One of the most powerful ways an educator can assist students in learning is by creating student relevance. Previously, Ctrl+Alt+Teach has written about using The Hunger Games as a teaching tool via pop culture integration, which creates student relevance, one of the most powerful ways an educator can assist students learning.
In this guest post by Michelle Manno, the Associate Editor atTeach.com (a fantastic resource created by USC Rossier Online), she discusses the power of integrating pop culture in the classroom and amazing FREE curriculum resource using The Hunger Games Catching Fire as a teaching tool.
As we continue into the new year, it’s important to step back and evaluate how we can better ourselves personally and professionally, as both individuals and educators. Take advantage of this fresh start to reboot your classroom curriculum and use innovative and exciting content that is sure to peak both yours and your students’ interest across content areas. Bringing popular culture into the classroom is a great way to ensure student motivation. Popular literature, movies, television, and music are powerful teaching tools, and by aligning your lesson plans with student favorites, you allow them to become active participants in the learning process.
An excellent way to reboot your curriculum is to use The Hunger Games in the classroom. This sci-fi series has captivated the American public, both on-screen and in Suzanne Collins’ YA literature trilogy. The series’ entertainment value is no secret; Catching Fire was one of the biggest movies of 2013. However, The Hunger Games also holds tremendous educational value, and provides teachers with a wealth of teachable moments across the curriculum.
Recognizing the important role of popular culture in the classroom, “Sparking Their Interest” uses the scifi series to teach students in areas such as Biology, Social Studies, and English-Language Arts.
Hunger Games Lessons was created by Tracee Orman, a high school English teacherwho immediately recognized the educational value of the trilogy. Teach.com is an educational resource dedicated to discovering and engaging great teaching around the world. Working closely with USC Rossier Online – a top-ranked teacher preparation program through the University of Southern California – Teach.com and USC are passionate about arming schools with innovative and high quality teachers, preparing students with the necessary skills for learning in the 21st century.
Keeping your curriculum relevant is key to unlocking student motivation and boosting their engagement in the new year! Scroll through the guide to learn more about how you can use The Hunger Games and popular culture in your classroom.
—– Michelle Manno is an Associate Editor at Teach.com where she writes about education reform and pop culture pedagogy. Join the @teachdotcom community on Twitter.
In the Convergence and Schools series, I will be considering ideas from Dr. Henry Jenkins‘ book Convergence Culture: Where old and new media collide and discussing / converting those ideas into school implications and classroom applications. Read more about this series here.
Transmedia represents the usage of various forms of media, which can be almost anything such as paper or websites or even coffee cups to inform or instruct others about a particular topic. For example, if I had wanted to incorporate transmedia into this blog post, I may include a presentation, an image, and interactive embed and a YouTube video (I did three of the four).
So, essentially, transmedia in the classroom is a type of differentiation. Rather than focus on learning styles or Gardner’s M.I. Theory, for example, I am considering the delivery products instead.
For example: Should I give this assignment on paper rather than a website? Would writing the assignment on my website, app, and whiteboard help translate the activity to every kid? Transmedia as a means of differentiation can be a powerful tool in any classroom.
However, when discussing transmedia and convergence culture, we are not just discussing transmedia by itself. Rather, the lies within the concept of “Transmedia Storytelling.”
Transmedia Storytelling references the process of using various parts and elements of a topic that are shared periodically via multiple means of delivery (transmedia) for the explicit purpose of drawing in, intriguing and entertaining those who are targeted to receive the transmedia.
Rather than, when reading a story or perusing a textbook, turning each page to learn more about the story or topic, you are “turning” to a different item of transmedia to learn more. So, each dispersed item is adding something to an unfolding story outside of traditional delivery.
Examples of Transmedia
Jenkins uses the example of The Matrix franchise in his book. Parts of the entire story were spread out and portrayed through a variety of media: three films, two comic books, many video games, and animated short films. In order to grasp the entire story, you had to partake of the entire “universe” of The Matrix. The mix of the old media (the television show, the movie) with the new media (split story experience, fan-driven participation) is seen often.
Shows including Heroes, Lost, and 24 all included a transmedia experience like The Matrix, and we are even seeing a new kind of transmedia experience emerging from shows such as The Walking Dead (follow-up show: “Talking Dead”), Glee (a transmedia “performance” through YouTube and even live performances), and True Blood (purchasable items such as the drink of the same name). Transmedia Storytelling is everywhere and plays a major roll in economics, which Jenkins discusses in his text and are worthy of discussion.
Instead, let’s consider Transmedia Storytelling in education. How does this convergence appear in education or how can we use it in education?
One method of using Transmedia Storytelling in education is by incorporating an ARG, or Alternate Reality Game, into your curriculum. ARGs are not virtual reality; rather, an ARG is a form of gamification (the use of game-like elements in a non-game environment) that can leave trails of information not just for the entertainment of the audience, but also to lure the audience into discovering more about the story without the story maker even saying a word.
The ARG is about leaving the breadcrumbs that lure the rabbit down the rabbit hole. In education, you can reach your students through an ARG by sparking their interest, engaging their creativity, and influencing learning perspectives.
Here are theoretical examples of what you might do (from my perspective as a secondary teacher):
You want to introduce a new topic. Rather than bring out another activating strategy, why not make it an ARG? Leave a chain of random clues instead! Leave several post-it notes on randomly picked desks one day with a location, such as “behind the bookshelf.” Inevitable, a student or two will look behind the bookshelf and find another post it with a Google voice number. Upon calling the number, the students hear a coded message that tells them to come to your classroom at a set time on a set day.
At that time, you are not in the room, but instead, there is a giant poster board with a picture on it that says “scan me.” It can be a QR code to a website on the topic or an augmented reality (via Aurasma, for example) that brings up the website, but the important thing is that the students will actually READ that website looking for clues, unknowingly learning the material which you will introduce in class in two days. Do this often enough and it becomes a fun game with your students.
In the summer of 2012, I led a section discussing transmedia for “ARG Academy:” a P2PU-based MOOC about developing alternate reality games in education. I worked with, among others, Kae Novak and Chris Luchs, who are leaders in practical game-based learning applications, and I gave an overview presentation on the topic with real life examples of ARGs:
What other ways can you use transmedia breadcrumbs to tell a story? What if…
You actually told a story using an ARG-format before reading the book, giving the students an authentic experience
Student indirectly made the breadcrumbs themselves by activities you give them that contain clues leading up to
You made the experience more gamified, acknowledging the clues, and granting experience points, levels, or even modest rewards for students who first clues and for students who figure out the clues first.
The possibilities of using the ARG approach with Transmedia Storytelling can be something completely different and fun for your students. If you are someone who does not want to jump into ARGs just yet, then just tell a story through different means next time. The convergence of old and new media that forms Transmedia Storytelling can empower and differentiate education even more than traditional methodologies.
If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments!
Four years ago, at the end of my Masters program, I read a book entitled Convergence Culture: Where old and new media collide by Dr. Henry Jenkins, a noted American media scholar, who is currently a Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. I revisited the book during my doctoral program this semester and, though the book is painfully dated, began to consider some of the implications and applications of Jenkins’ concepts of convergence, or the merging of old and new media, and our current schools and classrooms.
We can see this shift between “old media” and “new media” by considering a few of the many examples espoused in the text:
Traditional News Sources
Blogs, YouTube, Twitter
At this point in the digital era, we are familiar with each of these topics separately, but consider the unique mashup of the two that is still on-going eight years after the publication of Jenkins’ book. The situation is cloudy, changing, and not entirely clear, somewhat similar to a halocline, where fresh water hits salt water and the rapid salinity creates a blurry effect. Think about how election coverage has morphed due to this convergence, how major events like the current Winter Olympics have shifted in delivery, or how basic communication has changed.
Now, consider how these shifts can change and are changing education.
To highlight the implications of media merging and education, Ctrl+Alt+Teach will be posting blog posts in a new series: “Convergence and Schools.” With these posts, you will read not only what these various aspects of convergence are, but also what they mean for schools and how you can utilize them now in your own classroom.
The articles will travel a variety of topics associated with Jenkins’ Convergence. As they are updated, the posts will be linked here as well as via the tagged category of “Convergence & Schools.”
Transmedia in Your Classroom [Sunday 16 February 2014]
Fandom in the Curriculum
As a final note, consider a more in-depth definition: Convergence, according to Jenkins, is a communication and media paradigm shift changing the flow of information from traditional to participatory platforms and due to this shift, our methods of communication and participation using old media and new media are changing radically.
I hope you will find this series interesting and edifying and that it will encourage you to embrace the convergence in your own classrooms and schools.
Recently, when I saw a PBS badge appear on my Apple TV screen, I was very excited.
For over a year, I have been using Apple TV in my classroom to untether my devices from a podium and VGA cable, thus allowing me to circulate around the class rather than stay at the front of the room. The device has been indispensable as I have shifted from lead teacher to facilitator and, now, from general digital instruction to fully blended learning in my classes. I use more than just the convenient AirPlay feature; I also utilize the ever-growing collection of apps on my Apple TV.
The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) is a non-profit, public American television network that features a plethora of amazing content for all ages. With a central mission to “create content that educates, informs and inspires,” member stations spread across the United States schedule various shows without commercial breaks that are incredibly informative. I have been a fan of PBS for many years as a graduate student, an interested adult, as a parent, and especially as an educator.
So, having easy access to PBS in your classroom (without the need for a television) is an ideal situation for any teacher.
Once you link your local PBS station to the app on the Apple TV, you have access to a rotating schedule of various videos, many of which are superb for classroom application. Teachers can select full-length episodes from current programs as well as from the PBS archives, including local content, for FREE. To access locally-produced shows, you will be asked to create a profile (which you can easily do at video.pbs.org) and selecting your local PBS station of choice. The only issue with this approach is that some major metropolitan areas have two sources for PBS — Atlanta, for example, has GPB (Georgia Public Broadcasting) and PBA (Public Broadcasting Atlanta) — and picking your preference may be challenging.
Literature classes can watch Masterpiece, Science can view scenes from Nature, History can peruse Frontline and so forth. Just remember to follow some of the best practices that apply to video usage in the classroom:
Aim to view video in snippets either stopping every 10 to 20 minutes to summarize or complete a guided reflection activity or simply show video in parts over the course of several days.
Provide students with a guided note-taking activity or a goal to achieve during the video to maintain active listening.
Always align any video to lesson goals as well as curriculum and school. state and/or national standards.
With videos, make certain you watch ahead of time to ascertain the appropriateness of the content and assess whether the video is acceptable for your school (you may need to apply for permission, depending on your school policies).
Within the last couple of years, Google has been actively playing an ever growing role in K-12 and Higher Education. Along with other companies such as Apple and Adobe, Google has played a large part in the digital shift of classroom pedagogy. But as their influence grew within education beyond just Google Docs, so did the acronyms! GCT, GTA, GAFE…. What do they all mean? Those recently wading into Googly waters may be more than slightly confused as to how these words apply to themselves as educators.
Herein lies a brief lexicon of a few of the acronyms you may find about Google in Education:
The Google Teacher Academy is a free two-day event held within a Google office at specified locations all over the world. It is produced by CUE in association with Google and is an intensive experience revolving around innovative uses and concepts with Google tools.
The GTA selects around 50 primary and secondary educators who are primed to make an impact in their field and community to participate in this event and create a unique cohort of trailblazers that become Google Certified Teachers.
On Twitter, you won’t often see just “#gta.” Generally, the “gta” portion is followed by an abbreviation of the city in which the Google Teacher Academy took place. For example, you can search for #gtaswe (Sweden) and #gtauk (United Kingdom), both which recently occurred, and my own cohort, #gtachi (Chicago).
GAFE is the abbreviation for Google Apps for Education. Generally, “GAFE” does not refer to the general usage of Google in education, but rather something within the suite of Google tools that are housed within your school’s domain. Email addresses are “you@yourschool” rather than “you@gmail” and shareable items have the extra level of just being available within the domain rather than the general public.
Google Apps Certified Trainers are educators or those associated with the education industry who take a series of six (paid) exams that prove their extensive knowledge of Google Apps for Education and are capable of guiding schools and organizations through Google Apps deployment and integration — a Google Qualified Individual. This qualification will need to be renewed on an annual basis until you move to the next level.
The second step to the process includes and application and two self-made videos that are then submitting and, when/if accepted, allows you to become a full Google Apps Certified Trainer, which means you are certified to lead schools and organizations through deployment and integration (rather than just capable).
Once you become a Google Apps Certified Trainer, your profile can be placed on the Marketplace.
@CatFlippen and @treyboden at the 2012 GAFE Southern Summit
GAFE Summits, produced by the EdTechTeam in association with Google in Education, is a two-day event, generally over a weekend, that focuses on the various applications and usages of Google Apps for Education and all Google Tools in education (both K12 and Higher Ed, although most presentations focus on K12).
Attendees pay a nominal fee . From personal experience, the event is amazing and worth attending at least once; every school should send a representative as that person will bring back a wealth of information to share with his or her colleagues. It was at my first GAFE Summit (the Southern Summit) that I learned about the Google Teacher Academy and some other amazing features and tricks in GAFE!
After this primer, you should be able to decode the following sentence: GAFE Summits are great places to learn about deploying GAFE, applying to a GTA to become a GCT, and also attending pre-summit workshops on earning your GApps Cert.
If you have any questions, leave a comment! Happy Googling!