“Pinterest for Educators” Part 3: the Collective Intelligence

by Priscilla Warren

large pinIn this series “Pinterest for Educators”, we have looked at the practical uses of Pinterest to assist us with planning and assessment as well as a means to up-grade our knowledge in using media for ourselves and with our students. In this final instalment of the series we will look at this notion of ‘collective intelligence’ and how Pinterest works within a participatory culture to benefit a worldwide community of learners.


Society has changed dramatically in the past few decades. I remember when paper money was the only means of purchasing items, where people who couldn’t afford a telephone would gather together on the streets to share information and where computers took the space of large rooms. Now we have mobile phones that give us 24 hour connection not just to family and friends, but the world. Horrocks & Hoben write:

“The most common form of text in our society is no longer simply words on a page” (2005, p.4).book learning pic

How true that is! We are bombarded with visual and audio messages everywhere we go. In this increasing complex world of ours, the importance of being critically literate is more important than ever. UNESCO write of “universal literacy” where the “prerequisite for participation in contemporary society” requires “competent, critical readers and writers of ‘media language’ as well as print” (2006, p.21).


Jenkins (2007b) explains our change into a ‘participatory culture’ as a means of engaging more freely and artistically with the community. Creating, re-creating and sharing our ‘creations’ with the belief that we are benefiting and connecting with others is a strong component in how this culture works (p.xi). Jenkins goes on to suggest the benefits of this culture collaborative picwhich include:

  • “opportunities for peer-to-peer learning,
  • a changed attitude toward intellectual property,
  • the diversification of cultural expression,
  • the development of skills valued in the modern workplace, and
  • a more empowered conception of citizenship” (2007b, p.xii).


This “collective intelligence” or “new knowledge cultures” (Jenkins, 2007a, p.98) is in essence “the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal” (p.107). Since we are active producers of meaning and this meaning is socially produced (Buckingham, collective intel pic1991, p.13), collective intelligence provides “an alternative source of power” that stems from “grassroots communities” and provides an effective response to “government institutions that emerge from the nation state or to corporate interests that sustain multinational commerce” (Jenkins, 2007a, p.107).

We are in effect consumers and producers of how we view and interact with the world. No longer seen as puppets, sponges or a ‘mass’ audience, this ability to co-author ‘the truth’ with others into a collective intelligence where “everyone knows something, nobody knows everything, and what any one person knows can be tapped by the group as a whole” (Levi, 2000, as cited in Jenkins, 2007a, p.106) leads to a more inclusive, “informed, democratic, socially just, and connected world” (Bruce, Ladbrook, Villers, Gaerlan-Price & Hoben, 2015, p.7).


pin pinIn my previous blogs, I referred to Pinterest as our own ‘personal, mobile library’ that can be added to, commented on and shared with the education community online. Since your personal, mobile library is not just accessible to you but others online, it is also a ‘public, mobile library’ where you are one of many contributing authors and users. By repining information onto your Pinterest site, you are adding value and significance to that particular content. That ‘give-and-take’ process works towards a shared belief that views, actions and teaching can be changed for the better. Pinterest in effect is a tool to ‘pool’ information, ideas and resources together for the common goal of improving the lives of teachers, students and education as a whole.


teacher picChanging Role of Teachers 

The role of ‘collective knowledge’ and a ‘participatory culture’ challenges the traditional power relations within classrooms, where teachers are seen as the ‘dispensers’ of knowledge. If we are to move in the direction of critical media literacy, then the role of teachers becomes one of scaffolding learners “by engaging them in meaningful ways within a media ecology that is part of the world of youth but moves youth beyond consumption, past the participatory and onwards to the emancipatory” (Bruce, Ladbrook, Villers, Gaerlan-Price & Hoben, 2015, p.6).

teacher picBecoming a ‘Digital Native’
The idea of a homogeneous generation of digital natives has been critiqued extensively (Bennett & Maton,2010; Hargittai, 2010; Helsper & Eynon, 2010). Helsper & Eynon propose “that it is possible for adults to become digital natives, especially in the area of learning, by acquiring skills and experience in interacting with information and communication technologies” (2010, p.503). Pinterest provides a great site to ‘upskill’ in media use and critical media literacy (see “Pinterest for Educators, Part 1”).

teacher picLess Isolation
Being the only adult in a room full of students all day can feel at times quite isolating. In the past, teachers would plan their own lessons and collaboration would take place only within the school. Now it is possible to come alongside other educators worldwide to learn, share, discuss and experiment with ideas and resources that can vastly improve enjoyment, success and interaction between students, teachers and peers worldwide.

teacher picGlobal Citizen and Agent for Change
By engaging in this participatory culture it is possible for teachers and students to “become the agents and architects of an accessible, inclusive, and socially just approach to meaning making, knowledge creation and transformation” (Bruce, Ladbrook, Villers, Gaerlan-Price & Hoben, 2015, p.3). Being a part of the creation of global knowledge encourages us to see ourselves as global citizens and agents for social change.


student picChanging Role of Students
Jenkins (2007a) draws attention to how “schools are currently still training autonomous problem-solvers” instead of teaching them the core social skills and cultural competencies of “working within social networks, for pooling knowledge within a collective intelligence, for negotiating across cultural differences that shape the governing assumptions in different communities, and for reconciling conflicting bits of data to form a coherent picture of the world around them” (p.98). Students need to explore, engage with, critically analyze and produce media in order to achieve these ‘core social skills and cultural competencies’.

student picThe Fun Factor
“While ‘having fun’ with authoring their own productions” Capello, Felini & Hobbs (2011) writes, students are also developing “meta-cognitive self-reflection and a systematic capacity to ‘read’ the media, ‘write’ (with) the media, and also the ability to ‘meta-reflect’ on the processes of reading and writing ‘per se’ in order to understand and analyse their own experience as readers and writers” (p.72). Learning becomes a fun, interactive, self-reflective process as students develop their critical and creative abilities.

student picValidate real life experiences
“For many children, the gap between the world of school and the world of everyday life is alarmingly wide. Rather than ignoring the media – as many educators still try to do – we need to begin by recognising that they are an established fact of life” and make education “more ‘relevant’ to children’s lives outside school, and to the wider society” (UNESCO, 2006, p.21). By engaging students in contexts they are already familiar with, school becomes more relevant to their personal experiences and beliefs of how they see the world and how they ‘fit’ into it.

student picFull participation as global citizens
Jenkins (2007b) emphasises the need for all students to “have access to the skills and experiences needed to become full participants, can articulate their understanding of how media shapes perceptions, and are socialized into the emerging ethical standards that should shape their practices as media makers and participants in online communities” (p.xiii). Participatory culture evolves literacy from ‘individual’ enjoyment and expression to an empowered conception of ‘collaborative’ enjoyment and expression.

pinterest sign


As a relative newcomer to Pinterest myself, having only joined a couple of months ago, I have become an avid fan of the site and use it on a weekly basis to search for new plant idea picideas, add to my growing collection of pinboards and simply enjoying the process of ‘soaking up’ all the ideas available to me. As I see others repin my content onto their boards, I feel happy that I am a part of a participatory culture, doing my part to ‘grow’ someone else’s collective knowledge and adding to my own in the process. I find the idea of a collective intelligence somewhat comforting and liberating at the same time. Comforting to know that there are others out there trying to find answers to similar questions I have. And liberating in that I feel my voice is heard without restrictive physical boundaries such as location, or social boundaries such as gender, race or age. “Diversity of perspective is essential if the collective intelligence process is to work well” (Jenkins, 2007a, p.111). With this is mind, why not plant some ideas into the online collective garden of knowledge and watch it grow both within your mind and in the mind of others.


Bennett, S., & Maton, K. (2010). Beyond the ‘digital natives’ debate: Towards a more nuanced understanding of students’ technology experiences. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(5), pp. 321-331.

Bruce, T., Ladbrook, J., Villers, H., Gaerlan-Price, E., & Hoben, N. (in press, 2015). Media and Information Literacy: A 21st Century Human Right? In J. Morgan (Ed.). 21st Century Curriculum. Auckland, NZ. University of Auckland.

Buckingham,D (1991). Teaching about the media. In D. Lusted (Ed.), The media studies book: A guide for teachers (pp. 12-35). London: Routledge (Original chapter written in 1986)

Capello, G., Felini, D., & Hobbs, R. (2011). Reflections on global developments in media literacy education: Bridging theory and Practice. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 3(2), pp. 66-73.

Hargittai , E. (2010). Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in internet skills and uses among members of the “net generation”. Sociological Inquiry, 80(1), pp. 92-113.

Helsper, E.J., & Eynon, R. (2010). Digital natives: where is the evidence?, British Educational Research Journal, 36(3), pp. 503-520.

Horrocks, R,. & Hoben, N. (2005, July). Media Studies and English in the New Zealand curriculum. Paper prepared for the New Zealand Ministry of Education, New Zealand Curriculum/Marautanga Project

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2007a). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century (part two). Digital Kompetanse, 2(2), 97-113.

Jenkins, H., with Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., & Robison, A. J. (2007b). Why we should teach media literacy: Three core problems. In Jenkins et al., (eds.), Confronting The Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (pp. 12-18). Chicago, IL: MacArthur Foundation.

UNESCO. (2006). Media Education: A toolkit for teachers, students, parents and professionals. Paris: UNESCO.

Pinterest pictures attributed to: https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=images+pinterest+sign&espv=2&biw=1280&bih=709&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=6jtoVZfnFMuB8QXu84GgAg&ved=0CBsQsAQ#imgrc=_

Book learning picture attributed to: Designed by Freepik

Collaborative picture attributed to: Designed by Freepik

Collective intelligence picture attributed to: Designed by Freepik

Teacher picture attributed to: http://www.freepik.com/free-icon/teacher-showing-on-whiteboard_727120.htm#term=teacher&page=1&position=37

Student picture attributed to: http://www.freepik.com/free-icon/female-graduate-student_770062.htm#term=student&page=1&position=29

Plant idea picture attributed to: Designed by Freepik


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