Education beyond confines of paper and a pencil

For all you Sun Devils who either don’t know what Reddit is or don’t need any more websites to enable your procrastination, it’s a message board forum that allows users to subscribe to “subreddits” that cater to their interests. Much like Twitter, you can customize Reddit to deliver content that piques your interests or maybe even teaches you something.

For instance, you can follow a subreddit titled “AMA," where someone with a notable story allows users to ask them any question they like.

Celebrities frequently do AMAs, but can be inconsistent about their participation.

So, who is Neil deGrasse Tyson, and why is he so awesome?

Tyson is an accomplished astrophysicist and is currently director of Hayden Planetarium, which is a subset of the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson is a frequent patron of Reddit and makes himself available to speak with whomever wants to talk.

Not only does he unravel the mysteries of space, Tyson is also a published author who makes a case that even the most theoretical of topics can be interesting and understandable.  Tyson appears in countless YouTube videos, is an active Twitter user, produces a podcast and hosts “NOVAScienceNOW” on PBS.

Tyson is an educator. Fancy that, so am I.

When I go to my teaching internship every week or talk to others who are pre-service teachers, we notice that students in the United States, especially in Arizona, consistently lag behind other states in performance on standardized tests. Especially in topics like math and science. Students aren’t given enough opportunities to use the technology they’re familiar with in the classroom.

Like I mentioned earlier, this guy is all over the Internet, television, radio and has even held appointed positions on President’s commissions, which placed trust in him to advise our executive branch on the topic of space exploration. His willingness to answer user questions on Reddit shows he makes himself available to those willing to engage in some thought-provoking conversations, even if they’re started by a space novice like me.

This embrace of technology means something to me.

Tyson accepts that students need as many sources of information as they can get their hands on. The kicker is that this information needs to be meaningful to students or else it won’t stick. We all know this from experience. In a Time magazine video interview, Neil states that students are being impeded by boundaries, the most primary one being a death of curiosity. His use of multiple forms of technology makes this knowledge not only interesting, but also accessible. It’s obvious that something is off in our classrooms, but it seems as if he has the right idea: students are learning best — especially about complicated issues — when learning is served to them without the confines of paper and a pencil.

Reach the columnist at aamentze@asu.edu

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