Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rethinking Popular Culture and Media

Our lives and our students lives are consumed by Media and Popular Culture whether we like it or not. Media is becoming more engrained in our daily lives and our students daily lives and as teachers we need to acknowledge this and examine its roles in our teaching. This article gives us an introduction to a collection of articles posted in Rethinking Popular Culture and Media  that examines the relationship between popular culture and media in education.   The authors in the articles "consider how and what popular culture artifacts (such as toys) as well as popular media (films and books) "teach" and the role that these materials have in the everyday lives of students"  Due to the overwhelming surge of media in children's lives teachers need to "become more aware of and fluent with the diverse popular cultural materials young people read, view and consume." In the introduction they discuss how it is difficult to define popular culture because culture is constantly changing which is so true. What is popular one day is no longer popular the next day...fads come and go. Its unfortunate, but many children's lives are consumed by popular culture and media. In an article posted by CNN in November 2015, they talked about a study by Common Sense Media which said that teens spend 9 hours a day using media for enjoyment....that is about 1/3rd of their day. In the collection of articles they also examine what to do with popular culture and media, as well as, what to do about popular culture and media.

"In each of the articles the authors critique and rethink the connections among race, class, gender, sexuality power and schooling. From this framework, the articles in this book are grouped around six ways to do critical media literacy with popular culture and media" 

  • Part 1: Study the Relationship Among Corporations, Youth and Schooling In this section, authors look at how corporations use advertisements to sell and define what popular is. They discuss how schools have been targeted to teach brand loyalty (i.e. the free stickers of popular shows offered in scholastic, or Procter and Gamble send curriculum about health that includes free samples of Tampax).
Related Article: Why I said No to Coca Cola
  • Part 2: Critique How Popular Culture and Media Frame Historical Events and Actors In this section, the authors talk about how history has become popularized by media. They discuss the representation of history within popular books and novels. (i.e. Pocahontas, American Girl Series)
Portrait of Pocahontas from 1616 versus Disney's version of Pocahontas

  • Part 3:Examine Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality and Social Histories in Popular Culture and Media In this  section, "the authors challenge gender stereotypes and racist representations is various media locales such as music, videos, movies, toys and cartoons and connect these discussions to existing curricular goals." 
  • Part 4: View and Analyze Representations of Teachers, Youth and School In this section, authors look at and analyze how teachers, youth and schools are represented in media. In many films about students and teachers the teacher is portrayed by a white individual who is trying to save a group of under-resourced students. (i.e. Freedom Writers, Blackboard Jungle) 

Trailer for the movie Blackboard jungle which according to IMDb is a about "a new English teacher at a violent, unruly inner-city school is determined to do his job despite resistance from both students and faculty." 
Related article: Kid Nation
  • Part 5: Take Action for a Just Society In this section, the authors discuss how they can use popular culture and media in their classrooms to examine issues of exploitation, violence, power and privilege.
Related article: Beyond Pink and Blue
  • Part 6: Use Popular Culture and Media to Transgress In this section the "authors look at how popular culture and media provide the space and materials the break the rules and challenge the status quo." In these articles, they teach and encourage resistance.
Related article:The Murder of Sean Bell

I find this topic to be extremely interesting and am looking forward to learning more about it through our online class discussions. In my classroom, I use popular culture and media as a motivator more so then an opportunity to teach. For example, I had a student who had a difficult time answering "wh" questions so I used a popular book about Marvel Superheroes to teach him the concept. I'm looking forward to spending some time tomorrow further divulging into the topic and hopefully having time to read one or more of the articles from the collection.

Some articles about incorporating Pop Culture into the classroom:


  1. Alicia, your post is incredible! I am impressed by how thorough it is and how well you captured the text. Thanks for the links and related articles too. I am also interested in learning more about how best to use media in the classroom. One thing that I make an effort to do (during down time, before class, after school, etc) is ask students what they are into/what they think is cool at that moment. I try to bring up those references in a later lesson to increase engagement, but I definitely could work on what Part 5 and 6 of this Introduction are about. Viewing those pop culture and media interests through an empowering and activism lens is not always easy--looking forward to learning more.

    1. Lindsay, working with high school students can be very difficult and I like that you take the time to show an interest in your students lives by asking them what they are into and what is cool at the moment. It is a great way to build a relationship with students :)

  2. I agree with Lindsay about how thorough your blog is this week. I really like that you added in those related articles..its interesting to see those. I loved the article "beyond pink and blue", because one of my biggest pet peeves about working with children is that they, or their parents, seem to be under the impression that girls need to have pink, boys need to have blue..etc. I always try to stress to children that boys can have dolls too, that a boy can have 'pink' as his favorite color, just like girls can have Spiderman toys or blue as a choice in color. Nice job!! Very fun to read.

    1. I looked up the book that was mentioned in the article to see if it would be a good one to add to my book collection. I've never really thought about using a book to discuss this topic in the classroom and I would be interested in doing further research to find a good one. Here is the link if you want to check it out too...they have some other books listed on this page as well.

  3. I loved the comparison between historical Pocahontas and Disney's Pocahontas. This really shows (many) ways that pop culture and media has influenced us. I know that I always think of Disney's Pocahontas in my mind before I think of her in the historical way.

    1. I agree, I always think of Disney's version of Pocahontas. I don't even remember learning anything in school about Pocahontas. When I was little and watched the movie, my mom told me that Pocahontas was based off a historical figure.