A new social tool has been released recently called Pinterest- you’ve probably heard of it. It is a tool that allows users to set up different boards for their various interests, and “pin” to them, the way a person might pin to a cork board or an idea board in a physical space. They have taken many of the concepts that have made Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter (among others) so popular, and combined them in a new way. Now you can follow only what interests you about your friends (say, if you like someone’s style but think they read boring books, you can follow their style board but not their literature board), but also reach out and follow, or re-pin strangers. Your own boards can be private or public in two distinct ways: the first is that you can choose who sees your boards, but the second and more interesting way is that you can choose to be the only person who can pin to your board, or you can open it up so anyone in the community can pin to it.
As an early convert- I have a lot of time on my hands, and have always been involved in and interested by social media- I began with the obvious pin boards. I had one for style, one for food, one for home decor. However, after stumbling upon a number of pins by teachers from around the world with links to great blogs and websites, and pictures of amazing classroom ideas and teaching aids, I set up a “Classroom Inspiration” board (you can check it out here). Frankly, Pinterest is not something I ever expected to benefit from in this way, but I am excited. Already I have a million ideas for my next classroom, but I also have a number of tools at my disposal that I didn’t before. I have seen solutions to problems I encountered in my previous classrooms, and ideas on how to further improve things I was doing well. I think that as teachers, we should be open to sharing ideas and learning from one another, and Pinterest is turning out to be a great way to make that happen.
Another social tool I was recently introduced to is of a slightly different sort. ClassDojo is a piece of online software that allows you to track student behavior. According to their website, “ClassDojo is an easy way to engage your classroom by recognising positive behaviors as they happen.” You can connect it to your smartphone to allow you to keep track in real time as you move about the class, and you can project it while students are doing work so they can see what they are doing. Additionally, students can access their class on your account. It can help you set up goals and make sure you know when they are met, or what your class needs to work on in order to meet them. Additionally, I think for individual teachers, the metrics provided by this type of software could allow one to identify times in class periods, or types of instruction, that do not engage the class (by noticing when there are spikes of poor behavior). As I don’t currently have a classroom, I haven’t had the opportunity to use it. However, I have signed up, and I am excited for the future. Some friends of mine have begun using it and say that it is great.