Sometimes the biggest hurdle you’ll face integrating popular culture into your classroom is gaining approval from your administration. It’s important that you can effectively demonstrate that the artifacts you are wanting to integrate in the classroom are both relevant to the competencies you are addressing and age appropriate for the group of students. Be well prepared when you make your case. Due to the fact that many adults have preconceived ideas about what should and shouldn’t be used as a teaching tool, be prepared for push back. Remember you’re going to have to sell this project not only to your administration but also to the families of the students you’re teaching.
Start with your school’s media acquisition guidelines. Many of the artifacts you will want to integrate into your classroom are considered media. It’s always easiest when what you want to do falls within existing guidelines. You simply have to demonstrate to others how and why it fits.
A perfect example of this is the use of Graphic Novels in the classroom. The graphic novel format embraces a wide range of material, from biographies and other books of information to adventure, fantasy, science fiction, contemporary realism, historical fiction stories and more. Many of the Graphic Novels you will want to use in your classroom will fit the guidelines for media acquisition set forth by the school and district. However, just as with all educational resources, GNs vary widely in quality and content. Some are mediocre, and others are literary masterpieces. So just as with selecting any item for purchase, you will want to turn to professional review journals and peer review to ensure that what you want to use is worthy of your planning time.
Unfortunately not all the media you’ll want to integrate will be so easy. When this happens you’ll have to effectively make your case. This is a place where SBR becomes quite important. There are scholars doing research on popular culture and its application in the classroom. Do your homework. Be able to cite the sources. Or you can take it a step further by attending the Comic Arts Convention that runs concurrently with San Diego Comic Con. Here you’ll be able to connect other educators and scholars who are passionate about the use of pop culture artifacts in the classroom. Their research and anecdotes can help you sell your vision. However when all is said and done, its going to come down to you being able to articulate why this artifact is an effective tool in meeting YOUR learning goals for YOUR students.
One example of successfully selling a district on a popular culture artifact you wouldn’t typically see in a classroom is the case of Gobles Public School District teacher Jim Wiseley who uses the R rated film, V for Vendetta, in his United States Government Class. The permission slip he sends to parents is particularly impressive. In it Wiseley is very concise about what he expects the students to get from the film. He also includes additional resources for parents to explore online before determining if they want their child to see the film. Click here to see Wisely’s Unit .
Often media integration is seen after the bell rings. This gives teachers more flexibility but doesn’t guarantee that all the students will have an opportunity to interact with or view the media. When you cannot sell the use during the school hours it is an option to consider in a formal learning setting.
At the core, remember that if you want to be taken seriously in your integration efforts you have to be a well prepared advocate.