This post first appeared May 25, 2013.
I confess that I spend far too much time on social media. I like Facebook to connect with far-flung friends and family members. I use Twitter to interact with other early modern scholars (and I’ve developed a number of professional contacts because of my use of the site). Last fall, on the recommendation of a couple of friends, I began to use Pinterest to start collecting (“pinning”) items that interested me – especially, like a huge number of users, crafts that I’ll never actually attempt and recipes I might try when I’m feeling particularly ambitious. I joined tumblr over my winter break, mostly to figure out what it’s all about – and I’ve discovered it’s both a place to aggregate things that inspire me and a place to post some of my own creative work,in particular, my photography.
From my tumblr for my Renaissance Literature course.
I’ve also been looking at these as opportunities to connect with my students. I’m really not trying to be a hip professor (I’m pretty far from that). I’m just trying to encourage my students to engage with materials outside of class – and beyond our textbook.
For a number of years, I’ve kept a Facebook page for the English majors at my institution. And I’ve also made a half-hearted attempt to engage my students on twitter by including a suggested hashtag in the syllabus. But that’s something that I’ve not really been able to keep up – by the second week of the semester, I’m struggling to come up with appropriate things to say about the readings or about the classes.
But I’ve found a different use in tumblr and pinterest. If you’re not familiar with either site, you might take some time to just look around at the blogs (tumblr) and the boards (pinterest) – and one of the advantages is that you can look at things without necessarily having a membership to the site.
I’ve found them useful because both can serve as aggregators of information. Both are visually oriented – and both make it very easy to link to off-site material. Tumblr pages look and behave primarily like the blogs we’re all familiar with, though it is more visual than textual, typically. Pinterest boards act like virtual bulletin boards, where we can simply collect information to sort through later. I think the metaphor of pinterest appeals to me more as I collect information.
From my Pinterest board for my Renaissance Literature course.
I don’t know how much my students have made use of the boards, but I’ve encouraged them to look at them repeatedly. I link from our Blackboard site. I use them in class to pull up specific, relevant information.
What’s most important, though, is that maintaining these sites has not been particularly time consuming: I have buttons on my bookmarks bar on my browser that allow me to quickly add something. And I’m looking at quite a lot of the same things anyway, so why not take the moment to share it with my students?