Pop Goes the Learning

Pop culture underpins many facets of modern society. Almost everybody has consoled a distraught colleague over the season return of The Walking Dead, or how about those chats around the water cooler about last night’s episode of Game of Thrones?

The 2016 Nielsen’s ratings show that, on average, adults consume 10 hours 39 mins of media per day (books, online, TV, films and music), which is roughly an hour more than this time last year. Clearly, pop culture takes up massive amounts of our time, so it makes sense that we’re more than a little invested in it — which raises the question: why not use it as a tool to teach?

It’s worth noting that, depending on the platform you’re releasing your learning on, copyright law around the use of characters and images may be an issue. However, by using parody or cleverly referencing entire genre tropes, this can often be avoided.

There are a couple of reasons why using pop culture in the teaching tool-kit could be incredibly useful for modern educators.

Firstly, people already care about the characters, subject matter and universes within their favourite books, movies and TV shows. Any learning you present through that particular lens grants you a degree of buy-in from learners. They care about the show, and are therefore already predisposed to care more about the content.

Secondly, it’s great for grounding complex or abstract ideas. How many people had a better understanding of the periodic table of elements thanks to Breaking Bad? Or grasped the basic concepts of American politics by watching House of Cards? Pop culture is establishing a baseline and practical mind-map into which greater, more complex ideas can be implanted and expanded upon.

Professionals have only just started to give serious consideration to the idea of coupling popular culture with education. There’s still much to test and refine in its implementation and execution, however, it’s showing early signs of being an invaluable tool for engaging future generations of learners.

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