Reddit as an educational tool?

UnknownA blog post by Elliot Bristow (2014) discusses the potential for Reddit to be used teaching as an educational tool. He believes that Reddit has great potential as it is a great way for students to share and discover new things. The fact that many (or possibly most) young students may already be regular visitors and contributors to the site is evidence of the site’s ability to captivate and addict its user-base.

Unfortunately, I completely agree with the sentiments expressed in the comments below Elliot’s post. Promoting use of Reddit to younger students is a huge risk as extremely adult and often illegal/unethical content is hosted on the site. Areas known as “subreddits”, dedicated to discussion and sharing of almost any subject, can be setup by users with little effort or oversight. Often only a single click away, many subreddits could almost certainly lead to career ending results for a teacher due to the potential damage they could do to students or danger they could place them in.

Reddit has shown interest in policing the content posted on it’s site though I think this could have a negative effect too if undertaken too heavy-handedly. I like the idea of people having an outlet for free speech, whether the ideas expressed in that speech are agreeable or not, so long as that speech or content shared does not cause harm to anyone.

A potential solution could be to have a process of whitelisting content that is certified as viewable by all audiences. Unfortunately, there are several reasons why this would probably not work well in context of Reddit. The strength and attraction to Reddit is the unpredictable and controversial nature of the content that is constantly being posted to it. Whitelisting would require active moderation of content before it appeared to other users. I doubt there would be a sufficient number of volunteers to moderate the amount of content being posted, even in a moderately sized subreddit. Furthermore, this would cause delays in discussions between users, potentially killing conversation. Another issue I can foresee is that standards of what content is appropriate for younger students differs between nations, cultures, and many other identifiable groups. Controversies caused by this difference in values are commonly seen occurring on the social network, Facebook (Hern, 2013). These challenges are a shame because they severely limit the use of a potentially great tool for encouraging authentic and situated learning experiences.

References

Bristow, E. (2014). THE EDUCATORS’ GUIDE TO REDDIT – SHARING, LEARNING, AND WHERE STUDENTS ARE. The Edublogger. Retrieved from https://www.theedublogger.com/2014/06/30/the-educators-guide-to-reddit-sharing-learning-and-where-students-are/

Hern, A. (2013). Facebook’s changing standards: from beheading to breastfeeding images. the Guardian. Retrieved 22 August 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/oct/22/facebook-standards-beheading-breastfeeding-social-networking

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