In recent months I have gained renewed hope for the once rejected TeacherClips project. HERE is the most recent prototype of the platform. I realized that if I could build this thing it would be of great interest to both the field of instructional design and media literacy—a burgeoning branch of education currently emphasized in BYU’s Theater and Media Arts department. If I had the $ (and I've recently applied for a grant from BYU's School of Ed) I would build this project to be oriented around the following questions:
Learning is constantly taking place, both formally and informally. Everyone is influenced by societal norms, structures, and ways of thinking, and their learning is not limited to programmed or systemic educational settings. American popular culture (movies, TV episodes, and popular music) is a large influencer in a typical learner’s life and experience, and yet it doesn't seem like many folks in instructional psychology talk about this!
According to the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE.net), “media literacy education in North America is seen to consist of a series of communication competencies, including the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate information in a variety of forms, including print and non-print messages”. To clarify, “Media literacy is the ability to encode and decode the symbols transmitted via media and the ability to synthesize, analyze, and produce mediated messages. . . Media literacy education is the educational field dedicated to teaching the skills associated with media literacy”. Using popular culture in the classroom is a standard practice in media literacy education. Indeed movies and TV shows make up the bulk of the texts used for analysis and dissection. However, using popular culture clips as a support rather than the primary emphasis of the curriculum is much less common in the field and really should be considered more.
My guess is that because popular culture significantly impacts many Americans of all ages it is likely that learner’s cognition would not be left untouched or affected. Indeed, traditional cognitive learning theory supports the idea of designing instruction focused on building upon current learner perceptions or schemas. Thus implementing popular culture content by design may not only lead to further engagement, but potential increase in cognitive abilities and memory enhancement. Beyond just influencing learners as a cultural or structural apparatus, the question then is whether pop culture could actually be infused successfully into curriculum to improve learner’s ability to meet the learning outcomes for a course.
Instead of ignoring the impact pop culture has on learners, designers and teachers ought to consider how to thoughtfully and strategically infuse popular culture content into curriculum design. Currently instructors with training in the fields of media education and media literacy do implement popular culture in their instructional designs and many instructors both in K12 settings and in higher education already use movie clips or pop songs in their classes. However these strategies and activities are done largely in isolation from the field of instructional psychology and stand in need of significant research as to their merit and worth beyond media education. My design-based research project seeks to not only create an innovative new platform that teachers and professors could use for collaboration, but also to use this tool in an actual classroom and rigorously evaluate what the impact of the popular culture content is on student outcomes.
I've had this idea for quite some time, and have been pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback I've gotten by a variety of people. I am not sure what I will do if it turns out I don't get the grant I've applied for, but something I've learned is that even if I don't move on it right away --the idea will still be here.
I am a graduate student in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. I enjoy writing, hiking, and spending time with my family.