Week 13 – Striking the Balance

Boys sitting on see-saw reading books

Image sourced from http://www.illustrationsource.com/stock/image/127583/boys-sitting-on-see-saw-reading-books/?&results_per_page=1&detail=TRUE&page=51

There can be many advantages to using Popular Culture in classrooms. From a personal perspective, I believe that using using pop culture in the classroom creates engagement for students. When students are engaged, I believe that they are more inclined to learn. Isn’t that what we want for our students? An engaging, interesting place to come and figure out the world we live in? Shouldn’t our school libraries be at the forefront of encouraging students to learn? So it seems I have many questions, but most definitely not all the answers.

In today’s school libraries, it is quickly becoming all about balance. Libraries are introducing e-books to their collections and including computer games in their lunch time activities. While these experiences and activities can enhance learning for students, the little voice in the back of my head says we need balance. Getting the balance right is a tricky thing. But I firmly believe that there is a way to integrate pop culture aspects into the curriculum. From little things like keeping a regular library column in the school newsletter and on the school web site, to bigger programs like the Snapshots Project by the New York Public Library, there are many ideas out there that could be used in the library setting.

I want to be in this profession to help people. I want to help the staff better engage their students, but ultimately I want students to love reading as much as I do. I want them to be the kid with the torch, under the covers after lights out because they just can’t put a book down. If it happens to be Harry Potter or whatever else is popular at the time – who cares. If I can get a child to read 1 more book by helpfully suggesting they might also like Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’, that makes me happy. If it takes just that little piece of pop culture to encourage more students into my library – even happier.

Image sourced from http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20091207130425/roalddahl/images/5/56/Roald_Dahls_Matilda.jpg

There will be many new advances in technology, and many, many changes to what is deemed ‘popular’ among young people in the future. I’m not advocating that we integrate ALL of it into our classrooms and libraries, merely take little chunks of it and maybe the students can teach us a little something too. Do a little research among your students, find out what they like, if it’s new technology, get them to teach it to you (they will probably be much more of an expert anyway)! Find a way to engage the more reluctant readers, and hopefully get them coming back for more!


Week 12 – Minecraft, Minecraft, Minecraft!

Image sourced from: http://cdn.101gamernews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Minecraft-Logo.png

My interviewees from this post are perhaps slightly obsessed with Minecraft. And I have to confess to having no idea what all the fuss is about. So this blog post is for those trying to figure out what it is and the possible educational applications it could have.

So what is it? ‘Minecraft is a game about breaking and placing blocks. At first, people built structures to protect against nocturnal monsters, but as the game grew players worked together to create wonderful, imaginative things’ (Mojang, 2013). To get a better understanding of what it was all about I did a quick google search to get a parent’s perspective. This parent’s guide was extremely helpful at telling me exactly what my boys have been talking about. I was concerned when they started playing that all I heard about was the ‘zombies and endermen’ but in listening to their conversations a bit more carefully, I have picked up on a few other interesting things.

The questions. Oh the questions. Just about everything they ask me about has a vague reference to Minecraft. ‘Mum, is there such a thing as iron ore. Cause there is in Minecraft! Mum, is cobblestone real. You know I can make cobblestone in Minecraft’. At one point we were a bit over hearing the word and it was consequently banned from use in the car. Now, having thought about what the game is, and having done a little bit of research on how it works, I am starting to see that there could be enormous educational benefits in playing the game. A Daddy blogger even posted about it over here at Big Family, Little Income. From learning about life cycles (as in the blog post just mentioned) to the forging of weapons, foraging for food, discovering and mining of minerals, there are many aspects that could be used in an educational setting.

A quick google search found that there are a number sites/blogs dedicated to using Minecraft in education. Here are the top 3 that I thought might help in trying to work out if it’s something you might consider in your own classroom.

1. This post about pros and cons over at edudemic was quite interesting, as were the comments  from teachers who had used it in the classroom.

2.There is also an educational version for Minecraft that can be downloaded by schools (found here).

3.This blog is by a teacher in New York who is one of the creators of MinecraftEdu.

Another helpful review of the game can be found at Good Game SP Minecraft Review. Good Game SP is a gaming show aimed at young people and they have a fairly comprehensive collection of reviews. It’s a show that both the boys and I can sit down and enjoy together. The Good Game SP show could easily be integrated into a unit for English/Drama. Students could use the reviews as a template/starting point for recording their own reviews.

Hopefully, this little blog post has given you a basic understanding of the world of Minecraft. The few sites I have listed only scratch the surface of what is available online for those who want to integrate Minecraft into their classrooms.


Big Family, Little Income Blog http://www.bigfamilylittleincome.com/

Edudemic link http://www.edudemic.com/minecraft-in-education-pros-and-cons/

Good Games SP Web Site  http://www.abc.net.au/abc3/goodgamesp/

Mojang. (2009-2013). Minecraft. Retrieved 17 October 2013 from https://minecraft.net/

Parents guide to Minecraft blog


The Minecraft Teacher http://minecraftteacher.tumblr.com/

Week 11 – Bored with my Board – My take on Pinterest

Pop Culture Pinterest Board

Having heard a lot about Pinterest from different sources, I was both scared of learning something else new, and a bit excited to see what opportunities Pinterest would bring for me. At first it was a little boring to be honest. Then I looked up Lego Star Wars – my boys would love all the pictures and ideas that I found! Which is exactly the reason I won’t be showing them! Mostly because then they would ask me to make EVERYTHING they saw!

My board focussed mainly on the interests of the young people I interviewed for this post and observing my own young boys. The focus age range is  5-12 year olds and you will see it is mostly boy stuff! The more I thought about what my boys like to do, the more pins I added to the board. There is a LOT of Lego pins – but that’s what my boys really like to play with. And I like them playing with it. It’s a wonderful open ended experience in that the boys don’t have to follow instructions, they can and do build whatever they want. Lego can be easily and cheaply added to. The one aspect of Lego I don’t like is standing on it, and picking it up. Ok that’s two, but it’s the boys job to pick it up.

When thinking about how young people would use Pinterest, I came to the conclusion that it’s a very individual way of representing your ideas. It really isn’t possible to capture the ideas of ALL young people in just 30 pins. Young people are diverse in their interests, and so what is popular with some, is not with others. As young people grow and mature, so does their interests in pop culture. My board shows a very gender biased view of only a few interview participants. 

In teaching terms, I can see the value of being able to ‘pin’ all your ideas in one place online. There are so many resources available on the internet that Pinterest would be a valuable tool to keep all those references together. In using it in the library setting, you could set up a library account and have different boards for different experiences that happen in the library. A book week costume ideas board, visiting authors board, past, present and future experiences in the library space. You could have boards on library design and if you are able to think about redesigning your space, have the students pin things to these boards during lunch times. You could also encourage other staff at the school to contribute to the board.

Pinterest has many applications in the realm of popular culture in the library. I hope to be able to use in my own one day!

Week 10 – Interview with a young person or 5!

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing the young people in my family, Miss 11, Miss 9, Mr 7, Mr 5 and Mr 4. Mr 2 was unavailable, as he is a bit young and is mostly only interested in Bob the Builder. The 5 young people include my own children and some of my nieces and nephews. I chose these particular young people as they were easily accessible and I could conveniently gain parental consent (well, mine was a no brainer)! It was an interesting exercise and revealed fairly big differences in gender preferences amongst the children.

Image sourced from https://popculturethoughts.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/b7fae-ej12logocharacter4.jpg

Miss 11 and Miss 9 both own a Kobo and like to read mostly EJ12 books on these devices. Miss 11 has also begun to download books by another author called Sandra Byrd. While both girls like using their Kobo’s, Miss 9 prefers real books and cited her reasoning as that she likes to read the Rainbow Fairy books and they aren’t on her Kobo. 

Ruby the Red Fairy

Both of the girls choices would be somewhat influenced by what each other is reading as they would recommend books to each other. They may also be influenced by a certain Aunty who likes to buy books as presents. I also believe that their choices are guided by parental influences. The inclusion of the Sandra Byrd books by Miss 11 could possibly be such an instance where her parents have researched appropriate books for Tweens and found this series to fit within their family morals.

The two girls spend some of their spare time on the home computer. Miss 11 generally watches Youtube clips of Gymnastics and uses the computer for assignments. She doesn’t play a lot of online games. Miss 9 likes to play Club Penguin. The parents page of the site offers this definition – ‘Club Penguin is an ever-changing world where the possibilities to create, socialize, and play are literally endless’ (Disney, 2012). Miss 9 likes to organise a time to meet her friends after school on the Club Penguin site so that they can play games together and ‘chat’. Mr 4 also likes to play Club Penguin to ‘earn stamps’. Mr 7 and Mr 5 occasionally play Club Penguin, but are more interested in watching Minecraft videos on Youtube.

Onto the boys! The boys are all a bit younger than the girls so don’t really ‘read’ a lot of books on their own yet, however they have clear preferences in what they like being read to them. Mr 7 and Mr 5 both enjoy any of the Lego books, including the Ninjago series, of which the books are mostly based on the TV series owned by these 2 boys. All of the boys like to play with real Lego, watch Lego movies/TV series, and play Lego games on the Wii, PS3 and Nintendo DS. I am sensing a trend here. The Lego fascination may be partly the fault of the mother/Aunty who keeps buying them more. More recently, Mr 7 and Mr 5 have been asking for the latest series of Lego – Chima. I am slightly sceptical that this might be more to do with marketing and availability than the boys being that interested  but this is where their current interests are.

The other huge trend is Minecraft. I have to admit to not knowing much about it but the boys seem to love it. I will endeavour to get time in the next 2 weeks to sit and watch them play to get a better understanding of what it’s all about – and then blog about it!

There is definitely a trend with the older girls to use their Kobos and read books of a more feminine genre. The boys, being that bit younger, like to interact with all things Lego and Minecraft. There are a few Lego chapter books that I have bought and am trying to encourage them to read but it might be worth finding some other genres for the boys to start reading. Anyone else have Lego obsessed boys? Or fairy obsessed girls? I would love to hear your opinions!


Chima image sourced from http://www.lego.com/en-us/chima/products/models/70007-eglors-twin-bike

Disney, (2012). Parents, Club Penguin. Retrieved 29 September, 2013 from http://www.clubpenguin.com/parents?country=AU

EJ12 Image sourced from https://popculturethoughts.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/b7fae-ej12logocharacter4.jpg

Lego website http://www.lego.com/en-us/

Ninjago image sourced from http://ninjago.lego.com/en-us/products/models/kais-fire-mech-70500.aspx

Rainbow Fairy Image sourced from http://www.rainbowmagiconline.com/books/books_rainbow.html

Week 9 – Pop Culture Across Universities

This week I want to show you a great YouTube clip I found that uses pop culture in a University setting. Watch the clip!


(Feeling very clever for working out how to put a YouTube clip on a blog post)!

The students at the Furtwangen University in Germany decided to use a popular song from the 90’s and create a video of them lip syncing using both students and faculty members across the University. From this, a whole concept was formed. Entitled ‘University Lipdub’, the students have created a website with tips and guidelines, inviting other universities to participate in the project. There is even an entry from Australia. #60 is from the La Trobe University in Melbourne and while I personally think it’s not as good as the original, it did what they set out to do and provided a great snap shot of the history of that University.

Projects such as this are an interesting and engaging way to incorporate popular culture into University curriculum. A project of this kind could be the basis of assessment piece for students in media studies, drama or communications. Alternatively, it could just be a group of Uni students from various faculties who want to join in, such as group #57 from the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Poland.

This kind of project could also be used as part of a marketing strategy. What better way to show off the University facilities than with a ‘guided tour’, directed by students?

Perhaps an unintentional benefit of taking part in the project was the camaraderie experienced by the participants. In the blurb from group #55, the Engineering School in Marseille, France expressed that although their group was small, in the 2 hours it took to record their clip, the group felt close and enjoyed the time spent together.

This is just one clip from  the masses available on the internet and I would love to see some other examples of using pop culture in an educational context. I would be particularly interested in seeing how gaming can be incorporated into the classroom. I have 2 sons who like to play Minecraft and I would like to see how this game could be used to enhance classroom learning.

Most of all, using pop culture should be fun, and it looked like all the participants in the University Lipdub videos were doing just that. And isn’t that the most important thing in trying to incorporate pop culture into any educational setting?

For more information on the University Lipdub project, visit the website.


Week 8 – Integrating popular technology into the classroom

After reading the article ‘Creativity in my pocket: No ‘I’ puns here’ (Derby, 2011), I am left pondering the early introduction of technology in my own schooling life. I can clearly remember the first piece of ‘educational technology’ being introduced to our school. I still remember what it looked like, but after a half hour internet search and facebook friend ‘help me’ status, I still can’t remember what they were called! I do however, remember them being coveted by every class in the school. They were simple compared to what our children have access to today, just a typing simulator with word games but oh how we all wanted to have a turn. How times have changed.

3ds max retro keyboard key - Retro Keyboard... by Boarini Pictures

Edit: After much searching and helpful friends I ‘think’ it was something like this. But i’m sure it was read and blue! Image sourced from http://www.turbosquid.com/3d-models/3ds-max-retro-keyboard-key/600801 I think it was called a ‘TypeWrite’ but can’t find any evidence on the internet!

The most interesting comment I picked from the Derby reading (2011, p100) is that ‘good teaching and learning arises when students are engaged in what they are doing’. How true. I might not remember much from those primary school years, but I do remember those little keyboard things. Those little educational word games were just the ticket for some of the more reluctant learners and we were all eager to beat each other’s top score and advance as quick as we could through the levels.

The same applies to our young people today. Derby (2011) presented a wonderful example of integrating technology – and doing it well. The use of IPads enhances the subject matter, and made it much more exciting for those students to complete an assessment item, making them so much more engaged in their education. Although Derby (2011) highlighted the usefulness of technology in the area of English, I would love to see more examples of technology being used across different curriculum subjects.


Derby, B. (2011). Creativity in my pocket: No ‘I’ puns here. English in Australia 46(3).



Just wanting to touch base and write the first post. I am in Week 7 in the 2nd Semster of my Masters in Teacher-Librarianship degree and finalising some assessment pieces this week. For a unit called Youth, Pop Culture and Texts we area required to creat a blog – here it is!

This week I am working on Assignment 1 for the unit and will post my thesis statement a bit later when it has refined a bit better.


Hope to see you all ‘visiting’ again soon!