If you’re not familiar with Reddit, think of it as an online bulletin board of ideas, or a user-generated Google News. Anyone can make a submission; many are links to blogs posts and outside news. Others are questions or announcements. Users organize posts by voting them up or down. There are countless subReddit on nearly every topic, including science education.
Crowdsourcing Education Inspiration
Interacting with colleagues this way is a great brainstorming method. Adding the ScienceTeachers subReddit to your personal learning network (PLN) can even help you make new contacts. The summer is a great time to expand your network and to jumpstart your creativity by exploring ideas on social forums like Reddit in preparation for the new school year. You can turn to your Reddit PLN whenever you have a question or want suggestions. And perhaps best of all, it can help you discover new ways to engage students who often post questions for teachers on Reddit. The responses to owmynameispeter’s question do just this.
To learn more about the education community on Reddit, check out our February blog post, How to Use Reddit to Pump Up Your STEM Classroom and PLN.
So What do the Reddit Science Teachers Want to Teach?
The 24 comments in the thread offered interesting ideas in earth science, physics, nuclear science, electronics, and biotechnology, and their enthusiasm was infectious! Several teachers expressed a desire to teach about emerging issues, including environmental degradation and bioethics.
Suprisingly, pseudoscience was the most popular topic science teachers expressed an interest in teaching, by far. PrudeHawkeye wrote,
“Pseudoscience. How to spot it and how to combat it. We could do a solid week on just Dr. Oz and the nonsense he spews. Teaching a skeptical point of view is something I dearly wish I could do more often with my curriculum.”
“I really feel identifying pseudoscience from real science is a much more important skill and has so many applications in the real world, especially with the sensationalism of modern media.”
HomemadeJambalaya wants to take the idea of teaching pseudoscience one step further — going so far as to suggest it to administrators,
“I want to read the book Bad Science as a class. It has very specific examples ranging from vaccines and autism to how pharmaceutical companies pull one over on us. I am going to talk to my principal about doing this next year after state testing.”
Some teachers had interesting approaches to sharing their passions with their students. Imkentjr wrote,
“I think I would do an overview of microbio and include all the lab work you might see in a college lab. We would make yogurt! and maybe cheese. They would also learn all the plating and microscope skills required and would end in them having to isolate and identify two [separate] bacteria!”
“I would co-teach with an English teacher and read a sci-fi book with the class. I find many students haven’t read sci-fiction and it is interesting to analyze the science concepts in relationship to what was studied during the course of the year.”
Emergence is tkr1990’s choice of would-be curriculum. Emergence is the “idea that systems made up of individual pieces following simple directions or laws give rise to enormously complex patterns and behaviors. Ant colonies, ice crystals, cities, and so on all demonstrate the impact of such a simple idea.”
And a Redditor by the name of helloon (a teacher in training) explained, at length, how the ideal project would be one that asks students, “What are we doing to the planet and how can we fix it?”
“I could call the project something along the lines of “what are we doing to the planet and how can we fix it?” We could look at how we produce energy now and how that affects the environment, how energy might be produced in the future and the cool technologies being developed or just being thought of at this time, and how we can reduce our need for energy. We could investigate the chemical effects of burning fossil fuels or using aerosols, the effects of deforestation, the causes and effects of algal blooms on food webs in the ocean and the rise of the jellyfish, the effect on different ecosystems, extinction of species. We could investigate the effect of the waste we produce and how we could reduce the amount in an environmentally friendly way. We could look at different ways to live in the future, self sustainability, etc. We could use our analytical skills to look at the evidence for and against climate change and make informed choices and take a stance based on evidence. Tie into that the importance of using credible sources.”
Quite ambitious, to say the least! But all ideas are on the table and shared freely in this forum. Do any of these ideas from fellow science teachers resonate with you? If given the opportunity, would you teach any of these units to your students?
Keeping Curricula Current
Making the time to ask a question or share your own projects may seem like a small step, but it can have a significant impact on pedagogy. Owmynameispeter’s open-ended question is an excellent example. Thoughts on what could be taught can lead to discussion on what should be taught. Lively online discussions in professional forums can get people talking offline too, and even lead to coverage at formal conferences. They can be a grassroots way of preventing professional stagnation, and keeping science education current with a fast-changing world.
So in that spirit we’re asking you for your thoughts. If you could do a unit on anything, what would it be?
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