After reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I became determined to write in a diary every night. I lasted perhaps six months on a regular basis, with entries drying up completely after a year. When I first heard about blogging, I started one in earnest, determined to chronicle my daily adventures for the world to marvel at…I barely lasted a month. When I moved out of home at 18, Blogger (now blogspot, a part of Google) was en vouge – my attempt to write a ‘He Died With A Felafel In His Hand’ style house-sharing blog failed miserably. Personally, blogging has never been a success. I have never kept one for my own learinng purposes and while I have never used one in my teaching practice, I have used different forms of journals/diaries for many different purposes. Restrictions regarding access (both students access at home and school/state policies which block websites) have thus far prevented me from being able to create a teaching and learning experience in which I think blogs would be successful. Keeping an edublog for CLN647 has give me first hand experience of the many benefits of incorporating it into learning, providing a new experience which I can draw on in my own teaching practice. Additionally, my reflection on popular culture for education each week has helped me to understand that using these resources has educational potential beyond the limited scope that I had previously assumed.
How students interact with their world, including popular culture is changing. Digital natives (as some may call the students of today) are living in a participatory world, and yet Crook (2012, p.65) cited that education is seen as not preparing students for that world, despite a wealth of research which reports high levels of interaction between youth and participatory technologies such as web2.0 and social media (Crook, 2012, p. 66, Beach, 2008, p. 777, Prensky, 2001,p.). Indeed, 21st Century skills are almost a necessity for employment in what is increasingly becoming a ‘knowledge economy’ (Crook, 2012, p.65, Houghton & Sheehan, 2000, p.11).
Previously I had always thought of blogging (and even to an extent, microblogging via sites like Twitter) in terms of the potential developing the ‘digital literacies’ (also called multimodal literacies and multiliteracies)that are essential for reading, interpreting, creating and communication with a multimodal world (O’Sullivan, 2012, p.191). However I have come to see their potential as participatory cultures, places where users can not only connect to other with similar interests and share creations, but also to build a collective intelligence (which I see as another interpretation of collaborative learning) (Jenkins, 2006). In my own blogging experience I thoroughly enjoyed reading the ‘Related Content’ suggestions. Reading them I found both new angles on topics that I had previously not considered and posts which aligned with my own thoughts. I had connected to other people, learned from them, without them even being aware. Eloquently put by O’Sullivan (2012, p.193), blogs allow for self-reflection, experimentation, self-expression and communication, globally and without restrictions on time and place. Looking back on the blog I can see the shifts in my attitude and knowledge, changes in my thinking preserved chronologically and I believe the educational potential for this, a tool which is a dynamic creation and representation of changes in the authors thoughts/feelings(O’Sullivan, 2012 p.193) – which has the potential to replace KWL (Know, Want to learn, Learned) as a method of tracking learning.
By reflecting on the use of popular culture texts – whether it is popular shows like The Simpsons, games, social media or popular teen novels, there are two key points that I have really drawn from this unit – that everything has potential to teach the students something (for example, I discussed how the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer is now a topic of academic research). The idea that ‘everything bad is good for you’ as elaborated on in his book by Johnson (2005) is not new to me, having encountered (and devoured and spruiked) the book before this class, however I never had any experience or knowledge of my own (outside of technology) to connect to this theory. In addition to the reflections I made on Johnsons book regarding the educational possibilities of popular/participatory cultures (which I discussed in length in my first assignment), I have come to think that by using pop culture resources and creating an environment where the student is the ‘expert’ (Beach, 2008, p.797) can have benefits not only because the students are interested, but also because it aligns with the shifts that technology (a constant yet ever changing medium of popular culture) is bringing to education – towards a learner-centric learning environment (Laurillard, 2009, p.15).
Quote: Of course you don’t know! You don’t know because only I know. If you knew and I didn’t know, then you’d be teaching me instead of me teaching you–and for a student to be teaching his teacher is presumptuous and rude. Do I make myself clear?
For the use of popular culture to be effective, teachers need to carefully consider what they are using, why they are using it, how it is being used and who they are using it with. The medium needs to suit the message, and should be chosen with the context in mind. While Twitter may not be great to teach about scientific method, it could be very successful for lessons involving political debate or streaming news and it’s credibility. The Hunger Games may not be useful in teaching about Indigenous culture or representations of ‘the other’ but it holds potential for both representations of gender and dystopian societies. When reading and reflecting on article by Ben Williamson (2009) who gave an example of Guitar Hero in the classroom and its application in many curriculum areas, I understood that I was perhaps being too narrow minded in my incorporation of popular culture. No, pop culture should not be used ‘just because’, but its time to look outside the box in regards to how it can be used.
I have also come to understand something that I was doing in my teaching without realising it – and that is using popular culture to help students make meaning of or understand what they are being taught. Video games, television, music and other popular culture texts can provide the missing knowledge that helps students understand concepts, ideas and content in the classroom (Beach, 2008, p.785). An example of this is my theory for the use of The Simpsons in teaching. The most successful example I have is using the episode Das Bus to help students understand Lord Of The Flies. The episode is a mash up of several texts but at its core demonstrates characters, major plot points and themes of Golding’s canonical work.
So my experience with blogging as part of CLN647 has served to show me how blogging in the classroom can be done effectively. Additionally, by providing a space for me to reflect on the unit I have found a shift in my own perspectives from believing that we need to reappropriate resources to educational purposes, to understanding the educational possibilities of teens personal/social use of popular culture.