Tom Weedon has developed a series of training modules on Pop Culture in Education that are worth a look at. Below is the intro to module one. Check out more here.
Popular Culture in Education
‘Are teachers, schools, youth groups and educators prepared to cross the threshold to becoming cool?’
Young people today consider popular culture to be ‘cool’. Popular culture has a major impact and influence on the development and learning experiences of young people. I define popular culture as a relationship associated with young people’s everyday interests of music, art, media, internet, TV, radio and fashion – it offers creativity, challenges, participation and engagement.
One important consideration in exploring today’s popular culture (just as in previous generations) is the type of lyric used among various artists which can be quite explicit, although reflective of the changing times. Today’s ‘information age’ which I define as a fast paced, easy access, consumption-driven society, constantly bombards and confronts young people with very complex ideas and (often adult) information. I sympathise with young people having to deal with the growing gap between traditional/mainstream education and the ‘real world’ – how can we expect young people to make informed decisions when faced with such conflicting and often contradictory information? For this reason, as an educator, I focus on the development skills that offer young people a level of familiarity and which may assist them in finding solutions to everyday challenges. My approach for implementing music is not only focused on basic educational skills but also on the more complex life-long learning development skills that present themselves in daily life. For example, I once experienced a young person in a class who was having difficulty in understanding the historical geography of a particular country – Sierra Leone in Africa. In this instance I was able to make a link between researching the country Sierra Leone and a specific theme within the rapper Kanye West song, Diamonds are Forever’ (or “Diamonds from Sierra Leone”).
Suggestion: Making use of popular culture in education requires a willingness on the part of the educator to research, experiment and have a general awareness and interest in the area. Try to find out about your group/class interests in music/art/media/role models/etc., and ask why these interests? Are there other nationalities in the group that can contribute a wider world perspective?
Let’s explore some examples of music and lyrics that can be used in education.
I’ll begin with an ‘experiment’ – I have chosen four different song lyrics reflecting various experiences, knowledge and information. I begin with the group U2 particularly because, I am writing in Ireland (although I was very surprised to learn that not every Irish person likes U2) and because I really like the group. Some educators may not be familiar with the other artists I have chosen – Kanye West, Common and Mos Def – who are American hip-hop artists. I have taken a short excerpt from various lyrics of each song for this short exercise.