesus, and to select one that they found most meaningful or appealing and post it to a private Pinterest board. Each student wrote a comment under the image that explained the reason for the selection and how it related to the content of the course. In class, the students presented their images and led class discussions about them. The discussion on interpretation of Jesus through art moved along smoothly because all the images were located on the single board, and there was no need to wait while files were found and opened or for the instructor to insert them into a PowerPoint presentation, as had been the case in the past.
In two sections of another course, Introduction to the New Testament, an activity with Pinterest was used as a summary of the class. Every student was asked to select two images from the Gospels that he or she found meaningful; some of these were events in the Gospels, while others were artistic descriptions of parables. The students then explained their images to the class, and discussions occurred on either the content of the images or the artistic interpretations of the events. One of the benefits of this activity is that the class session was student-led, enhancing their active participation.
) Pinterest was used in an assignment that gave preservice teachers experience with children's literature. Traditionally, preservice teacher education has included learning about genres and themes in children's literature and how to integrate these into lessons. With the emergence of online resources, students can almost instantly access information about books on every subject. Students were assigned to create personal Children's Literature boards on Pinterest that included books from each of the seven literature genres studied in class. For each pin, students were required to provide a short summary, descriptions of notable features, grade level in which they would use it, and an explanation of how they would use the book in teaching.
Technology in the Classroom
This assignment was intended to be the beginning of a lifelong resource for preservice teachers. Students in the course Technology in the Classroom were assigned to evaluate technology resources for teaching and learning. Students were instructed to create pinboards titled Classroom Technology, and to make thoughtful selections of images from 25 educational technology sites and pin them to their boards. They were to describe how they would use each pin in teaching, including appropriate grade level, why they believed the item was worth pinning, and the subject or subjects with which they would use each item.
Pinterest offers a unique way to integrate digital resources into classroom activities. The examples provided are just a few of the myriad possibilities for using social media as a learning experience. We have found that using a platform familiar to our students increases their engagement while allowing them to express and share their work with instructors, fellow students, and the Pinterest community. Take a look at this tutorial on how to use Pinterest (http://bit.ly/1nGfLNd
), as well as this page with helpful tools for using Pinterest for teaching (http://bit.ly/1WV4fJu
), and think about ways to use it in your classroom.
Merryellen Towey Schulz is an associate professor, Jennifer Kolker is a nursing instructor, Kristin Haas is an associate professor, and Aline Paris is a professor of theology at the College of Saint Mary.