Pop Culture in the Classroom: Katy Perry and Pokémon Go

In an age where everyone is connected to the media and each other, the pervasiveness of pop culture in our everyday interactions cannot be ignored.  When I was in high school, my friends and I would share new music videos with each other during lunch and discuss the interesting or controversial tweets or Facebook posts about celebrities or new trends we had seen the night before.

Even when we are in the classroom, we are engaging in pop culture to some extent.  If you walk into any college lecture class, I can guarantee that you will see at least a handful of people on BuzzFeed, CNN, Twitter, or Facebook.  My younger sister, who was in high school when our county gave every high school student a Macbook Air, would tell me about how her classmates would share articles and message each other when their classes got a little too boring.  When someone would get caught doing this, they would be reprimanded (not like that stopped everyone from doing it anyway).

But what if classroom content could actually integrate the technology and pop culture that so many students are interconnected through?  Instead of drawing a strict line between the classroom and pop culture, how can teachers somehow integrate the two to keep students engaged?

One of my high schooler teachers did just that.  It was senior year AP Literature, and we were practicing identifying literary devices.  “Today in class,” I remember my teacher explaining to us, “we will be analyzing your favorite songs on the radio.”  All of us were perplexed – what did this mean?  She reminded us that literary devices existed in many more works than just the archaic and dense essays and poems we had read in class.  Literary devices, as my teacher told us, are often used in the songs we love.  To test this, she pulled up this video on our class Smart Board and played it:

“What literary devices were used in Katy Perry’s Dark Horse?”

We broke into groups and discussed the prevalence of devices like simile and cacophonous diction and what they did to enhance the song and its meaning.  After we had found all the instances of literary devices in this song, we did nearly a dozen more: it was probably the most fun I have ever had in a literature class.

Another incredible example of a teacher utilizing kids’ love for pop culture to better their own lesson comes from Brazil.  In Edutopia’s article “A Student-Led Pokémon Go Project Transforms a School,” a Brazilian art teacher who was inspired by her students’ love for the augmented reality game challenged them to create their own mutants and post them around the school.  In what she calls the “Mutant Go Initiative,” the excitement she felt in her school when it was introduced was palpable.  This initiative led students to strengthen their interpretive and observation skills:

“Next, second- and third-grade students began writing descriptions of where to find their mutants. This introduced a new challenge: Instead of seeking a mutant with a clear image of what it looked like, students had to interpret the text and seek mutants based on written information. Students discussed their hypotheses, eliminated possibilities, and constructed new knowledge before springing into action.

Interestingly, aside from describing the place and/or characteristics of the mutants, students used words to emphasize the body pose that would allow you to see it, such as kneel, lie down, squat, crouch.”

Pretty cool, right?

Have you ever had a teacher who integrated pop culture into the curriculum?  Do you feel like teachers should try to make class content more relatable to students when applicable, or should there be a fine separation between the classroom and pop culture?

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One Response to Pop Culture in the Classroom: Katy Perry and Pokémon Go

  1. madisongoers1 says:

    What an interesting idea of incorporating pop culture into the learning environment, Katelyn. I have not considered that we engage with this media daily, but you’re right. If you walk into any lecture, you’ll see a handful of students scrolling through social media and news sites. Even more so than when we were in elementary school, pop culture and technology are extremely relevant aspects of our society, demonstrating the importance of incorporating these updates into the classroom. I wonder if there is a way to use technology to integrate current events/world news into the curriculum? I imagine there is a great advantage to giving students exposure to these news sources while helping them to expand their world view. In addition, I loved reading about the example that you gave regarding your teacher allowing you to analyze the literary devices in your favorite songs. This assignment applied the curriculum to everyday situations and I would imagine it helps students to learn and retain this information on a more personal level. The closest example that I have to this is when my English 105 teacher at UNC required us to listen to various podcasts and eventually design and create our own. While he could have assigned us to write our information in paper format, creating a podcast tied in modern technology and the media, which wouldn’t have been exposed to with more traditional assignments. I would love to see more teachers strive to personalize their curriculum and encourage the integration pop culture. Thanks for sharing!


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