And said the blogger, Nevermore.

Or I would, if I didn’t have three separate assessments this semester that were all blogs. No, I still have another week or two of catch up blogging.

For my final piece I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned in regards to the Gothic and its continued influence on popular culture.

Twilight is one of the most divisive properties in contemporary culture, forming in-groups, out-groups and distinctive quarreling sub-groups. The first division, and possibly the most vocal, are the people who enjoy Twilight and the people who don’t. This distinction is so pervasive that it has appeared in completely unrelated television and literature, such as an episode of Parks and Recreation that focused on a conflict between pro and anti twilight agendas.

On the internet Twilight fans have been writing ‘fan-fiction’ for some time, where Twilight’s detractors have spawned a Meme, ‘Still a better love story than Twilight.’ Down the rabbit hole further, we find the purists who only like the original books by Stephanie Meyer, and the others who instead (Or as well.) owe their fandom to the movie franchise starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. And, finally, amongst both of the previous groups there are the ubiquitous Team Edward (Pattinson) and Team Jacob (Lautner), fans who favour the romance between their preferred candidate, and Bella (Stewart).

That’s a lot of fuss over a young adult book series, and it marks the height of Gothic popularity since its inception over a century ago. While the dark, mythical creatures in Twilight bare little resemblance to their counterparts in their debut works such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, they still maintain most of the Gothic hallmarks that have had varying levels of popular following ever since.

Clarrington lists a number of Gothic hallmarks that appeal to the youth of today, although they could easily have applied to the youth of yesteryear as well. They are not new conditions that have suddenly arisen, society had been in a state of revolutionary flux and the things that made the Gothic popular then are bound to ‘come round again’ assuming that they ever left at all. Every child could be said to ’emerge out of new social, economic and political conditions that require new kinds of engagement by citizens and mastery of new ways with texts both old and new.’ (Clarington)

The Machiavellian manipulations of cruel forces, a sense of otherness, an overpowering feeling of superstitious dread, where ‘the local and unchangeable can seemingly become uncanny'(Clarington). These are some of the core concepts that Gothic works of all stripes, from books, to dolls to video games, seek to instill in the partaker.

Clarrington supposits that young adults, in exploring and building their own identities, gravitate towards these notions of otherness in the construction of their evolving world view. She doesn’t dwell quite enough, I think, on the skill of the writers and the crafting of the plots. As an aspiring writer (And an aspiring librarian. Makes me wonder if I’ll ever finish anything.) I think that while the social pressures and norms have some responsibility for a work’s popularity, there still rests a burden of skill on the writer themselves. While many people criticise the book’s plot, citing the turbulent emotional relationship between Chuck Noland from Castaway and his volleyball Wilson as ‘Still a better love story than twilight.’ it has successfully enthralled millions of people from its target demographic, the ability to review and recommend media in a digitally connected age helping to spread its influence globally.

While the wider spread of global media networking certainly helped; the Gothic has, over the years, attracted its fair share of literary greats. Byron, Shelley, Stoker, Poe and Lovecraft all attracted both critical and popular acclaim these works remain as singular representations of what it means to be Gothic. Could Stephanie Meyers’ skills be comparable to her predecessors? I don’t know, because I’d have to read Twilight to make a proper comparison, and frankly I don’t think I have it in me when I’m only half way through Frankenstein as it is.

I’ve always been a fan of the great Gothic novelists, and on some level I suppose it irks me that today’s youth have flocked to a genre that I legitimately liked before it was cool. But on another level I’m eternally grateful to Meyers for spreading the light of reading to the most unlikely and previously unsought participants. As Kevin Smith famously said at a Comicon panel addressing a rabble of anti-twilight sentiment from his Standard Nerd fanbase: “Don’t hate those twelve year old girls who love vampires. They need to be encouraged because in six years, they’ll be eighteen year old girls who love vampires and are into all sorts of goth-permissive and whatnot. Don’t pooh-pooh it. There is a plan. And it is working.” Makes me chuckle every time I hear the heated booing suddenly quiet down in the back of the room as the unwashed nerd masses take a moment to consider the implications of the wildfire spread of their pet genres.

Signing Off,
Alex

Kevin Smith’s view on Twilight.

Carrignton, V. (2011). The contemporary Gothic: Literacy and childhood in unsettled times. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. doi: 10.1177/1468798411417373 pp. 1-18. Retrieved From: http://ecl.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/12/02/1468798411417373.abstract

Dungeons and Discourse

There’s a commonly held misconception that sharks need to keep swimming or they will die. Humans are a little like that with learning. If we’re not learning, then we’re killing part of that intangible, wide-eyed curiosity we had as a child. We’re becoming dull and stale and we’re not progressing as a person.

The sad thing about that thought is, most people will go to amazing lengths to learn about the things that interest them. And yet somehow, they’ve come to the conclusion that no, they don’t really like learning after all. It’s all a lot of bother. I don’t know what does this to a person, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s SCHOOL.

While the argument and rationale behind ‘The Sleeper Curve’ is flawed and a little unscientific, it has touched on some common phenomenon that certainly deserve further research and consideration.

The core assertion that ‘Everything bad is good for you.’ might be a wickedly broad generalisation, but I think even people who don’t share Johnson’s particular childhood experiences will enjoy reading the work because of his style of lackadaisical reminiscence of which I am particularly fond, and also see the grains of truth that make it important to educators. The child’s thirst for knowledge, his ability to master complex systems to pass time, the sheer amount of information available to children through the media. Combining these factors to produce a net gain somewhere in the child’s ongoing education should come as a logical step completely separate from the rhetoric and agenda of the author.

As a future librarian I’m making it my mission to involve libraries more in the business of gaming. There are a few librarians on the gold coast who have tried, unsuccessfully, to organise regular gaming events out of libraries but somehow since I’ve been living here they have managed to go backwards in providing a gaming environment for their customers. Robina Library used to lease its public space for LAN parties, and my club was contacted by the GCCLS to run a prospective library gaming event what never got through the proposal meeting. But as the traditional crotchety middle aged women who have run libraries for the least hundred years retire, I sincerely hope that a new generation of librarians will respond more positively to our initiative.

I watched Seth Priebatsch’s TED talk on gamification, and I wanted to like it, I really did. But for whatever reason the guy really rustled my Jimmies. I think it was his unwavering endorsement for WoW and Farmville. WoW is bad enough, it eats lives. I was friends with two people I’ll call ‘Bonnie’ and ‘Daniel’ for anonymity. Then they bought WoW. I didn’t see ‘Daniel’ for one and a half years, and I haven’t seen ‘Bonnie’ since. And Farmville? I played Facebook games once. Then I realised they were craptastic and stopped. The thought that so many people waste so much time playing such bad games gives me the chills. Personal grievances aside, he seemed to indicate that all the infrastructure to gamify real life was in place, and that it was just going to happen.

Maybe I disliked his talk because it reminded me that even the most good-intentioned gamification is still psychological manipulation, which is something I hate with a fiery passion like the burning of a thousand dying suns. Or maybe it was that Farmville thing, who knows. But thinking about the people who would be in control of driving large scale psychological manipulation certainly made me a little uncomfortable. Zuckerburg already wastes enough of my time as it is, and don’t get me started on Jimmy Wales. (Although I know which one I’d prefer to psychologically manipulate me.)

On to a lighter note, Beth Galloway’s discussion on gaming in libraries fits in ideally with my views on how the two should be mixed together. I’m doing my bit already, I run our nerd club out of Palm Beach Library on the Gold Coast and we have Games Days and play Dungeons and Dragons and Warmachine. Especially her advice on ‘how to start up a gaming community for free’ since one of the easiest ways to set up a gaming community in your library is to find a friendly local gaming club with a lot of games who would be willing to come along and run some free events for you.

Oh, wait.

Even her excellent points in regards to different types of literacy and how libraries can provide the materials to learn and develop all of them can’t seem to convince the ‘traditional’ librarians to give us the one chance we would need to prove how useful and free of charge we are. If only there were some way to convince them to do what we wanted them to do using experience bars and flashing lights reminiscent of poker machines and trench warfare…

And I didn’t even get on to Dungeons and Dragons stories. I’m sorry for the bait and switch.

Alex, Signing Out

(And to any Librarians of the stuffy, middle aged variety who are reading this… I sincerely hope that I’m not talking about you. I expected better.)

Johnson, Steven. (2005). Introduction : The Sleeper Curve in Johnson, Steven, Everything bad is good for you : how today’s popular culture is actually making us smarter, New York: Riverhead Books, pp.1-14.

Priebatsch, Seth. (2010). The game layer on top of the world. TED Talk: TEDx Boston
Retrieved From: http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_priebatsch_the_game_layer_on_top_of_the_world.html

Beth Galloway: Welcome to the librarian’s guide to gaming! Retrieved From: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1NHI-Z9j4g

I’m just going to say it, when compared with Elanora State High School Library, the Elanora Branch of Gold Coast City Council Library Service is Streets Ahead.

Of course, I just wanted to use the phrase ‘Streets Ahead’ in an assignment.

Honestly, the key difference between the two institutions is that ESHS never caught on to the Manga craze. That might have something to do with a string of objectively horrible librarians, but it could easily just be a school caving to the pressure of vocal minorities who are against all that ‘Japanimation‘ and ‘foreign comics.’ There’s too many busty girls and dark themes, it’s probably evil! During my time at ESHS I was informed it was library policy ‘not to stock fantasy novels‘. What does that even mean?!

The Gold Coast City Council Library Service, however, has a very large selection of Manga and Anime and makes it a policy to keep up to date with books of all genres in a variety of formats. While I’ll admit many manga, particularly my favourite few, boast particularly dark themes, this doesn’t seem to have stopped the GCCCLS from hoarding as many of them as possible. Their desire to classify ‘manga’ as Young Adult when a lot of the content is CLEARLY DESIGNED FOR REAL SIZED PEOPLE. And not children.

For instance, I love Full Metal Alchemist, and would place it as one of the best Manga ever written. But it’s full of death, sadness, Frankenstein monsters made out of coalesced human souls and a setting closely modeled off Nazi Germany. (Godwin’s Law.) I don’t like to side with a public school who is, for whatever reason, depriving their children of excellent fiction, but I don’t really think that Full Metal Alchemist, and indeed a lot of manga that is nonetheless popular amongst young adults, should necessarily be marketed to them or even left within their reach.

I mean, I saw a copy of Serial Experiments Lain lying about there once. That’s an anime series focused around the suicide of young girls, illegal drugs, and the ability to hack someone’s brain with a computer. I would not encourage my child to read something like that until I was completely sure they were mentally developed enough not to be swayed by media properties to do dumb shit. (So, never. I don’t expect I’d be a trusting father.)

That said, this falls perilously close to ‘censorship‘ and it shouldn’t be a library’s responsibility to keep children away from age inappropriate material any more than they are legally obligated to.

ESHS was also behind the eight ball, as other bloggers have mentioned, in terms of the educational games available through the internet. With school board web censorship, school computer rooms for the most part become unfriendly environments to all but the most canny gamers. And even then, the effort required to utilise proxies or screw with the system ghost files is basically esoteric wizard knowledge. Children certainly aren’t getting BETTER at technology, they just happen to own more of it. GCCLS however has a far more forgiving filter suite. While ESHS blocked google image search because, and I quote ‘Students were LOOKING AT PICTURES OF CARS DURING CLASS‘ GCCLS has seemingly blocked naught but outright pornography.

I’m worried that this sounds more ‘ranty‘ than I intended.

Alex, Signing Out

I’m downloading The Internet. I think I’m up to about D.

I think it’s important to note that on any devices that can read compressed XHTML files, you can now download Wikipedia. The entirety of mankind’s largest collaborative knowledge platform. I have done so, although only the ‘lite‘ version without the pictures, since downloading the entirety of Wikipedia with the accompanying images is around 280 Gigabytes of data, limiting the devices that could hold it to laptops. The ‘lite‘ text only version is only 12 gigabytes, and a lot of smartphones can easily accommodate this much data.

Now, sure, my motives for downloading Wikipedia onto my laptop are hardly pure. It’s not knowledge for knowledge’s sake, it’s so I can win arguments any time, anywhere.

But still, I downloaded an encyclopedia with over 4 million articles FOR FREE. And it was completely legal. If you’re in a field that demonises Wikipedia, you could easily buy and download a ‘big name‘ encyclopedia to your mobile device of choice and get very similar results, although the various fandoms active on Wikipedia will ensure Wiki’s dominance over ‘legitimate‘ encyclopedias in regards to popular culture.

Once you’ve armed a person with the facts, putting them to use is another part of using mobile devices to aid learning. Thankfully, the majority of modern devices can access the internet which provides a seemingly endless supply of learning aids. Simple flash games (Sorry, Mac users.) that test a variety of trivia are fun, and frankly speaking, incredibly addictive.

For instance, I’ve played ‘Free Rice‘ a word knowledge game which purports to donate a grain of rice to a starving pauper for each correct answer, for uncountable hours. I like to think of myself as something of a wordsmith, but after a three hour stretch of Free Rice, I feel … I tried to think of a simile for how dumb it left me feeling, but I’m not sure that there is one. Very dumb.

Another popular game I’ve seen is a States/Capitals trivia quiz. You need to name all the states/capitals in a major country in a certain timeframe. An Australian one would be fairly boring due to its brevity, but trying to figure out all of the American states and capitals was a brain wrack I was not prepared for.

The one I played most recently was trying to guess the names from the Time Top 100 for the 20th century. I scored surprisingly poorly, but that’s only because Time’s list is dumb, and they should feel dumb. The list was missing, for instance, NEIL ARMSTRONG and yet it contained Bart Simpson. Travesty!

The internet is full of small, additive games. Children will play them, and if you can convince them to play the better ones, then you’re doing them a service. Lots of people underestimate how much they like learning, finding patterns, and sounding smart by displaying all the tiny elements of the universal picture they have uncovered to their friends and family.

Thanks, internet.

Alex, Signing Off

I liked The Hunger Games when it was called Battle Royale. You’ve probably never heard of it.

So I watched The Hunger Games. I enjoyed the movie a lot, but as the title suggests, I found it incredibly reminiscent of another, better, property. Now let me preface my complaining with the knowledge that while I’ve only seen the Hunger Games in Movie Form, I’ve watched both Battle Royale movies, and read a lot of the Manga. The Hunger Games books are apparently just as popular as the movie, and as in almost all book to movie deals, I’m sure it loses something in the translation.

But as far as children fight to the death for people’s entertainment goes, Battle Royale and The Hunger Games are very different properties. Battle Royale, is, unsurprisingly, a lot darker. There will be blood. People die in a variety of horribly graphic ways. As far as I saw in the movie, nobody in The Hunger Games was disemboweled with a Kama, which is like an eastern version of a Sickle. Nobody vomited up their insides from deadly, deadly poison. Nobody caught fire. Well, nobody DIED from catching fire. I’ll admit, wandering around ON FIRE is certainly a spectacle.

From what I’ve been told about the books by enthusiastic fans, the key difference is where the series is going. In the second Battle Royale movie, they manage to put the protagonist from the first movie back on the island. I mean, they didn’t really have anywhere to go with that. I hear The Hunger Games does that as well. But what the Hunger Games is building up to is a Revolution against the 1% and whatnot, and Battle Royale never gets that far, instead focusing on character development, and horrible, horrible violence.

Now Susanne Collins claims she’d never heard of Battle Royale before turning in her final manuscript. I’m happy to believe that. It’s a cult movie/manga/book from another culture with limited Western releases. They tell similar stories, but both are independently enjoyable and both have different goals in mind.

And the truth is, while I love Battle Royale, it is much harder to identify with the Japanese schoolchildren from a quite strange culture than it is to identify with the fresh faced young Americans and Woody Harrelson. I was already a fan of Jennifer Lawrence from her role in X-Men: First Class, and she was just as good in The Hunger Games. Good actors, plus high production values serve to make this a quite good, if not groundbreaking, movie. While I’d be more inclined to recommend Battle Royale to friends, The Hunger Games would appeal to a larger audience and more specifically, younger children.

Alex, Signing Off

There’s this certain ‘look’ I get when reminiscing. I’ve been told it’s quite endearing.

I watched a lot of TV as a kid. It didn’t eat into my reading time, mostly it ate into the time other more coordinated children spent climbing things and riding bikes and playing a startlingly diverse variety of sports. So when people talk about ‘a few cartoons they watched as a kid‘, I am confused and alarmed at the cartoons they must not have been watching.

Trying to imagine someone growing up without Old Bear Stories, Babar the Elephant, Super Ted, Bangers and Mash, Pinky and The Brain, Transformers, Beast Wars, Technoman, Dragon Ball Z, X-Men… You get the picture. Or at least I hope you do. Where’s Wally! Widget the World Watcher! The Smurfs! Gummi Bears! Okay. I’m probably done.

I was always an emotional kid. I remember crying when Babar’s father was killed by poachers. (Statute of limitations on spoilers says this is a perfectly okay statement to make.) I still cry when Optimus Prime dies in the original animated Transformers movie, and I’m not afraid to admit it on the internet where everybody can read. (But probably won’t.) I develop emotional ties to things very quickly, and very strongly. I’m unsure whether that’s just me, or whether all children are like that, but I was obsessive about most of the things I loved, and now that I think about it, I still am.

So growing to love the characters in a program over a number of years, my emotional bond to them was so cemented that I can still feel the ripping childhood heartache of a pretend, animated elephant’s father being mortally wounded by pretend animated poachers, off screen. I didn’t even see the violence happen! The Snorks! Captain Planet! Tail Spin! Okay. I’m really done this time.

I tended to spend a lot of time in my imagination as well, inserting myself into the colourful cartoon worlds I was constantly exposed to. Nowadays, people would go off and write fan-fiction, but I was quite happy to keep my adventures with beloved fictional BANANA MAN! characters private and would while away the whole tens of minutes it would take me to nod off to sleep imagining getting my own pair of rocket boots, and helping Super Ted fight crime. I’m honestly not sure how I thought the rocket boots were going to help.

I thought I hated modern children’s shows, having watched a few that just rubbed me the wrong way, but I’ve never been sure JOHNSON AND FRIENDS, ROUND THE TWIST, BANANAS IN PYJAMAS whether my disdain for them was due to the rose coloured glasses in regards to the shows of my own childhood. I made the mistake of going back and watching Captain Planet last year. It’s genuinely terrible. I don’t have the heart to try any of those other shows out in case they suck as well.

CATDOG, AH REAL MONSTERS, ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE, HEY ARNOLD, OCEAN GIRL, THE FERALS, FERAL TV, MR SQUIGGLE, AMAZING, CHEEZ TV, ESCAPE FROM/RETURN TO JUPITER, THE GENIE FROM DOWN UNDER, THE GIRL FROM TOMORROW, ANIMORPHS, SPELLBINDER, LIFT OFF, SHIP TO SHORE, THUNDERSTONE, ALADDIN, TIMONE AND PUMBA, POWER RANGERS AND FINALLY POKEMON.

Alex,
Signing Off

Dishonored, complicated morality and gaming.

A disproportionate amount of my time is spent gaming, and so I am familiar with the majority of the different properties, companies and personalities that influence gaming culture.

I’m going to explore a very recent offering, Dishonored, without giving away too much of the excellent plot. No *SPOILERS* tags here, you don’t need to worry as any discussion of the game’s plot will take place in the opening level and the implications it has on the rest of the adventure and will also be intentionally vague.

You take control of Corvo Attano, bodyguard to Jessamine Kaldwin, Empress of Gristol and her daughter Emily. You’re returning from a mission of national importance, seeking aid from neighboring countries as a rat-borne plague has ravaged Gristol’s capital of Dunwall, when as the title of the game suggests, you are suddenly but inevitably dishonored.

Corvo is sent to prison by the highest court for a crime he didn’t commit. Six months later, he escapes from a maximum security stockade to the Dunwall underground…

First, some thoughts on Corvo. Corvo is a ‘silent protagonist’, a quality that is almost exclusively found in video games. Through the game he says nothing and expresses no opinions, and performs no actions beyond player control. The story provides pressure to act in certain ways, but in this game especially, the morality of the main character is provided by the player through his actions in the world and interactions with characters in it. Players are given the ability to answer simple questions by selecting short dialogue boxes to facilitate trade, but mostly Corvo spends a lot of time listening and keeps his feelings bottled up, waiting for an opportunity to brand someone with a hot iron.

Genre wise, it has been marketed as a first person action adventure game. It differs from most of the top action or adventure titles by allowing the player to navigate the game with either over the top application of brutal force as you might find in a first person shooter, or by carefully and patiently examining the surroundings, and surgically removing your target with as little fuss as necessary using many of the mechanics of the stealth games. You even have the option of moving between these two play styles seamlessly as changing situations call for the player to adapt.

Mixing a silent protagonist with unfettered player freedom makes the game an interesting exercise in morality. The player is given complicated situations, a variety of ways in which they can navigate them, and given feedback by the game as to what consequences the player can expect to face for their actions. (In addition to a variety of interesting unforeseen consequences.)

It is entirely possible to play through the game without directly or indirectly killing a single person. But that style of playthrough takes perception, patience and planning as opposed to the frantic quick reflexes required to murder everybody you meet.

But take heart in the knowledge that even if a player decided, for moral reasons, to play through the game without killing anybody, many of the nonlethal alternatives presented are so heavy with poetic justice that even the staunchest Call of Duty fan would consider a quieter more focused approach just so they could do horribly apt things to the subjects of their ire. So while the game is presenting the player with choice, some of that choice isn’t ‘good‘ versus ‘evil‘ as much as it is ‘order‘ versus ‘chaos‘. The story involves betrayal and revenge, dark secrets and madness, a creeping sickness and the lengths men will go to in order to cure it, so conflict is obviously a major part of the tale, a hard part to avoid in a genre defined by conflict. Maybe the ultimate moral choice could have been for Corvo to accept his fate and remain falsely imprisoned, trusting the world to right itself again.

But in the end… Good, bad… You’re the guy with the gun.

Alex,
Signing Off

Comparing Comic Books, Movies and TV shows.

Due to my success in setting up a unit of work in history using Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief as the driving force for my class of 6/7’s I have started to investigate different ways in which I can incorporate popular culture into different subjects. This post is going to explore the opportunities that could arise from comparing numerous versions of the popular super hero Superman through the media of film, television and comic books. By using all three we as a class could compare and contrast the differences between the three and discuss which version we preferred.

 

This of course would fall within the English curriculum predominantly but could easily be spread into other subjects. In art and design the students could discuss the ways in which the super man costume has changed along with the effectiveness of live footage to portray the impossible (flight, super strength, heat vision) compared to the drawn art in the comics. In science you could have discussions about the possibility of these impossible acts. How does the heat vision work? What allows him to fly?

 

Using the superman comic All-Star Superman, would be best as it is a modern re-telling of the superman story. This then would allow the comparisons to begin right at the beginning of the story so we could compare similar events. This comic was designed with the teenage market in mind as a way to entice the younger generation into buying superman comics so is full of pop culture references that will resonate with the students.

 

The second comparison item would be the popular TV show Smallville. This show is known to many of my students at the moment and thus will automatically be accepted by many. It provides a good comparison point to the comics due to the very different nature and tone that the show takes compared to the comic, being based around a teenage boy and his friends instead of the young man Superman is in the comics.

 

Finally we would take a look at the original Superman movie. At first I thought it would be more engaging to use the newer (and thus better effects) superman movie from a few years ago. Unfortunately this movie continues on from the original movies and thus does not provide a good comparison point. What it will provide though is great discussion about how older movies were not able to give true justice to the amazing powers of superman and perhaps we could watch parts of the newer superman to show just how much movie effects have changed and why this may be the reason for the sudden influx of super-hero movies.

 

These are all just hypothetical ideas now and still need a lot of planning and working, but with basis in popular culture along with three forms of media that are rarely used in the classroom it could become an interesting and rewarding experience.

 

What are your thoughts?

Breaking down the barriers.

One major issue with working with pop culture texts is that teachers can often be hesitant to engage with them as they are afraid of looking foolish in front of their students. Xu (2004), in her own study wrote that “the teachers generally felt a sense of discomfort (and at times resistance) when considering students’ popular culture interests and texts. Many maintained distance from unfamiliar popular culture texts by choosing texts based on their own value systems, personal preferences, or comfort levels.” Morrell (2002) also mentioned this when he wrote, “in my experiences as a teacher and teacher educator, I have met countless colleagues who verbally support incorporating popular culture, yet feel unprepared and daunted by the project.”

This lack of understanding between generations is a major hurdle to the use of popular culture in the modern classroom. However this is not to say that it can’t be implemented with the right attitude and pedagogical approach as Morrell (2002) talks about in his concluding statements when he writes that “any pedagogy of popular culture has to be a critical pedagogy where students and teachers learn from and with one another while engaging in authentic dialogue.”

Reflecting on my own teaching history I am able to see a rich use of pop culture that I never realised before reading this essay. Hall (2011) writes that “discussions can help students take control over their learning by providing space for them to offer their interpretations.” These discussions are a very important aspect to my classroom and something that I strive to build upon, taking each and every available teaching moment when it occurs and taking it to its end is what helps engage and sometimes re-engage my students during lesson time.

By talking about and engaging with the students own textual worlds we can help understand and therefore help our students learn in the best possible way for them.

References

  • Hall, L. (2011). How popular culture texts inform and shape students’ discussions of social studies textsJournal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 55 (4)

  • Morrell, E. (2002). Toward a critical pedagogy of popular culture: Literacy development among urban youth. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46(1)

  • Xu, S.H. (2004). Teaching reading of students’ popular culture texts: The interplay of students’ interests, teacher knowledge, and literacy curriculum. In C.M. Fairbanks, J. Worthy, B. Maloch, J.V. Hoffman, & D.L. Schallert (Eds.), 53rd Yearbook of the National Reading Conference

Video Games as Learning Tools

As an avid player of video games myself I can’t help but see the benefits that they could have if put to the right use in educating students. The positives outweigh the negatives and the real challenge for teachers and educators in general is to work out the ways in which they can be used effectively. With the introduction of Ipads and laptops into my own classroom I decided it was time to take a look at the different options going around.

 

Computer games have evolved over the years from simple platform or puzzle games to huge multi player landscapes and worlds with their own history and mythos. Some of these games are so literature driven that children are able to get their daily required reading practice from simply playing these games. Add on top of this the addictive nature of certain computer games and we can see a real opportunity to create a cyber learning environment where the students are engaged with the content due to the way it is being delivered.

 

Of course there are still plenty of negatives with video games as well. Most commercial games hold little real educational value, either being too violent, too ridiculous or just plain bending the truth about certain subjects. An example of this would be the Ancient Greek assignment I mentioned in another blog. One of my students researched and presented an oral to the class about the Greek God Ares. Unfortunately all his information and facts came from the computer game God of War. This means his presentation was compromised from the start due to his reliance on a commercial video game.

 

One of the main problems with the use of video games in school however is the unfortunate over filtering of the websites available to students. There is nothing worse than planning a lesson around an educational game online and then booting up the computers at school, type in the URL and find this…

 

 

This has meant that most computers are really only being used for programs such as cool maths for kids and study ladder. While these programs do have a place in school today, students quickly grow bored with them and by the time they reach the middle school years they do not get a sense of excitement with these programs and instead see them as a chore or simple “busy work”.

 

Ipads however, due to their very nature are exciting. They are personal, no one else can see what you are doing and due to the operating system installed do not rely on internet connection for their games. Students and teachers can look for an install an app that they feel is appropriate. The other bonus of the Ipads is that they allow for students in subject like maths who either fall behind or push ahead to have an activity to fall back on. While still fairly new in schools, it will be interesting to see the types of educational games and applications are created over the next few years.