Teaching Business Writing with Pinterest: Curating Content

Earlier this week, I blogged about my new faculty position with Radford University. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged regularly, and even longer since I’ve used Pinterest. (Case in point: My daughter is over a year old. When I logged onto Pinterest, my bio still indicated that I’m a “soon-to-be, first-time mom.”)

After being inspired by the ways some teacher-scholars use Pinterest in their classrooms (see, for instance, Ashley Patriarca), I thought I’d follow suit in my business writing class.

For some time now, I’ve taught “workplace writing genres” in a variety of courses. Memos, emails, letters, and performance reviews as well as instructions, reports, and proposals all fall under the umbrella of workplace writing. I’ve amassed many real-world sample documents that I use in classroom discussion, informal activities, and sometimes even major assignments. For someone who works and teaches in a discipline where information organization is essential, I’m ashamed to admit that my system for cataloging the samples is unsophisticated. I have samples saved across several computers, email accounts, web and mobile applications (Pocket is a favorite), and cloud services (Dropbox is a life-saver).

As I was planning my upcoming business writing class and culling through the sample texts I’ve stashed away, I created a Pinterest board to display the more notable workplace documents I’ve collected. 

I discuss below why Pinterest represents a good choice for document curation, which at once involves storing, cataloging, and “showcasing.”

Next week, I’ll discuss how, in the course of building my business writing Pinterest board, I created potential activities and assignments that ask students to use Pinterest to hone their own business writing and curation skills.

Why might writing instructors use Pinterest for curating samples?

Pinterest’s features make the platform a good choice for storing and displaying sample documents to aid the teaching of writing. As a business writing instructor, I need to find, store, and share sample documents, such as memos, blog posts, and emails; just as importantly, though, I also want to preserve news stories that have been written about these primary source materials. (For example, Microsoft’s Stephen Elop recently made headlines for a spectacularly clueless memo that was sent to employees who were being let go.) Pinterest’s “bulletin board”-style interface allows me to arrange a host of materials, from images, to web text, to primary source documents, in an attractive, accessible format. Each “pin” or tile represents one item or piece of material. A pin always includes an image, and it also can include text; as you see below, I like to include some context for each pin. Ultimately, the visual nature of pins seems to positively influence the cognitive process: It’s easier for me to look at a pin (as opposed to an email subject line or file name) and recall what document the pin represents–and why it’s important in the context of the class.

inside_pinterest_board

In addition to Pinterest’s bulletin-board style interface, the site also has other features that position it as a good choice for writing teachers who want to curate samples. Specifically, Pinterest has a browser plugin that facilitates pinning materials from the web. Users who install the plugin can surf the web and pin to boards without having to be “in” the board directly. (You must be logged into your Pinterest account, however.)

Pinterest serves my needs as an instructor, but I also think that using the site to curate content, particularly writing samples, benefits students. Pinterest’s mobile and web-based platforms allow students to access content easily and from a variety of settings. Moreover, Pinterest is a social-sharing site. So, students may have some familiarity with–and indeed, expertise in–Pinterest that would only augment their use of the site to engage in course materials.

Of course, Pinterest  need not only be used for content management; it can facilitate active learning. In an upcoming post, I describe how business writing students might benefit from composing with Pinterest. I then outline two potential assignments that ask students to use Pinterest in the service of cultivating their own business writing and curation skills.

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Posted in Workplace Writing

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Dr. Amy Rubens
I'm an "ambulant scholar," and I move among several worlds. As a professor of English, I research and write for audiences within and outside of academia. As a teacher of writing, literature, and culture, I facilitate learning. As a blogger, I critique, question, and reflect. Learn more about this blog and the work I do as a professor and workplace writing consultant.

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