In response to my post "The Unexpected Power of Pinning", I was asked to provide a list of top 10 people to follow on Pinterest. To be honest, at first, I quickly started scrambling to make such a worthy list to be given out for guidance, but in my thought process, I realized something. Pinterest is not like that...and that is one of its major appeals.
How do I say this respectfully? Oh, to heck with respect. I love Twitter, but Twitter is like high school. My daughter recently asked me how many followers I had. By Twitter standards, it’s a pretty modest amount. I don’t leverage as much tweet cred as say some thought leaders in the edchat domain with followings between 20,000-50,000+. Still, it’s many more than my daughter has, so naturally I thought she’d be impressed. But then she asked me how many people I follow (roughly double the number who follow me)...she laughed. She told me it was lame to follow more people than follow you because you appear more popular if you are discriminate about who you follow. I shrugged and told her that adults are different and that we learn from each other, which is the whole point of being connected educators to begin with.
And yet, I found myself researching this later and did discover that on the whole, the most popular of educator voices out there follow a relatively small portion of other educators (some under 3% of their total follower count). There are several valid reasons for this, many articulated in a subsequent blog post I read which explained why one prominent leader was “unfollowing” everyone except those who provided top levels of interaction (sadly, I didn’t make the cut of keepers, but yet, I’m still sympathetic of the rationale). There is simply too much information flowing, and even though at any given minute (or second) if you are following the right people or the right hashtag, you can happen upon something brilliant, so much goes unseen. And even though it is a place of connected people who share like interests, it can feel very much like a party or dance in an overcrowded gymnasium where small groups are gathered swapping the latest information on this or that. If you happen to be in earshot, you might gain something valuable...good for you. If someone happens to hear you speak up and contribute, and gives you a high five and repeats it, you walk away feeling super cool. This, of course, is not the intention of our PLNs on Twitter, but it is the unintentional ramification of the way we connect...all driven by who we follow en masse.
Twitter is a wonderful, bustling and often intimidating place. On a professional level, I cannot do without it, yet many friends I’ve encouraged to follow or get connected have shied away from it entirely. These same teachers, however, seem undaunted by Pinterest, so what gives? Here are my thoughts...
Many Shelves for Our Many Selves
Whereas Twitter identities seem to be incredibly focused--our tweets, RTs, and tweeps all representative of that identity--Pinterest is conducive to multifaceted individual use. I can collect my vegetarian recipes, dream vacations, and ed tech tools all within one profile and feel comfortable doing it. I treat it as my library with many shelves for my many selves, and it seems that others are doing the same. My Facebook friends (mostly family and social acquaintances) can follow my the non-educationally focused boards while my Twitter PLN can follow my professional boards...and I can choose where to share each pin.
Two Purposes: One for Me, One for You
When I tweet, I do so to share and to have conversations. These are incredibly rewarding, but I struggle with how to keep all the information gained organized. With Pinterest, I can accomplish two in one, building a truly useful and organized collection of resources and sharing with others. We are all starved for time, so efficiency is a very appealing draw for me.
Everyone Has Pin-Cred
Maybe Pinterest will go the way of Twitter with people gathering followers or boards gathering followers to speak to higher levels of credibility and popularity, but for now, everyone matters. Plus, topics are categorized by three different options (pins, boards, and people) so there are easier ways of searching. When looking for resources, I search keywords. If I want to see which schools are using Pinterest in a way we’d like to, I search for schools. If I want to collect ideas on differentiated instruction, I search that exact term. I don’t have to follow one particular person because for now, we are all at the start and sharing in that rare beautiful moment at the a beginning of something.
I’ve put down Twitter a little too much in this post and am feeling a little like a mean girl, so I want to end by saying this. Twitter is a conversation in a way that Pinterest cannot be, or at least isn’t yet. There is no real-time engagement on a topic or discussion stream from a hashtag to watch. There is no centralized strong leadership, which does have a great influence in sharing ideas.
But it is inviting, easy, and rewarding. What it is like, for me, is a space where I can wander through my friends' houses and pick out my favorite things among their collections...and keep them for myself. So no, I do not have a list of top educator Pinners to follow. Everyone on it, sharing ideas through pinning and repinning, is Pin-tastic!