Saturday, July 18, 2015

Lessons from Reddit: what it means for educators

Reddit is in the news again. I was introduced to reddit by Erez, my son, a few years back. I am not a frequent user, BUT I am extremely interested in the flow of reddit and the ways it behaves. Last week, the CEO of reddit Pao resigned after a power struggle with reddit users.  What caught my attention was the fact that even the leadership at reddit did not fully understand the power of the crowd. Reddit is a company founded to create communities and built value out of the willingness of many to create and participate with no monetary gain. This is a form of crowdsourcing, and what baffles me is that the leadership of reddit did not understand how crowdsourcing in a strong community gives the users at different levels immense power. The users can and did shut down most of the popular reddit pages in protest.

Even if you've never been on reddit (and you should) there are a few lessons here for educators.

The first lesson is for us as professionals. We should create online communities and use them to wrest control away from large businesses. If you are challenged by the big curriculum companies, band with other educators and create your own materials. At that point, the large companies will be less relevant. The new teacher union is not the NEA or other 20th century organizations with hierarchical leadership. They have their place, but the web has provided us with a new way to work, influence, and act. This can be where the next professional liberation comes from.

The second lesson is that the same structures that can empower us can empower others, including parents and even students. Learning about the way these structures work can be instrumental in forging new partnerships with parents and students and avoiding conflict.

Finally, we should remember that these structures are not inherently good or evil. They have the capacity to be both and we must help our students make moral decisions about the way they interact in such communities.

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