Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Unlikely Journey: Pinterest for Professional Development

As someone who is a big believer in social media for individualized professional development, I have a passion for learning with social, online tools. And as I interact with others online, I know there are many people out there just like me. Unfortunately, I also know that a majority of educators do not know, do not care, or do not feel comfortable with professional development through social media. I have worked with teachers on using Twitter and Google Reader with some success, but it never seems to quite stick. I use to believe that your social media use should be divided, one resource for personal and one for professional. After some time and frustration about converting others over to the "dark side" of social media for professional development, I have changed my mind and one resources has altered my thinking...

Now let me back up for just a minute here. As I have been trying to teacher others about using social media for professional development, there have been several factors that have dampened my success rate.

1. I am teaching teachers about a totally new way to go about professional development. Traditionally, professional development has been face to face workshops, small group presentations to staff, or individual help sessions. Moving the focus to the individual teacher's needs and making them responsible for their own professional development is a big shift. It makes some people uncomfortable.

2. I am teaching teachers to use new tools. Many of these teachers have never used Twitter before and don't know what an RSS feed is and how it can be organized, utilized, etc. It is no fault of their own, they have never had the exposure or training.

3. By combining a new tool with new content, I have created discomfort in multiple areas. I think this has been too much for many people. 

So now lets go back to Pinterest. As a man who works with elementary teachers, I am definitely in the minority. 80 - 90% of the teachers I work with are females. These teachers are not always familiar with Twitter or Google Reader, but they are familiar with Facebook and now Pinterest. Everywhere I go, I hear teachers talk about what they pinned. One comment really got me thinking though. I had a first grade teacher who, by her own admission, is not a technology user. So this non-technology user told her team about the great teacher resources she pinned on Pinterest (along with recipes, craft ideas, etc.). For me, this was a light bulb moment. This teacher was familiar with the tool and because of that, she could spend some time focusing on finding content. By taking the tool out of the equation of new learning, she made the process of professional development with social media much easier.

By no means am I saying that teachers should not use Twitter and Google Reader for professional learning. Those two resources are where I learn the most everyday! I am just wondering if using a tool that teachers are probably familiar with such as Facebook or Pinterest, might be a better place to start the journey of professional development with social media.

With all this being said, I need to learn more about Pinterest so I can catch up with my teachers who already know how to harness this tool. 

This is technology that actually works! 

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