Using Pinterest to Teach Science

First, let me say I’m not some “Pinterest Guru” or anything like that. I only recently joined this growing network and have stumbled through trying to figure out what the hell it’s all about. In the short time I’ve been on the site however, I’ve learned that it’s a phenomenal way to share astronomy concepts (within limits – more on this below) while spreading the greatness of science (or any subject really) to others! And this can be applied to virtually any branch of science or subject for that matter. Best of all, it’s fast, free (except for your time), and is an exceptional way to reach students and engage with them in a new way.

Disclaimer: I’m an aspiring teacher only therefore my “students” are anyone that will listen to me right now… I’m using Pinterest and other social media for the development of my Master’s thesis therefore I encourage other more qualified professors/teachers to chime in below.

So let’s start with the basics.

What the heck is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a comparatively new social networking site with a clever design and simple to use interface. It is described as a virtual pin board that functions like a free online scrap book. Basically this means that they allow users to create and share collections of images. These images can be located on the Web or can be your own creations (don’t upload anything without the content owner’s permission/appropriate credits if uploading — linking via the “Pin It” button is the safest way to go). The site makes an effort to bring community users together based on their respective interests.

The pin boards you create can include different media such as videos, images, and text (think of the possibilities from a teaching perspective). As you find relevant links, images, videos, and text you want to share, you “pin them” using a nifty little pinning button you can drag and drop to your browser bar (video tutorial below). You can also re-pin stuff you find that has been shared by others simply by hovering over the image. The links attached to each pinned item will help others trace the origin of that image or material…this is a good thing because if others re-pin your stuff, it always links back to you (your Pinterest profile, blog, website, etc.).

To get started with Pinterest, you need set up an account with the site. The process is much like joining Facebook, Twitter, etc. Without an account you only have the option of browsing through the activity of the users…where’s the fun in that? So you need to set up an account first. Currently you can either receive an invitation from a friend who is a member of the site or you can ask for an invite from Pinterest to join. If you want an invite, send me your email and I’ll happily send you an invitation.

Note: The registration process requires that you integrate the Pinterest account with your Facebook or Twitter account.

So basically, Pinterest is a user generated content site with a twist. It is equipped with procedures to deal with copyright issues for images and other posted material. Content owners can monitor the use of their material and ask Pinterest to remove their content just as with any other DMCA compliant site. However, until recently this has not been an issue. Bottom line: use common sense when pinning items that may violate others’ copyright.

How to Use Pinterest for Teaching

Okay so now that you’ve hopefully gotten your profile setup, you can start creating boards and pinning items to each one. You can create an unlimited number of boards on an unlimited number of topics. Here is a sample of how I’ve set my profile up:

As shown above, I’ve created boards for the planets, space-related topics, notable books, astronomy-related news, etc. I also share my blog posts on the site each time I post something new on here. These automatically link back to the blog and surprisingly, Pinterest has driven quite a bit of new readers here.

Anyhow, as I mentioned, you can create boards that other users can open up to view. Here’s an example of a board I’ve created covering celestial bodies and other notable items found in our solar system below.


Note that text is limited to 500 characters per image but remember, it can link back to your blog, training site, or wherever it was originally pinned from for more extensive content support.

You students/trainees can click on each image as well and ask questions, provide feedback, etc. This is a great way to generate discussions around the teaching elements you’ve added to your boards for further student engagement:

These are just a few ways you can use Pinterest to supplement your teaching efforts in a cool new way that can benefit students. It may not be for everyone but I thought I’d share my experiences thus far and would love to see more science teachers  and science-related content on the site.

Are you currently using Pinterest for teaching an aspect of science (or any subject)? I’d love for you to share your boards below for everyone to peruse.

Be sure to share your Pinterest page below for others to check out/follow you. As always, feel free to contact me if I can assist in any manner.

Happy pinning everyone!

A few online tutorials/resources I’ve found useful:

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