Using Pinterest in the classroom

How to find educational value in online pinboards

You’ve likely heard a colleague talk about “pinning” an idea recently, or perhaps you have your own carefully curated pinboards. For those of you not on the “pinwagon”: Pinterest is a social network on which users can store and share images—from photos of dream vacation locales to links to do-it-yourself projects. But how can such a thing be useful in the classroom?

How to start using Pinterest

Pinterest can seem daunting; its more than 10 million users have pinned billions of images.
  • Begin by signing up with your Facebook or email account.
  • After your initial sign-in, you’ll be given a set of blank default pinboards, which you can use as is or edit to fit your storage preferences.
  • In order to find items to repin, you can follow users, perform searches or explore the site’s categories using the menu at the top of the screen.
  • Once you’ve found something that piques your interest, you can “like” it or repin it to one of your own personal boards.

Classroom uses

  • Create personal boards for classroom décor or bulletin board ideas.
  • Follow the boards of your friends and fellow educators.
  • Find new lesson plan ideas on a variety of topics.
  • Find images for lessons.
  • Share what you’re doing in your classroom or on your campus.
Students who are 13 or older can create personal accounts. They can use Pinterest to:
  • Perform searches for images to use on research projects.
  • Create collaborative, class-based boards for group projects.
  • Study current events and trends.
A word of warning: Although the site is meant to be family-friendly—according to the Pinterest Terms of Use, “no nudity, hateful content or content that encourages people to hurt themselves is allowed”—the occasional image with questionable content can pop up. Be aware of this before allowing students to freely search the site.

Also, before you share photos of your own work or that of your students, be sure to check any applicable district policies and follow them as you use Pinterest. If your district does not have a policy, you might want to speak to your administrator and obtain written permission from students and parents before posting student work.

Copyright issues

In an Edutopia blog post, principal and Pinterest user Eric Sheninger writes that some educators have deleted their Pinterest accounts over copyright issues. And although copyright laws aren’t always taken into account by users of the site, Sheninger suggests that using Pinterest correctly can be a great way to teach students about proper citation and copyright law. “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,’” Sheninger writes. “For the boards I have created, I have given proper credit to any image/picture where I feel there might be a copyright issue. My personal advice is to shy away from pinning professional photos unless you have written permission from the photographer.”

The Pinterest Help page also suggests the following: “To make Pinterest the most useful to yourself and others, follow best practices when pinning:
  1. Pin from the original source.
  2. Pin from permalinks.
  3. Give credit and include a thoughtful pin description.”