BE: Pop Culture in the Classroom

Not all pop culture is trash.  We at BALANCE enjoy shining  a light on the cream of the crop, or what we call “nutritious pop culture” — popular works that help us better understand ourselves, encourage creative expression and inspire positive action.

Despite periodic proclamations of its death, pop culture is more relevant and powerful than ever. The exposure of today’s children to pop culture is significant and growing, playing an influential role during their developmental years. A 2010 report from Kaiser Family Foundation states that children between 8-18 years old are on screens an average of 7.5 hours per day, seven days a week. That adds up to a total of 53 hours of screen time per week.

And you know what they say – if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And make it work in your favor. In this case, how can we make  pop culture a tool for learning (and growing), rather than a distraction, escape, or addiction.

Just last month, Mercedes from Online Universities published a piece, “Cool Teacher’s Guide to Pop Culture in the Classroom”, which is exactly what it sounds like – utilizing pop culture to teach in the classroom. The post offers teachers an alternative to bashing pop culture and struggling to capture students’ attention – simply by meeting students where their interests are. It’s a straightforward concept but an important one . Consider  the 53 hours spent on screens per week.  If led in the right direction by pop-savvy educators, more could be supporting the learning and growth process rather than being wasted or worse.

Meeting students where their interests lie allows educators to better communicate with pupils. Students who aren’t interested in discussing historical details are likely to open up quickly when you mention a popular YouTube video or sports team. Even if the video isn’t directly related to learning, it can help capture the attention of students who might otherwise be uninterested.

“Let them tell you about their world and you’ll have a much easier time telling them about yours,” says history professor Clay Morgan. “Effective teaching hinges upon communication, and you can’t communicate without entering into the world of those you wish to reach.”

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