Monday, September 3, 2012

Pinterest Pitfalls

As you may know, I am a Pinterest fanatic.  So much so that my friends & family often hear me say, "If you found it on Pinterest than it MUST be fantabulous!"  I love the inspiration I get to creatively paint my nails, decorate my home, and become healthier.  I also love a lot of things I discover for the classroom.  There are a variety of ways to organize classrooms to work well for kiddos as well as a ton of  teaching ideas.  It just so happens that a lot of blogs that I follow, I've stumbled upon on Pinterest.  

Having said all of that, I must say that there are some ideas shared on Pinterest that we should strongly think aout before actually implementing them in the classroom.  I don't known about you, but I often see a lot of fluff, worksheets, and lower level thinking skills shared on Pinterest.  I am not going to point out anyone in particular because I would like to be respectful of others' ideas on the site, so my description is going to be general.  

For example, the other day I saw a worksheet on identifying numbers greater than & less than.  The sheet was really cute with an alligator on it but it was still a worksheet.  I understand that determining a number's value is recognized an important mathematic skill for elementary kiddos.  Let's consider using other materials like dice, playing cards, or a number generating app to do the same thing.  First, materials like these can ve used for a variety of learning experiences not isolated to just math.  Second, it saves paper.  Third, we can easily differentiate for kiddos using these materials (instead of killing ourselves to make 3 or more worksheets) by pushing them to make the largest/smallest number possible with each roll/draw, creating numbers that are a multiple of 2, even just how large the numbers are.  This also provides some choice for the kiddos in the materials to use.   Besides...who should be doing most of the work?  The kiddos...not us in making the stuff that will take them minutes to complete. (The same thinking should be applied to apps we find on there as well.)

Another idea I saw shared was a 'Im thankful for..." book.  I recognize that for some primary grades (Pre-K & K) this would be an appropriate activity.  However, I see 'books' like these on Pinterest for a variety of grade levels.   Our kiddos should understand the significance of national holidays, but I have to ask...do they need to participate in a mindless activity every year?  We need to get them thinking a bit deeper about our nationally observed holidays.  Engage them in WebQuests,TweetQuests, BookQuests, or any kind of inquiry. Let's ask them if they we should be celebrating Christopher Columbus's accomplishments, or if they think it's okay for some schools to not observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Veterans' Day with a day off. Let's get them grappling with some harsh realities in kiddo appropriate language with kiddo friendly resources.  (Quests like these can be limiting in that kiddos aren't generating their own inquiries, but we need to begin by modeling what tough questions look like and how they are developed before they can do this on their own.)

One last thing we should be thoughtful about are the ideas for classroom organization, displays, behavior management, and posters.  A popular educational pin right now are stop signs with reminders like "please stop what you're doing and make a better choice" written on them.  We need to really be thoughtful about how we are disciplining children.  If we are doing it in a way that is public and humiliating for them (putting them on display or disallowing them to save face) then its not a good idea.  Also, a caution about the word better when we are talking about choice...it is such a subjective word and can be confusing to kiddos.  Let's consider replacing the word better with different when we are talking about choices kiddos make because depending on the circumstance that choice could be a good one.  The same is true for any posters that we find on Pinterest. 

Pinterest is a fantastic site!  I should know, I'm on it a couple of hours a day!   Even I have fallen victim to re-pinning an educational idea and trying it in the classroom to realize that I was working harder than the kiddos, the activity truly wasn't necessary (only cute or fun), and it was unraveling all of the heard work I had done to help them become intrinsically motivated citizens.   A few questions that I have found myself asking when I see an idea that I like on Pinterest are:
  • Will it help the kiddos understand something better?
  • Will this help them practice the skills necessary to be an empathetic citizen? 
  • Is it worded in a positive kiddo-friendly way?
  • Will it help them engage in crucial social skills necessary to obtain the intended goal?  
  • Is it directly related to the curriculum I am required to teach?
  • Will this engage my kiddos in 21st Century Skills?