If social media were paralleled with the real world, Facebook would be your cozy couch, Twitter would be your tv remote control, Instagram would be your media center. Reddit, however, well… most teachers treat Reddit like an alien from another planet. While even the most tech-challenged teachers feel confident growing their personal learning networks (PLN) on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook, Reddit still remains a mystery that seems too intimidating for many to attempt, causing them to miss out on the treasure buried in Reddit’s ecosystem.
In reality, Reddit (launched in 2005, long before Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) is a vibrant community that makes it easy for teachers to cultivate an individualized stream of information and contacts that can transform your STEM classroom. With just a little know-how and the right perspective, the alien Reddit landscape can become your go-to resource for real-world STEM information and engagement with the science and education communities.
The Inner Workings of the Reddit Universe
First things first: What exactly is Reddit?
Reddit is a giant community of experts, comprised of smaller, interest-based groups called “subreddits” on every topic imaginable. You can subscribe to these “subreddits” to create your own gallery of STEM resources – often ones that are shared by working scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and educators like you. Subreddits give you an opportunity to participate in live conferences (called AMAs), get invaluable information and news (even before the news hits mainstream media), and discuss the hottest topics in STEM education in real time with like-minds.
In addition, each subreddit has its own set guidelines for interaction with other users, and it can be a harsh environment if you step over the line.
As you read and respond to comments in a group according to these guidelines, your posts are more likely to be “voted up.” Each upvote earns you positive “karma,” which gives you more credibility as a resource. This system makes it easy to see the most helpful and popular comments in your chosen subreddit, and to connect with other users who are interested in the same information as you.
Trekking the Subreddit Wilds: From Intimidating to Exhilarating
Despite the unusual structure and rules of subreddit communities, they are a powerful way to have in-depth conversations about STEM and education concepts that really affect you. Many subreddits have Ask Me Anything (AMA) session that allow you to have one-on-one conversations with celebrated educators, authors, and researchers. Often, subreddits are very responsive to real-world questions, hot topics and controversies on everything from science facts to lesson planning. President Obama held an Ask Me Anything subreddit session last year and, just last month, Bill Gates did the same to discuss pressing issues in technology and global innovation.
Once you get the hang of using subreddits and become more familiar with the community, you can start your own subreddit (with your own rules) on any topic and invite other educators, parents and students to participate. You may want to create a subreddit on a particular teaching method (like Project-Based Learning), curriculum or STEM sub-topic. Twitter is great, but sometimes 140 characters is not enough to get into the meat and potatoes of a topic. Reddit allows for lengthy responses and comments perfect for debates and explaining complex ideas.
For all of its benefits, Reddit can still be overwhelming to navigate if you don’t know exactly how to use it. It isn’t very user-friendly or visually appealing compared to other platforms, that’s for sure. That’s why we’ve curated a list of awesome STEM education subreddits that you can easily join today, and a tutorial video done by Edublogger, to begin to take advantage of all the live advice, images, and research that make this alien social platform so intriguing, unique and a powerful teaching tool.
10 Awesome STEM Education Subreddits
1. Ask Science
With a subscribe list of over four million redditors, this is one of the best places for you and yoru students to go to get those weird science questions answered. From questions like “Do people sneeze while they sleep?” to “Does gravity work in two dimensional space?” there is nothing you can’t ask in order to get a very well-documented answer. Subscribe HERE.
With over 100,00 subscribers and more content posted daily than anyone can read through in one sitting, this subreddit is one of the most popular by far. From discussions on physics theories, to teaching and learning tools, to insider intriguing info, this is one subreddit that will immediately and consistently offer hidden gems worth incorporating into classroom discussions and exercises and sharing with other teachers. Subscribe HERE.
What do you get when you bring 24,000 teachers together in real time? A lot of great, classroom-tested lessons and methodologies. Also, this subreddit is great for sharing classroom management tips or just venting about day-to-day musings and frustrations. Subscribe HERE.
Although there are several engineering subreddits, these are the ones that will truly inspire you and your students to try something new. Over 85,000 professional engineers post problems, news, and research to this subreddit. In addition, it’s easy for teachers to ask high-level questions and get thorough answers. For example, this thread shares a site that shows the inner workings of a jet engine, with comments that explain the differences between jet turbines and car turbine engines. Subscribe HERE and HERE.
This science subreddit is much less about asking questions than about sharing new research and connecting it to the real world. Here, you can find the newest science research (which you can browse easily by field of study), and see what other scientists and science educators are saying about it. Subscribe HERE.
Although this is a small group, it’s 100% dedicated to sharing resources and information for making STEM education more engaging. This is the perfect place to start if you’re looking for people to collaborate with on STEM projects or to get ideas about how to use new technologies in your classroom. Subscribe HERE.
The robots are coming! More than ever before, they are being incorporated into STEM curriculum, contests and student projects. Whether you want to build, discuss, or hypothesize about the future of robots, this is the community for you! Not only is this a great resource if you have a robot-building project (usually questions are answered within 24 hours), but it’s a great place to talk about the philosophy and ethics of robotics. In addition, regular robotics news is posted by professionals in the field, so you have first access to cutting-edge concepts. Subscribe HERE.
With a contingency of over 130,000 mathematicians and educators, there is no abstract problem that this subreddit can’t solve. From quick math tricks to hypothetical physics quantities, to discussions on curriculum and common core, there is not limit to what you can ask in this open community. Subscribe HERE.
Here’s another small community, but this one is all about science education. Not only are there great lesson planning ideas, but users share free resource links, educational apps, and classroom-appropriate videos. Have great tips you think will help other science teachers who are implimenting NGSS (for example), pop into this subreddit and start a conversation, offer helpful advice and expand your teacher network. Subscribe HERE.
10. Computer Science
With the tremendous push to get kids (particularly girls) coding, computer science has taken center stage in the STEM conversation this past year. This subreddit reflects the growing popularity of computer science. You’ll find students seeking advice on curriculum and career choices like (“I don’t love math. Should I bother getting a Computer Science degree?) and teachers looking for computer science activities for their students. This subreddit is a resource for teachers and students alike. Subscribe HERE.
You can also venture off into the more eccentric, fun subreddits like Chemical Reaction GIFS (a thread dedicated to gifs showing chemistry in action – something any student would love), Today I learned, or Explain Like I’m Five (a fun subreddit that asks people to post questions on complicated topics and explain them in a way that a 5-year old can understand — extremely popular).
Wherever and however you begin on Reddit, just jump in and explore the platform. Reddit is about discovery. Don’t let the alien nature of Reddit keep you from utilizing the power of this incredible PLN-building and teaching tool. As you understand more about how the Reddit universe can apply to your classroom and teaching, you’ll find that this social media platform can expose your students to new ideas that will keep them excited about STEM!
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