There are a lot of good reasons why schools should use Pinterest, chief among which are what EdSocialMedia identifies as building engagement and building recognition. In addition to showcasing faculty and student achievements on a visual platform, Pinterest encourages collaborative efforts within the school community. Here are a random selection of different voices and suggestions for why schools, why Pinterest, and why now. Pinterest is a great tool for teachers to engage with students, for the school to engage with its own community, and for the school community to engage with the world. (Have I mentioned that it’s also extremely fun and addictive, and requires very little effort to update?)
I have one more reason for any school that has a lot of Chinese applicants and/or is looking to develop international recognition: Pinterest is not blocked in China.
With so many Chinese applicants and students placed in schools today, the question of “fit” is more important than ever. Schools want to know its prospective candidates, and applicants want to understand the school. Applicants and families are encouraged to get to know a school and its community through campus visits and conversations with current students or alums. Short of that, online resources like the school website, Facebook pages, Twitter, and Youtube videos offer a glimpse of the school character, community, and campus through videos of athletic events, breakfast check-ins, and other slice-of-life media. These are all fabulous ways of engaging directly with prospective applicants, current students and family, and alumni, and showing off the character and vitality of a school.
The problem is that the three most popular social media sites, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, are blocked in China. While a close and intimate look at your school is available on the Internet, it is not available on the China Net. Due to censorship of US-based websites like Google and Facebook, Chinese internet users (numbering over 500 million) run into what’s colloquially referred to as the Great Firewall when they try to access blocked sites.
There are ways around the Great Firewall, of course, such as the use of personal proxy services, which would allow Chinese internet users to access a school’s Facebook, Youtube or Twitter.. Many schools prefer that prospective students are proficient enough in English to navigate their school website, a source of official information. There are also the annual admissions trips to China or the personal campus visits and interviews. In addition, there is a proliferation of study-abroad websites in Chinese that provide information in Chinese on boarding, day schools, and colleges abroad.
However, these current solutions do not resolve two problems.
- Information and engagement is not constant, and often not direct. Prospective Chinese students and families cannot connect directly and, most importantly, constantly with schools in a manner that is convenient and satisfying for them
- Official school sites are all in English, and many Chinese parents cannot communicate in English. Chinese parents then rely on consultants or agents, or Chinese-language websites for information about schools. This removes schools from the engagement process.
Quite simply, getting on Pinterest will remove not only the language barrier, it will also allow schools to restore some control over their own outgoing messages.
Lastly, a picture is worth a thousand words. Cliched, but so very true when you’re a student or parent trying to understand the look and feel of a school halfway around the globe. Pictures of campus facilities, classrooms and dorms, school events and student projects provide a rich and nuanced understanding of school life without recourse to a single word. The more pictures there are, the clearer the perspective. Let’s ‘Flip It’ and think about it the other way around. If you wanted to get to know China through pictures, and you’re offered 2 snapshots like this…
…you would probably demand more pictures. (In fact, our FotoFriday series, as well as our ‘Contemporary China‘ and ‘Chinese Education’ boards on Vericant’s Pinterest account is meant to help with that.)
For Chinese applicants and parents, being able to explore the school visually is a key part of their research process into overseas study. As schools become higher in demand in China, building recognition abroad and finding a way to keep prospective students connected will be crucial in the admissions and enrollment process. Simple solutions like Pinterest, which for now remains accessible in China, will help schools reach a large segment of its prospective student population and keep them and their families in the loop.