A reflection on Popular Culture

So here I sit, enjoying the quiet and a chocolate milk before my boys get up, hearing the first stirrings and mulling over the journey I have taken with this semesters unit of Youth, Popular Culture and Text. Grab a coffee or hot chocolate and come along with me in my musings…

A Hot Chocolate by  Oatsy40 Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

A Hot Chocolate by Oatsy40
Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

Where I started:

This unit represents one of three in my first semester back at uni in a number of years, and is part of a course I am undertaking in Teacher-Librarianship. It sees me coming back into the school environment after a time away building my family.


What I have learned about:

Popular Culture

The term Popular Culture covers a wide variety of aspects including music, movies, TV, sport, games, language, social networking, blogging, and books. Popular culture influences our everyday lives impacting our lives through areas such as identity and education.

Avatar created by Author using http://avachara.com/avatar/

Avatar created by Author using http://avachara.com/avatar/

Popular Culture and Identity

Popular Culture plays a major role in the formation of identity, this influence varies from country to country as the popular culture varies from country to country, however, in saying this, there are aspects of popular culture we share. As the world becomes an ever smaller place through travel, TV, movies, music, the internet and books young people of today are exposed to increasing amounts of information from other cultures which impact on the person they become.

Popular Culture in Education

My social networks by Gavin Llewellyn Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

My social networks by Gavin Llewellyn
Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

With students becoming increasingly disengaged with traditional forms of teaching and learning as this often does not relate to the world they live in and the tools they have at their fingertips, there is an increasing call for the integration of their world into the classroom. This involves the idea of bringing online environments and tools into the classroom such as facebook, twitter, youtube, gaming (which may be offline) and blogging, all aspects of popular culture. With young peoples’ increased access and use of the online world comes the need for new literacies to be taught including those of media and digital literacy with skills such as critical literacy, citizenship, cyber safety and copyright all being part of the toolkit students need to be equipped with.

So how does Popular culture affect my future role as a teacher-librarian? Popular culture will affect:

  • The resources I obtain for the library ie. books, ebooks, databases,
  • The way in which I use social networking sites such as Twitter (I need to be modelling their use in the way I see/want to see students using them ie. as a personal learning network),
  • Any implementation I am involved in of social networking, gaming, blogging – in terms of understanding and addressing the problems associated with Henry Jenkins’ Participation Gap (a short definition of this can be found here) and those associated with bringing something from students outside school culture into the school environment.
  • What I teach – incorporating topics such as copyright, cyber-safety and c’ritical literacy into my lessons.
  • The displays I put together for the library and
  • The information I have available for students in brochures on the website, in newsletters.

Knowing the popular culture of your students can help me (and you) to engage with them where they are at, helping to build relationships with them, understand their needs and engage with them in a way they understand.


Okay so I got interupted by 2 beautiful boys 🙂 … so back to what I was saying and to finish off…


Using Social Networking Sites for Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

This has probably been one of the most enlightening and exciting aspects of this unit for me. I have started a Twitter account which has opened up a whole new world of information and professional development opportunities for me and the information comes to me rather than me having to go look for it! I would recommend this if you are not already part of the Twitter community as a way to connect with other professionals and learn something new. Facebook is another fantastic way in which you can connect with professionals and organisations for learning and networking.


Network learner

By lumaxart [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Well I hope you have gained something from my blogging over the last little while, I know I have learned a lot. I know that there are those out there from the US, Qatar and Hong Kong as well as Australia who have been following on my journey of learning, I would love to know:

  • Have you learned something new?
  • Have any of the resources I have linked to provided something new, interesting or something you are able to use in your classroom?
  • Do you have anything you know about that we as teachers or teacher-librarians might be able to use?
  • Is there something you would like to know more about?

Finally, I hope to keep this blog up over time and add to it. I have in the works a post on youth language and the new words floating about! Look out for Amazeballs… coming to this blog soon!


Thank you for joining me on this journey




Interview with a Teacher-Librarian


For my last post of the unit I thought I would interview a teacher-librarian about her role as a teacher-librarian and the impact popular culture has on her role. Chris works in a small Catholic primary school on the east coast of Australia and the following is excerpts of this interesting and informative interview.


I would like to thank Chris for taking time out of her day to share her perspective with me on how popular culture plays a role in her practice as a teacher-librarian.


How long have you been a teacher-librarian?

Since 1975, my role has changed from one of a dual role of teacher of a class and teacher-librarian which I held for a number of years to one of being solely a teacher-librarian.

How has your role in terms of popular culture changed since you began your career?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Shirts at Target Spotted by Agent K the n00b intern at JeepersMedia by  Mike Mozart Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Shirts by Mike Mozart
Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

There has been a huge change in the way the students are exposed to it. In 1975 there was TV and movies, we used a lot of film strips and videos and were able to involve a lot of media in teaching it is just that computers have brought in a whole new dimension into how you can do it and where. Popular culture has always had an influence and books have always been there in terms of what was popular at the time, over the years we have gone through the whole Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters and all those fad things that came in particularly in primary school that children were obsessed with and there were books about it and videos about it and then, as now, children are influenced by it in what they see and do in that space.


How does Popular culture influence your teaching?

It influences it in areas like a unit we did in which the children wrote their own novel and we made them into eBooks. This stemmed from a series of extreme adventure books by Justin D’Ath with the popular culture being the extreme sports. This was the basis of a whole lot of language work and reading development, the kids then wrote their novel and used their IPad to create a trailer for their book. They were very motivated to read the books because they were the extreme adventure theme and really out there and they (the kids) could be a part of creating something high speed like what they see on tv. So it comes into your teaching quite a bit to get kids started.


What do you see in the future in terms of technology?

In the area of technology and stuff available on the internet teacher-librarians are I think the linchpin in schools of developing programs with the teachers in that area because teacher-librarians sort of shift? start comes out of literature and information and information – Where is it now? It is online, so it puts teacher-librarians right in the forefront of working with technology in schools.

The whole information process is not just about locating information, but it is about analysing and organising information about evaluating websites, teaching children to know which is a good website to get my information from, and the presentation of information so it is necessary these days.

I think that the world and Popular culture has driven the need to present information in multimodal ways, not just write a paragraph about this, get a piece of cardboard and stick some pictures on it and do a poster. There are so many different ways now in the web 2.0 world to present your information a multiplicity of ways for children to discover those and use them for the presentation of their information. Because the popular culture has created a demand in kids for this action packed moving on make it different kind of need so for them to just do things in just a plain and traditional way is not motivating for them now.

3D Printer by MadLab Manchester Digital Laboratory Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

3D Printer by MadLab Manchester Digital Laboratory Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

So where do I see it going in the future? – bigger and better and more of all of that basically and getting into more than just even online stuff but designing and inventing things with their hands and the technologies as is coming out of all the strands coming out of the new technology curriculum which is approaching implementation in schools. And again teacher-librarians in that area are vital because the whole process is similar to the information process the problem solving, the designing the plans the construction the troubleshooting, the redesign and then you are starting to get into things like the 3D printing and all sorts of things for the future.


What forms of digital literacy do you see as lacking with students today? Do you have a main focus in the classes you teach in this area?

The big thing at the moment is cyber safety and living in an online world and because we have brought in the IPad in year 5, you now you have the world in your hands, part and parcel of that program is learning to use it appropriately and safely. We have just done a whole unit on online identity, how do you present yourself online, we have looked at case studies of people presenting themselves falsely – is that harmful or harmless? We have talked about all different situations of how that can be. Another unit we did was on digital footprint, to understand that what you put up there could stay for ever in terms of loading photos, what you say, how it can impact not just now but your future life. So I think that is the growth area and the most important teaching point we are taking on at the moment.


You have a Digital literacy blog you have put together is this related to what you have just spoken about?

The purpose of this blog is to give examples of how ICT can be embedded accross the curriculum in different areas, levels and subject types. The Digital literacy blog provides ideas for teachers in the school and for the world. I see the blog/online environment as a way to communicate your ideas and to prepare and present work. This allows children to work at their own pace, allows them to access it outside of school, a bit like the flipped classroom, if they have done certain things at home then back at school we can do the teaching about it. I am finding it the best thing that has ever happened in my teaching career.


Do you see something like Twitter being taken up by the school in the future for personal learning networks.

Not in the short term, I think we will go the blog track. If I was a secondary teacher I would look at that because Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are all brilliant teaching environments if you set them up and use them properly and what better way for kids and adolescents to learn how to live appropriately in those environments than actually using them. All those popular culture spaces like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, people live and use those now, our kid’s parents do that. Our school this year set up a school Facebook site which is I think brilliant, in terms of quick letting people know something, remind them that something is on tomorrow, people come to that spot to know that environment and to find information and so on and so that is really meeting the parent population where they are at because I think that most of the parents would be hooked up to that, so you are not only keeping the kids popular culture but the parents popular culture. As these things have come in, schools have responded to the technology that is there and started to use it to meet their community where the community is at.


Are there certain web based tools that are blocked by the school you see access to would benefit students? What are they? And how do you feel access to these would benefit students?

Access Denied 2008 by  Mike Licht Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

Access Denied 2008 by Mike Licht
Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

I have not found any that I want to use that are blocked, I do know that some schools block YouTube, I would never block YouTube because it is a wonderful resource, our policy is that we work by behaviour management rather than blocking, so with YouTube, we use that a lot the teachers use the resources frequently but we don’t have the children searching YouTube for a video, we would provide links and in fact we often embed them so that when the video finishes you don’t see all that other stuff that comes up.


If you could recommend one resource/app/website or other item which relates to popular culture to another teacher-librarian or teacher what would it be?

Edublogs website screenclipping by Author http://edublogs.org/

Edublogs website screenclipping by Author

It would be Edublogs, Edublogs is what we base our whole blog environment on here, and I think it is the gateway to getting yourself online and living there, by living there as a teacher your planning is on there, your delivery is on there, for a child your portfolio is on there, your means of communication when that is appropriate is on there, so it sort of brings everything together.



Exploring Manga

I keep hearing about Manga and how popular it is with kids, however, this is not a format I am familiar with. Join me in discovering what Manga is, why it is so popular, why you should have it in your library and what is popular in Manga with kids today.


Manga by  Jon Delorey Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons Licence - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode

Manga by Jon Delorey
Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons Licence – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode


A short History of Manga

Seen as the origin of what is today known as Manga is sequential art such as the Choju jinbutsu Giga (Caricature of animals and people) by Buddhist monks of the 12th century.


Chouju 1st scroll-03

By English: Toba Sōjō? 日本語: 伝鳥羽僧正作 (日本語: 東京国立博物館所蔵品の写真版スキャン画像) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Todays Manga was additionally influenced by American comic strips which were brought to Japan in the 19th century. The word or name Manga was first coined by artist Hokusai Katsuhika and means whimsical pictures or sketches (Brenner, 2007). The artist known as the Grandfather of Japanese Comics, Tezuka Osamu began his work in the 1950s. He pioneered the idea of the extended storyline and is the first to have adapted his work into a TV show with Astro Boy in 1963 (Brenner, 2007). It was in the 1950s that Manga aimed at the adult market began to be published, in these, men were set as the hero instead of boys and adult stories were told. Female manga creators came to the fore in the 1960-70s with more stories being written for girls and women. Manga first began to appear in the US in the 1970s and by the 1990s had a substantial fan base. It was in the 1990s that the publisher Tokyopop began publishing equal amounts of stories aimed at boys and girls (Brenner, 2007).

Manga! by Todd Lappin retrieved from Flicker. Creative Commons Licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode

Manga! by Todd Lappin retrieved from Flicker. Creative Commons Licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode


In finding information for this post, I found out that during my school years I watched two cartoons on TV that were Manga! I never know I had encountered Manga before. You may also know these cartoons – Kimba the White Lion (created in 1954 and known outside of the US as Jungle Emperer) and Astro Boy (created in 1952) these were both created by Tezuka Osamu.

Astroboy - picture  FxCam_1311733801481 by  Jonathan Chen Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode

Astroboy – picture
FxCam_1311733801481 by Jonathan Chen
Retrieved from Flickr. Creative Commons License – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode

 Why is Manga so popular and why is it important to have in your Library

Manga is a style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels that are written across a number of genres appealing to both boys and girls as well as men and women. Manga written for the younger male audience are known as shonen while those written for young females is shoujo. Topics include: action-adventure, romance, sports and games, historical drama, humor, science fiction and fantasy, mystery, suspense, detective and horror among others.

Manga appeals to readers of all levels and holding a Manga collection in your library can draw reluctant readers into the library (Brenner, 2007). In talking with a teacher-librarian friend I mentioned Manga and she stated as Brenner had pointed out that having them in the library had drawn in the reluctant readers which led to them then moving on to other books. Ujiie and Krashen, 1996 (as cited in Krashen, 2005) state that “In our study, we found that middle school boys who read comic books read more in general than boys who did not read comics, read more books, and enjoyed reading more.”

Pinning down why Manga is popular has been difficult. I think it lies in the range of genres it covers and the ease with which it can be read by readers of all ability.

Brenner’s book Understanding Manga and Anime (2007) which I have used as a basis for this post is a fantastic guide to all things Manga. Manga is written in Japan for the Japanese market and based around Japanese culture, this book explains some of the terms, actions and emotions which western readers may not understand. It is a guide to the history and format of Manga and Anime books and gives information on how to determine intended audiences and information on maintaining collections. The intended audience for the book is readers new to the format, parents and librarians.

What is popular in Manga today?

Here are a few website links to popular titles in Manga today, alternatively – ask your students or local Manga bookseller what they/teens are reading at the moment.

Manga Top 100 Most Popular – Anime News Network

Manga Comics: Where to Start – The Guardian

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Best and Worst Manga Picks – Manga Comics Manga



Brenner, R. (2007). Under standing Manga and Anime. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.

Krashen, S. (2005). The” decline” of reading in America, poverty and access to books, and the use of comics in encouraging reading. The Teachers College Record.

Understanding what digital literacy is

Something that has been on my mind the past few weeks as the title of this post suggests, is Digital Literacy. Until recently I did not understand the full meaning and scope of digital literacy, thinking it refered only to the ability to read text (words) online. It has been through this course I have developed a greater understanding and appreciation of the scope and complexities of digital literacy. An article which caught my interest earlier in this unit and which has really stuck with me was – How popular culture texts inform and shape students’ discussions of social studies texts, Hall, L (2011) from the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. The article discusses how students use films and other forms of popular culture to inform and shape their perceptions of the world, creating fact out of fiction and the need for critical literacy in the classroom. Since reading this article I have found my son doing this very same thing! With young people spending increasing amounts of time using the internet be it for social networking, gaming, blogging or conducting research for assignments, students are expected to be able to navigate, understand and critically analyse the websites and information they are finding and to do it in a safe, responsible and ethical manner. While Hall’s article relates to movies it highlights the trusting nature of young people and their generally unquestioning acceptance of information which is presented to them whether it be in the form of a movie or other types of texts.

So what is digital literacy?

The American Library Association Digital Literacy Taskforce (2011) defines digital literacy as “Digital Literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” This definition is further informed upon by Renee Hobbs in a YouTube video Defining Digital Literacy and looks at the history of Literacy and takes the ALA Digital Literacy Taskforce’s 2011 definition of digital literacy and breaks it down arguing that there is a 4 part definition of digital literacy – use and share, create and collaborate, analyze and evaluate and apply ethical judgement.

Hobbs (2012) further breaks down these parts of digital literacy to include, ability to use the technology, access to broadband, understanding hyperlinking, reading comprehension, critical literacy, safety on the internet, ability to use social media, cloud computing and peripheral computing tools; along with working collaboratively, generating ideas, identifying audience, remixing, commenting and giving feedback, identifying economic and political influences, bias and comparing and contrasting sources. And finally, the understanding of risks and potential harms, the concept of private and public information in relation to the digital environment, and to appreciate and respect legal and intellectual rights of the individual for example copyright.

Created in Wordle at http://www.wordle.net

Created in Wordle at http://www.wordle.net

Kervin, Jones and Mantei’s (2012) Online Advertising: examining the content and messages within websites targeted at children discusses how the online environment is more complex than a linear text, that the ability to read on the internet includes skills such as inferential reading, the ability to use and engage with a number of multimedia formats and an understanding of the purpose of the site are all essential to engaging with the online environment successfully.

Another aspect of digital literacy is that of social media and the idea of online safety. Dowdall discusses this in the chapter Masters and Critics: Children as Producers of Online Texts (in Carrington & Robinson, 2012). She cautions that educators should not stifle children’s creativity online through surrounding them with a discourse of concern. Instead social network sites can become the platform with which to discuss the types of texts which can be created in a socail environment, the position children can be put in (in terms of who they are talking too, what is the agenda of that person), and the skills they can use to ensure a positive and sucessful experience online.


Of course, internet safety is VITAL by Engage for Education from https://www.flickr.com/photos/engageforeducation/6263161391/ under the creative commons licence  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode

Of course, internet safety is VITAL by Engage for Education from https://www.flickr.com/photos/engageforeducation/6263161391/ under the creative commons licence (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode


With so many aspects of digital literacy to consider, as I have read about and researched digital literacy I decided that I would put together a resource page which pulls together a number of resources into one place covering a number of different aspects of digital literacy. You can find this page in the menu above or you can click here –

Digital Literacy Resources.

The resources linked to on this page are all free and include links to sites on safety, lesson plans with a focus on journalism and critical literacy, and the use of online tools to create. I hope you find these useful, I know I am looking forward to exploring them more and to adding new ones to the list.


Coiro, J. (2013). Online Reading Comprehension: Opportunities, Challenges, and Next Steps. Presentation, Simposio Internacional, Medellin.

Coiro, J. (2012). Understanding dispositions toward reading on the internet. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 55(7), 645-648.

Dowdall, C. (2009). Masters and critics: Children as producers of online digital texts. In V. Carrington & M. Robinson (eds) Digital Literacies: Social learning and classroom practices. (pp. 43-61) Los Angeles: Sage.

Hall, L. (2011). How popular culture texts inform and shape students’ discussions of social studies texts. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 55(4), 296-305.

Hobbs, R. (2012). Defining Digital Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn6f0hJSMUE

Kervin, L., Jones, S., Mantei, J. (2012). Online advertising: Examining the content and messages within websites targeted at children. E-Learning and Digital Media. 9(1), 69-82.

Wordle.net,. (2013). Wordle – Beautiful Word Clouds. Retrieved 19 October 2014, from http://www.wordle.net/

Who are the youth of today?

My post this week explores who the young people of today are and I attempt to “pin them down” through the creation of a Pinterest board which explores some of the things young people of today are interested in. I found this an interesting and enlightening exercise as I have not been teaching for a couple of years. I drew upon research on the internet – such as the Teen Choice Awards – Winners of “Teen Choice 2014” Announced (Teenchoiceawards.com, 2014), Everything You Need To Know About How Teens Are Spending Money, What They Like, And Where They Shop (Peterson, 2014) and other articles addressing what teens of today are interested in, my interview with a young person (which can be seen in my last post), friends on the internet, a friend who teaches in a secondary college in the NT and a couple of other young people who were kind enough to help me out (this would have been further informed by my students if I was working in a school)


My Pinterest Board Insights into the Youth of Today can be found here.


I found I ended up with a range of pins which I was told fell into four different approximate age groups with some pins crossing all age groups. These groups fell in the following approximate age groups, 8-12, 12-15, 14-17 and 16-18. Pins which represent the interests of the younger age group of 8-12 included Minecraft, I Tube, Pokemon, Ariana, 5SOS, Girlfriend magazine, Star Wars and Justice Crew. Pins which cross all age groups include, Facebook, Snapchat, Dr Who, Call of Duty, McDonalds, Coca Cola and Hungry Jacks. This exercise also made me think about how the things that are popular with youth and indeed all of us are apt to change regularly as new song, singers, tv shows, movies and fashions emerge. An example of this for me can be seen in the pin for Twilight, I was informed that the popularity of this series has faded in favour of others such as Hunger Games and Divergent.

Identifying the things that are important in the lives of students helps teachers and school libraries to better understand, relate to and engage students, creating a deeper learning as can be seen through the research of Carol Kuhlthau in the area of Inquiry Learning. I found a fantastic article – Student Identity and Engagement in Elementary Schools which looks at the importance of seeing students as a whole person. While the article is aimed at teachers and the classroom setting, I believe it can also be useful and is highly relevant to both a secondary school setting and the school library setting.

Some of the things in this article that stood out to me as I read it and thought about how it might relate to a school library and the teacher-librarian include:

  • The exclusion of identity and voice from classroom learning and school experiences can lead to student disengagement and behavioural issues (Student Identity and Engagement in Elementary Schools, 2011, p.2).
  • Dimensions of identity are complex and far-ranging (Student Identity and Engagement in Elementary Schools, 2011, p.2).
  • Knowing student’s strengths, needs and interests enables connections to learning to be made which are relevant and authentic (Student Identity and Engagement in Elementary Schools, 2011, p.2).
  • Learning can be personalized, engaging students through understanding students contexts and interests (Student Identity and Engagement in Elementary Schools, 2011, p.3).

Dunleavy and Milton (2009) in (Student Identity and Engagement in Elementary Schools, 2011, p.3) state that amongst other things students want to engage with knowledge that matters, see how subjects are interconnected, be respected and to learn from and with each other and people in their community. The article goes on to look at how we can “set the stage for engagement” suggesting strategies such as valuing diversity, connecting displays to the curriculum, imagination and the real world, giving students creative ownership of their learning environment when it is a shared space, and finally, learning incorporates prior understanding and background knowledge (Student Identity and Engagement in Elementary Schools, 2011). The following statement is the concluding/overarching idea from this article and is one which really encapsulated the argument that had been presented:

Identity + voice = engagement + learning, created by sacha using Microsoft Publisher

Identity + voice = engagement + learning, created by sacha using Microsoft Publisher

How this might influence the way in which I would run a school library you might ask (me or yourself) In my case it has made me think about how I might include the students in the design and layout of the library to make it a place they feel comfortable and want to be in, able to learn in and more importantly a place in which they have ownership. It also made me think about how I might display artwork and books and how I can then connect these displays (which may focus on one subject) to other subjects in a way that is relevant to the students. Finally, in knowing students interests and contexts I can focus the way in which I resource, market and engage with students and parents (for example, using twitter or facebook to connect with students and parents outside of the school environment).



Peterson, H. (2014). Everything You Need To Know About How Teens Are Spending Money, What They Like, And Where They Shop. Business Insider Australia. Retrieved 2 October 2014, from http://www.businessinsider.com.au/how-teens-are-spending-money-2014-4

Student Identity and Engagement in Elementary Schools. (2011) (20th ed.). Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/capacityBuilding.html

Teenchoiceawards.com,. (2014). 2014 Teen Choice Awards News. Retrieved 2 October 2014, from http://www.teenchoiceawards.com/tcnews.aspx


Influences of the world – Popular culture in the classroom?

Part of our identity and indeed the Australian identity can be seen to have been influenced by people, culture and popular culture from all over the world. Behan (2006) sees popular culture playing a major role in shaping young peoples’ behaviour and motivation and that it (popular culture) should be encouraged and embraced as a way to engage students and to teach and encourage critical thinking. I know that our upbringing, the things we are exposed to and the influences that those around us bring, all shapes who we are. This got me thinking about my background and how it has influenced me and my language, culture and experiences. My parents immigrated to Australia from the United States in the early 1970s and moved in the early 80s to the multicultural city of Darwin where I grew up. My friends included people from Australian, English, Chinese, Greek, American, Timorese, Portuguese and Czechoslovakian backgrounds.

My Heritage - Photo by Author

My Heritage – Photo by Author

My memories of school include those of the conflict in language nuances such as the pronunciation of the letters  H and Z. I recall a teacher I had making me spell Puzzle a number of times until I realised what I was doing wrong – it wasn’t Z(ee) he wanted to hear but Z(ed). In contrast at home I was to use Z(ee) and pronounce words such as potato and tomato and cordial in the American way. Celebrations such as Halloween are something my parents introduced us to at school although we did not trick-or-treat as this was not common in Darwin at the time.

Halloween Animated GIF, retrieved at: http://giphy.com/gifs/ftxG9wXu6RpbW


At Christmas we always had a live tree and Christmas dinner consisted of ham leg, creamed corn, sweet potato, sour cream mashed potatos and beans with bacon. While we did not have a TV in our house until I was in grade 10, I was an avid reader and loved music both that was played by my parents (on record) which was all American and that of my peers and what was played on the radio. My Dad always read to us at bedtime covering a wide range of genres. I have lived as an adult in Australia and have also spent short times living in the US. All of this has come together to shape my identity as an individual and as an Australian.

I found the following video quite interesting in terms of the way it looks at how stories we read help to shape our culture and our ideas of how the world should work. While the books and ideas presented in this video are familiar to me and perhaps you as you watch it, they will be very foreign to many others.


Reflections on my journey to who I am today and the influences that shaped me led me to a couple of lessons on popular culture. The first was a year 9 NSW History lesson on American and British cultural influence on Australia in the 1960s. I found this on the Skwirk website and while it looks specifically at the 1960s it was interesting to see the influences of the British and American cultures on Australia. These influences are seen in the entertainment, food, fasion, sporting culture and social values and attitudes which to begin with were dictated by British culture due to Australia’s colonisation by the British. From the second world war onwards a drift towards American culture became apparent. This altered the way in which Australians “spent money, entertained ourselves, dressed and socialized” (Para. 4). It concludes that while British and American influences have played a major role in shaping Australian identity that other influences including the unique landscape and the arrival of migrants bringing new stories, traditions and perspectives have all had an impact on making us who we are today. Finally, the development of global culture is seen as a challenge to Australia’s unique national identity (para. 27/28).

Another text I found was that of the Pearson History 10 Student Book (Howitt B., 2012) in which a chapter is dedicated to Popular Culture looking at influences such as the increasing availability of the car, air travel, sports, the radio and television, movies, Rock-n-Roll and gangs. It examines popular culture through the generations to the current generation and how technological advances have played a role in its uptake and dissemination. (Chap 4.) While the first lesson has a focus on the 1960s and prior, the second looks beyond the 1960s and does not really take into account the role immigration has played in shaping our country and identity. It seems to me in reflecting on my childhood that the culture my parents brought with them from America played a significant role in the music, books and celebrations I was exposed to, listened to and embraced.

In Australia, over 163,000 people from around the world becoming Australian citizens in 2013/2014 (Australian Government, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, n.d.) and there were over 17,000 enrolments of international students (over 8000 of these commencing) in the YTD 2014 period (Australian Government Department of Education, 2014). While the background I come from did not greatly affect how I interacted and learned at school, the cultural background of students who are new to Australia and the popular culture they have been exposed to may vary greatly to that of students who have grown up or are 2nd (or greater generation) Australians. In terms of the idea of using popular culture in the classroom, I think that students’ background in terms of culture and popular culture along with other factors not discussed here present a challenge in integrating popular culture into the school curriculum in particular where there are students from international backgrounds.

It is at this point I find myself left with the following questions:

  1. How do we connect with these students who are new to our country, who have grown up heavily influenced by other cultures and the popular culture which is related to that culture?
  2. How do we integrate popular culture into the classroom effectively if we have students who may be new to the country, culture, popular culture and language without the lesson being lost in translation?


Australian Government, Department of Immigration and Border Protection. (n.d.). Australian Citizenship – Facts and statistics. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from http://www.citizenship.gov.au/learn/facts-and-stats/

Behen, L. D. (2006), Using Pop Culture to Teach Information Literacy – Methods to Engage a New Generation. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Howitt, B. (2012). Popular Culture. Pearson History 10 Student Book (pp. 160-201). Port Melbourne, Vic.: Pearson Australia.

Internet Live Stats. (n.d). Internet Users Retrieved at: http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/

Australian Government Department of Education. (2014). Monthly Summary of International Student Enrolment Data – Australia – YTD July 2014 Retrieved at: https://aei.gov.au/research/International-Student-Data/Documents/Monthly%20summaries%20of%20international%20student%20enrolment%20data%202014/07_July_2014_MonthlySummary.pdf

Wise, J. (2012). How fiction can change reality retrieved from YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctaPAm14L10

Popular culture, reading and the upcoming Year 7’s

Interview with an 11 year old girl, research on reading and the

implications for the school library

With 2015 seeing the addition of Year 7 to Queensland Secondary schools, the school library needs to be prepared for this new cohort joining the school ranks. It is with this in mind that I spoke with Amy (not her real name) an 11 year old girl from a middle class home, who attends a Catholic Primary school and who will be one of those going into year 7 next year.

I started my conversation with Amy by asking her what kinds of books she liked to read, her response was – “Dramatic, Fiction – books with a twist” an example of a twist was given as the book having something real in it eg. a tiger *but* the tiger can talk! Amy also said she likes reading classics. When I asked Amy why she likes to read these types of books she stated that “They catch my attention, I can’t put it down”

Examples Amy gave of books she likes to read are: The Tigers Egg by Jon Berkeley, Bridge to Tarabithia, Geronimo Stilton and The Book Thief.


When I asked Amy about what movies and TV shows she liked to watch they included the following:

Movies and TV

Movies and TV

I then asked her why she liked these, she found this question difficult to answer for the movies but said that the TV shows were funny and made her laugh. The show prank patrol made her think of things she might prank her brother with.

When it came to music Amy said she liked POP music, bands and singers such as:

GRL, 5 Seconds of Summer, Katie Perry, Megen Trainer, Victoria Justice, Ariana Grande

Amy says she likes the music because it is cool and listening to/watching music is something she does with her friends.

**Amy’s mother was present when I was speaking to her and let me know that some of the singers Amy listons to such as Victoria Justice and Ariana Grande are also characters in TV shows that Amy watches, eg. Ariana Grande plays the character Cat Valentine in Sam & Cat. Amy’s mother also said that Amy often came home from school with a new singer/band to check out or that she had heard about through friends and liked.

It seems as though the choices Amy makes are based on pleasure as well as her friends influence. I was quite surprised at some of the choices of fiction she had made, in particular at the books which dealt with sickness and death. I must admit though that at the moment not teaching I am quite out of touch with the books, music and movies preteens and teens are choosing to read today.

When it comes to the computer and the internet, Amy generally uses it to access things such as music, craft ideas, information for assignments, to use I Movie (mainly for assignments). I was interested to learn that she does not play games on the computer/internet however has played one or two games on her mothers phone or on the Ipod. This goes against what I was expecting in terms of game playing.

Studies show that girls are more likely to enjoy reading, read animal related stories, realistic teenage fiction, romance/relationship and poetry. While boys read more science-fiction, crime/detective stories,sports-related fiction and war/spy-related stories (Clark, C., Torsi, S., Strong, J., 2005, p.37). Amy seems to fit into these findings in terms of what she is reading. Clark et al. (2005) goes on to state that studies have shown that reading for pleasure peaks between the ages 9-11 with the highest decline in fiction reading and reading pleasure being between 12-15 year olds (p.37)

So what does this mean for the school library as the Year 7 cohort join secondary schools across queensland in 2015. Clark, et al. (2005) believe that “the richness and diversity of young people’s reading… emphasises the importance of choice in reading materials to engage pupils” (p.37). The report goes on to discuss the importance in the variety of reading materials offered ie. books, magazines and the internet. (Clark, C. et al., 2005) While my interview with Amy gives a snapshot of one student  from a particular background, I feel that it is an example of how our expectations of what young people are reading, listening to and doing on the internet can be very wrong. In the school I am currently doing my placement in the teacher-librarian and aides sometimes put recipe books out on display and these are snapped up by students to read and use at home. They talk to the students to find out what is popular and sometimes have students assist in chosing the books which are purchased for the library. It is in this way they keep a collection which is relevant to the students and meets their needs. Knowing the students, knowing what they read and do at home (for example, that Amy looks up craft ideas) helps to inform us as teachers and as librarians and to engage students in reading for pleasure and to combat the decline seen in reading seen between the ages of 12 and 15.


Clark, C., Torsi, S., Strong, J., 2005, Young People and Reading – A school study conducted by the National Literacy Trust for the Reading Champions initiative. London UK. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED541596.pdf

Gaming in the Classroom

Header Courtesy of FreeWebHeaders - http://www.freewebheaders.com


Welcome to my journey of exploration into the world of Youth, Popular Culture and Texts. This is a topic which I have never really considered in relation to Education and student learning in the classroom. It sometimes seems to me that as a teacher we are expected to be like a DJ, to take information (a song/s) and to mix it up/add to it to make it meaningful and engaging. For me to date this has involved using multimedia in the form of images, videos and the internet. The information I am reading in the unit Youth, Popular Culture and Texts suggests that there are many other mediums which can be used to engage students and facilitate learning. These include:

  • finding parallels between popular texts and movies and the subject students are studying,
  • incorporating popular games and
  • using social media within the classroom and learning framework.

I am interested in how these forms of popular culture can be effectively incorporated into units of work to enhance student learning. This week an article which caught my attention was Computer games, schools, and young people – A report for educators on using games for learning by Ben Williamson, Futurelab (2009). This report gives an assessment of game-based learning in UK schools and has a focus on the use of games which have an entertainment focus rather than educational focus. (p.2)

The overarching ideas regarding games that are explored in the report are that games are persuasive, this is through the way in which they are designed. Persuasiveness in games can be the image which is portrayed of the player, the persuasion of players to buy products, and games which are designed to persuade players with regards to social issues. (p.12) The second idea presented is that of games as supportive of the construction of knowledge, it is through playing the game that young people are active in the constructionof knowledge.(p.13) The third idea is that games are authentic practices, this is where playing computer games is regarded as authentic in teaching skills required for living and working in he 21st century.(p.14) The final idea which is considered is games can promote media literacy through the reading (understanding of why the media is produced and the message it carries) and production of media.(p14) Problems identified before and through the study included costs involved in resourcing game-based learning (consoles, games, licensing), e-safety, the need for parental engagement and the concern over commercial interests of businesses who develop the games. (Williams, 2009)

This study surveyed 1634 teachers in the UK who came from both primary and secondary settings. The findings of the study suggested that games can be used as a teaching tool which can navigate across curricula through planned activities. An example of this was given in the game Endless Ocean, a Ninendo Wii game which was used in a Primary school setting across the subject areas of English and Literacy, Science, Biology, Physics, Art and Design with all activities mapped back to objectives from the curriculum.(p.32) Games can increase students’ confidence and provide opportunities for collaboration and communication with their peers. One of the primary findings of this study was the relationships which were formed/enhanced through the use of game-based learning. This included student/student relationships but perhaps more importantly was the student/teacher relationship in which the role of power in terms of expertise can be reversed and the student becomes the teacher. The use of games allows students to use their expertise to teach others, to win and lose in a safe environment and to develop skills including web research and problem solving. Media literacy can also be explored through game-based learning through the creation of games with students having a need to be able to interpret the role of media, explore its messages, origins and audiences while also being aware of the issues of risk and safety in using an online environment. (p.36-37)

The study recognises games as being an influencial form of culture assocated with social practices in the lives of young people today. It is with this in mind that Williams states that “Seeing games as relevant in the curriculum as well as relevant to young peoples’ lives demonstrates that their experiences, interests and ideas are worthy of consideration in the curriculum”(p.31)


I found this article useful in outlining the problems and benefits of incorporating game-based learning into the curriculum. Game-based learning seems to be a complex issue which needs to be carefully considered and planned prior to its implementation within the classroom. However it is a strategy which seems well worth considering. It is clear that the role of games in supporting the curriculum is beneficial in the development of skills and confidence, student peer relationships, collaboration and communication.

The report outlined a list of games which teachers had employed in different curriculum areas including cross curricula use. It has made me think about how I might incorporate games into my teaching, what links can I make to the curriculum using this resource and how can I foster relationships, communication and collaboration between students as well as myself.

What game might you incorporate into your next unit of work and how would you do it?

Image found at https://openclipart.org


Williamson, Ben (2009). Computer games, schools and young people: A report for educators on using games for learning. Futurelab, UK. http://archive.futurelab.org.uk/resources/documents/project_reports/becta/Games_and_Learning_educators_report.pdf