Pinterest the Tail on the Education Donkey #socialmedia #edtech

A colleague recently posted the following question--relevant to educators using Pinterest in educational settings--to a Texas listserv:
I am a big Pinterest fan, but I have seen some very questionable content. As in many other things, it is hidden in an innocent search. I have seen nudity, sexual depictions and even some images that could be stretched into child porn. I saw these images in searches under photography, nature and gardening and reported them but . . . This is certainly not the norm but I would not want to open it up to students in general.
As I reflected on the questions and issues raised here, I thought our approach to the flow of tools curious. In fact, not only curious, but funny. Every other day or week, a new tool pops up. At what point do you step back and ask, "Am I going to continue doing what I do when these new tools pop up?" While looking for a picture of a donkey for this blog entry, I ran across Ryan Bretag's blog entry on the same problem, but in regards to MOOCs:
It feels too often we are playing pin the tail on the donkey — spin around recycling what we’ve always done and stumble towards a target that we can’t see nor understand.
While Ryan is discussing failed education policies, we could think of it differently for social media use. 
The parade of web-based communication technologies will continue. What approach will your district take? And, is the description below accurate? How would you fine-tune it?

On the first occurrence of web-based tools that people use for sharing everything about living/life (including the nitty gritty parts not socially acceptable for sharing in public, depending on your community's perspective, moral outlook/compass, legality, etc.), school districts choose to block. These decisions are made at the top level with little feedback/interaction. Simply, the majority of the users are not involved.

On the second and third occurrence of a web-based tool, we institute a set of restrictive policies/procedures whose purpose is to thwart the pattern we see developing, but mistakenly believe we can stop. The decisions are made centrally with as little stakeholder involvement as possible or a token showing to facilitate approval process of policies/procedures.

After the 10th or so occurrence, we notice that it's not enough to "set and forget" restrictive policies. As such, we decide to clarify what our reaction to these new tools will be. Instead of blocking, we decide to consider that not blocking and educating staff and students about what's appropriate in a work setting may be a self-sustaining approach with occasional monitoring and reinforcement than simple blocking or restrictive procedures.

Some actual responses from Tech Directors:
If you block everything that “may” have inappropriate content, you might as well shutdown the internet. If a teacher doesn’t have enough sense to preview what they’re broadcasting to their class, then they probably should not be in the classroom anyway. Unblock and let teachers and students use this great tool. If it gets used inappropriately, it’s a teacher or student disciple issue and should be dealt with as such. (Another response from a Texas Tech Coordinator)
This is one tool that everyone can afford because it is free an even more important quality of resources now with hard economic times for public education.  But, I don’t believe it is something that should be used in the actual classroom because of something that might be inappropriate – at least with elementary
One of the things I keep pushing with staff is the use of social media as a platform for growth and PLC's.  I've been really hitting them hard with Twitter over the years as a resource, but met with some resistance or general non-interest.  Pinterest users are 80% female, which happes to be the same demographic as most of my teaching staff.  Rather than try to convert them, I figure, join them and hit them where they are at.  (like Facebook)  Sure there are the occasionai off-topic walls like fashion, cookie recipes, or interior design, but we have started to use it to have a repository of articles in the Ed Tech world. 
As to Pinterest specifically, while I know lots of folks are using it successfully in K-12 and to facilitate adult learning, I haven't taken the plunge yet. I already "know" more tools than I can use in the space of a day. What process do our teachers have for getting a better understanding of what's out there, reflecting on what would work for them as learners/teachers, then sharing that?

I suppose my favorite response is this one:
I don’t have ANY of these issues in my district…the solution is very simple…and works for everyone including parents and board members..etc. We give the teachers the right to bypass for any service and they can also bypass for students who need use…they are just responsible for monitoring more closely while in that mode…Nothing is beyond the reach of our students if the teacher as previewed the content and found it to be useful for student use.  
Use is still logged and can be reviewed at any time….for instance had a teacher once who went to a strip bar site during class…very informative about this gentleman’s habits…but otherwise…no miss use or issues….they know they are responsible and accountable. Never have to respond to a request for opening a site unless it is something going to be used overtime, all the time.

At a time when reading the wrong books in school can cause a teacher to be suspended/terminated and potentially face criminal charges, what will YOUR district do about social media web sites in classrooms?

Image Citations
Image: 091010-205, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from iamian_’s photostream)
Donkey - available at

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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