14 Ways Students Can Use Pinterest in the Classroom

Social media during class time? It sounds counterintuitive, but when the social media platform of choice is Pinterest, it makes a lot of sense. If Pinterest is such a source of creativity for teachers, crafters, chefs, costume makers and others, then why shouldn’t students be included in those ranks?

It’s not only that Pinterest is a great source for inspiration – Pinterest boards are also great for all kinds of collaborative and personal projects on the platform itself. Let’s take a look at the many ways we see students using Pinterest today — and this is only a small sampling of what’s out there.

1. Creative Team Brainstorming

Pinterest is still one of the best brainstorming sites out there. Students can easily search for ideas in their topic area and gain inspiration from the resources and colorful images they find.

This works especially well for visual projects. Students can pin the kind of work they’d like to emulate in shape, content or form, as well as create a portfolio of the artists and designers that inspire them.

Other kinds of creative projects are also fair game, especially if they have a visual aspect to them. For example, there are many different kinds of science experiments and Maker projects available. Students will find creative inspiration for about every discipline out there. Give them a few guidelines and send them sleuthing.

2. Research Projects

Pinterest is also a treasure trove for research projects. For example: If students are researching the history of the suffragist movement, each student could create a Suffragist Board where they can pin research, YouTube videos, and pictures from both Pinterest and around the Internet. When they’re ready to take their project to the writing or presentation stage, they’ll have everything they need in one organized, visually intuitive place.

For younger students who are starting out with research, their Pinterest boards can serve as a virtual bibliography, with all of the necessary links right there for them to cite down the line.

On a more meta level, having students use Pinterest for research will foster both digital literacy and modern research skills. Now would be a great time to have a broader discussion about what makes a good source, where you can find them, how to gather counter-perspectives, and what the various kinds of resources are. If you really want to get meta, you could have an entire class Pinterest board devoted specifically to Principles of Research, which students can refer back to as they go.

3. Group Projects

It’d be a shame to stop at individual projects. If you’re researching the suffragist movement as a class, create a class Suffragist Board that everyone can contribute to, both for class work and for homework.

Or, if the project is one topic that a group picked to study, that group can create a board for each student to contribute to individually.

4. Digital Student Portfolios

Another great idea is to have every student create a portfolio board at the beginning of the year. Whenever they turn in impressive work, teachers can suggest that they pin it to the board. The board itself can become a portfolio at the end of the year, or it can become the source for putting together a more formal portfolio outside of Pinterest. Older students can use Pinterest as a digital resume.

Additionally, as a teacher you can create a class board where you regularly feature great student work. Students will feel proud when they’re featured, and parents will love the digital glimpse into the classroom.

5. Teaching Self-Reliance

Using Pinterest can help students develop problem-solving skills while gaining a sense of independence. As they use Pinterest to develop their creative muscles and their research skills, they’ll start to gain a sense of self-reliance. When they have questions in the future, they’ll have a toolbox of research skills to help them answer those questions, and they’ll have a platform on which to search. Students also learn that when they’re doing creative projects, the solution they need is a few pins away.

6. Peer Feedback

Peer feedback is no longer relegated to the margins of a student essay. Instead, students can give and receive feedback in comments directly on individual pins. As with other peer feedback approaches, leaving feedback in Pinterest comments should start with a lesson on constructive criticism.

7. Virtual Field Trips

Virtual field trips are oftentimes hosted via video chat technologies, like Skype or Google Hangouts, which allow the students to see directly into a museum, a factory or other destination.

Pinterest, however, can be as powerful a virtual field trip venue. If, for example, the class is studying the rainforest, students can pin information about the rainforest to the board, along with photos and videos that will really make the class feel like they are there. Parents can use the board to help plan an in-class rainforest party, in which they convert the entire room into a mini rainforest based on all of the student research.

8. Collaborative Stories

There’s a classic writing exercise where one student writes a line of a story on a piece of paper, folds the piece of paper over so no one else can see it, passes it to the next student to write a line, and so on until the class has written an entire story together, line by line.

You can do the same thing with students on Pinterest by having them add new pins to a storyboard, one by one. The story could be made entirely of images, with students pinning photos that represent their meaning. Or students could use a picture editor to write lines on a graphic, and pin from there.

9. Photo Journals

Have students keep a photo journal of their adventures that they can share with the class.

Do you have a student who’s jetting off somewhere new and exciting during break? If they’re headed some place that’s relevant to one of the units you’re studying, try to integrate their photos into that.

Alternatively, have students keep photo journals of their daily lives, either separately or in addition to a written journal. The photos will add life to the students’ writing, will be a boon for visual thinkers, and will help give students a direct glimpse into each other’s lives. Note: students’ photos should be images of educational interest. It’s important for students to learn and understand that they should not post any photos of themselves, regardless of context. Learn more about Pinterest and student privacy.

Now is the perfect time to teach a lesson about copyright and digital rights, as well as the difference between sharing and taking credit for all of those photos, videos and music files.

Today’s students are digitally literate and were born into a different technological landscape than teachers. It’s easy for them to think that the material they find on the Internet belongs to them, all the more so if they’re pinning it, which makes that material feel almost like something they created. It might also be helpful to direct students to a few sites where they can reprint materials for free, like the Library of Congress or Flickr Creative Commons.

11. Community News and Current Events

Students will feel a greater connection with their community when they pin breaking news to a Community News board, which can feature anything from class news to school news or bigger news in the town, city, county, state or country.

12. Global Connections

Take advantage of digital media’s global reach.

Find a teacher located in a different part of the world (perhaps a part of the world you’re studying) either on Pinterest itself or through other social media channels, and then arrange some kind of exchange. The possibilities for this are as wide as you can imagine. You could, for instance, pair kids up in the two classes for picture pen pals, in which students exchange pictures of their daily life. Alternatively, you could arrange to teach the other class one thing about your country each week, whether that’s who the first president was or how to make an American-style hot dog, and they of course could do the same. Really, any kind of global exchange you’d want to do on any other medium, you can adapt to Pinterest.

13. Class Music Boards

Pin music to create a class soundtrack, because Pinterest isn’t just for visual learners. You can have your audiophiles pin music as well when you create a Class Music board. You can choose tracks to play during free time, or to cue students when it’s time to quiet down, switch stations, or write down their homework. Music fans will love contributing to the class ambience.

14. Differentiated Learning

Create Pinterest boards for novice and expert learners to differentiate your digital content.

Have multiple types of learners in your class? No problem. create different kinds of boards within each topic. Using the suffragist example again, this would mean having one board that’s labeled “Suffragist — Visual Learners,” one that’s labeled “Suffragist — Kinesthetic Learners,” and so forth.

That’s a lot of different ways to use Pinterest in the classroom — and really, it’s the beginning. After all, Pinterest is a tool, and you can do about anything you want with it. The only limits here are on student privacy and safety online, which we explore further in 8 Practical Tips for Internet Safety on Pinterest.