In an era where the use of technology is becoming ubiquitous in education and where game based learning is actively promoted as a way of deploying technology for pedagogical purposes, De Castell (2015) strikes a very apropos cautionary note about the inherent challenges in some forms of game-based learning. De Castell (2015) states that among the most powerful DIY projects today is the manufacture of game-based worlds but that the impacts of these worlds are often overlooked by gamers who through their customized “avatars” play in these worlds (De Castell, 2015, p. 213). Through the course of the chapter, De Castell points to some of the challenges including but not limited to lack of civic engagement, representation of identity in prescribed form and a lack of legal and ethical restraints that reduce harm. De Castell (2015) calls for accountable design in the creation of these gaming worlds and cautions against building a false real/virtual world argument against letting these challenges be ignored (De Castell, 2015, pp. 219-220).
De Castell’s warning found resonance with me in terms of looking at identity formation, and the socialization of students as responsible active citizens that we seek to achieve as educators. Firstly, in terms of identity I believe that it is important for students to have a choice and be comfortable in how they seek to represent themselves. Being exposed to environments in which the choices of self-representation are restricted for commercial purposes has the risk of negative transfer wherein students may come to accept that that only prescribed forms of representation are acceptable and that anything else outside of these “norms” would be inappropriate or even taboo. This would create barriers, leads to repression and encourages stereotypes in student identity formation and behaviour. Secondly, the goal of education is to develop well-rounded, socially responsible, critical thinking citizens. Facilitating exposure to environments in which there are no rules of civil or ethical behaviour would, in a sense, give tacit permission to students that such behaviour is acceptable. To resort to the argument that they are able to distinguish between real and virtual worlds is somewhat tenuous what should be actively encouraged as De Castell states are that the worlds that students inhabit are created in a way that foster the rules of civilized society and active civic engagement. Kudos to De Castell for pointing out the dangers and challenges that lie in some forms of game-based learning, and alerting educators to the same.
De Castelle, S. (2015). Mirror Images: Avatar Aestheticsand Self-Representation in Digital Games. In Matt Ratto & Megan Boler (Eds.), DIY Citizenship (pp. 213-222). Cambridge: MIT.
Guertin’s (2012) chapter “From Karaoke Culture to Vernacular Video” in her book Digital Prohibition: Piracy and Authorship in New Media Art is an excellent enunciation of the advent and power of remix culture as a manifestation of pop culture in the contemporary world. Guertin (2012) focuses her article on examining a form of remix culture that she refers to as reflexive remix which is the creation of a unique and original work from pre-existing parts (Guertin, 2012, p. 120). The authors depth of knowledge and currency with the topic is amply evident as she uses a series of examples to demonstrate the benefits and challenges of remix as an artistic form of expression and the authenticity of the form itself.
As an educator, one of the aspects of the chapter that I found most intriguing, was when Guertin quoted Michel Focault, in his famous essay “What is an Author” wherein Focault makes the assertion that that the author is never the origin or location of meaning and that meaning is fluid and changeable, always situational over time. Focault further asserts that all works are quotations from other works and that all discourses are objects of appropriation (Guertin, 2012, p. 121). While this lends credence to remix as an art form there is tension between this position and academic ideals of producing “original” work that we emphasize with our students. Being presented with an essay by a student that was justified as being a ‘remix” of the works of different authors would earn the student a charge of plagiarism. Quoting the works of others used would remove the charge of plagiarism but would be considered a work of “chaining” with no original thought and consequently a poor grade in assessment. However, remix as a form does lead to some intriguing possibilities in terms of creating interesting assessment pieces where students may for example be directed to create a rant, poem or song that intentionally asks them to research and remix a variety of different sources to create a new original and where the instructions explicitly direct the student to do so in a creative manner without fear of the charge of plagiarism.
Guertin, C. (2012). “From Karaoke Culture to Vernacular Video,” Digital Prohibition:
Piracy and Authorship in New Media Art. Continuum: New York. Pp. 119-140
Rose’s (2015) article is an informative read on the documentary form and its connection to Do It Yourself (DIY) history especially in the context of citizenship and self representation through film as media. Rose traces the evolution of the documentary form from the time that it was a controlled by professionals who shaped and controlled the narrative that was presented, to more contemporary versions where the subjects of the documentary have more control of the narrative. Rose’s focus in the article however is on significant collaborative, interactive documentary practices that are emerging in the context of digital culture (Rose, 2015, p. 202). Rose (2015) also makes the assertion that the concept of DIY is problematic for documentary and that a co-creative, Do-It-With-Others (DIWO) approach to documentary provides a progressive reworking of documentary’s historic role in the public sphere as a n open space for the performance of citizenship (Rose, 2015, p. 203).
Rose’s ideas are perhaps best illustrated when considering YouTube as the platform that exemplifies how digital technologies and affordances can be harnessed in a collaborative DIWO manner that impacts citizenship. While the connection between YouTube and various facets of citizenship such as interaction between individuals and organizations or individuals and governments can be easily demonstrated, as an educator and active citizen it is my opinion that the greatest strength of YouTube in a DIWO context of active citizenship is in considering the impact that it has had on the expression of political ideas that have resulted in social change. This impact is borne out by the fact that in 2008 YouTube was awarded the George Foster Peabody Award for broadcasting and media where the site was described as a “speakers’ corner” that embodies and promotes democracy (Poniewozik, 2009). However, in 2016 when YouTube demonitized user videos that had “controversial or sensitive” subjects it led to a backlash from creators, accusations of censorship and a hashtag campaign on social media called #YouTubeIsOverParty which ironically also demonstrated the DIWO reach of the platform.
Dewey, C. (2016, September). Why YouTubers are accusing the site of rampant ‘censorship’. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/09/01/why-youtubers-are-accusing-the-site-of-rampant-censorship/
Poniewozik, J. (2009). Nonprofit Press Release Theater: Peabody Awards Announced | TIME.com. Retrieved from http://entertainment.time.com/2009/04/01/nonprofit-press-release-theater-peabody-awards-announced/
Rose, M. (2015). Making Publics: Documentary as Do-It-with-Others Citizenship. In Matt Ratto & Megan Boler (Eds.), DIY Citizenship (pp. 201-212). Cambridge: MIT.
Blog Post # 5 - Starting With Style: Toward a Second Wave of Hip-Hop Education Research and Practice
Petchauer (2015), in his article, Starting With Style: Toward a Second Wave of Hip-Hop Education Research and Practice, conducts a sophisticated analysis of hip-hop, as not simply a genre of music but as a way of being, an aesthetic thread and a methodology of making meaning and dealing with the world that some individuals effectively choose to deploy.
Petchauer (2015), in the first half of his article, seeks to unpack some of the main forms across hip-hop drawing from various theoretical paradigms seeking to show how sampling, flow, layering and rupture are key features of the aesthetic form of hip-hop. The second half of his article seeks to relate hip-hop to education and the employment of aesthetic elements to create a pedagogical paradigm that informs teaching and learning. Petchauer (2015) states that in the broadest sense he is endeavouring to drill down into the abstract concepts of hip-hop that manifest in specific visual, sonic, linguistic, and kinesthetic ways, and applying them in equally specific ways to education (Petchauer, 2015, p. 101).
As an educator, what struck me as intriguing about Petchaeur’s framework was that not only was he offering a methodology through which to understand, deconstruct and apply social justice and social activism issues in the classroom, but also the contradiction between the subversive nature of the framework which challenges institutional ideologies and the fact that, as quasi-governmental organizations, schools in Ontario strive to impose an established “approved order” and discipline on students and on teachers. While risk-taking by educators is encouraged as a pedagogical strategy, this “risk taking” is often closely defined in a manner that does not contradict established norms of behaviour or models of teaching. Petchaeur has established connections between various theoretical paradigms that are used in education and the forms of hip-hop but the acceptance of those connections is not broadly widespread in the educational hierarchy. One analogous area in which there seems to be some ground being covered between Petchaeur’s framework and wider acceptance is in the deployment of technology in education, in particular, the strategy of Makerspaces/Hackerspaces, and to some extent, the use of social media in classrooms where individual representation and aesthetic form are deployed as acceptable forms of educational representation.
Finally, and what may perhaps be most attractive to some, about Petchaeur’s framework is the counter-culture narrative and appeal inherent in his framework. For some educators who are struggling to stay within the defined bounds of “acceptance” while being frustrated by its limitations, the furthering and acceptance of Petchaeur’s work offers an opportunity to redefine and change the parameters of what they do in the classroom.
Petchaeur, E. (2015). Starting With Style: Toward a Second Wave of Hip-Hop Education Research and Practice. Urban Education, 50(1), 78-105.
In Chapter 4 and 5 of her work, Teaching towards the 24th Century: Star Trek as Social Curriculum, Karen Anijar conducts a post-colonial deconstruction of the semiotics, cultural and linguistic hegemony, racism and xenophobia that underlie what on the surface of the Star Trek series seem to be benign plot motifs, themes, and inclusive characters. Trekkers, virtually cult-like fan followers, are often heard praising the series as being one that was inclusive and had gender and race representation that was ahead of its time. Anijar’s analysis debunks this notion alluding to the fact that not only was it tokenism in representation but that it insidiously reinforced dominant ideologies and stereotypes. Anijar (2000) unequivocally states that In Star Trek, species becomes a signifier for race and that while disclaiming the scientific or social validity of race, Star Trek and Trekkers reify the construct and the terminology, by transferring the term race into the term species—species who are either able to evolve or not able to evolve (indeed, on occasion devolving) to become more like US (Anijar, 2000, p.155). Anijar (2000) further shows that the series reinforces the notion of the “other” and stigmatizes minorities and non-citizens through the deployment of the metaphoric use of the term alien and that the connection between the extraterrestrial (as alien) and non-citizen (as alien), has been deployed as a plot device on numerous occasions (Anijar, 2000, p. 164).
Anijar’s work is an insightful analysis of the way in which popular culture can at times be subtly deployed to continue to render subaltern those whom the dominant culture and ideology wish to characterize in ways that reinforce their own beliefs, values, and constructs of superiority. Anijar’s work can serve as a useful template for bringing a post-colonial lens to popular culture in the social science and language classroom, however in deploying the template in a high school environment much work will have to be done with students to first set up contexts and common understandings of terms and social constructs for them to effectively be able to make meaning through deploying the framework. Anijar’s framework would be much better deployed in an undergraduate social science classroom where there is a more sophisticated awareness in terms of the recognition of constructs and the ideologies that are referred to in her work. Finally, though Anijar’s work was published in 2000 one cannot fail but to notice the resonance between what she describes and lays bare with the current political dialogue and ideology being promoted in many quarters of the United States during the current Presidential campaign.
Anijar, K. (2000). Teaching towards the 24th Century: Star Trek as Social Curriculum.(pp. 142-192). New York: Falmer Press.
This week’s reading about the Harry Potter Alliance in DIY Citizenship was intriguing and insightful. It demonstrated the way in which fan allegiance in popular culture can be channeled into social activism and become an entry point into political engagement for adolescents and young adults. The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is a non-profit organization set up by Andrew Slack in 2005 to draw attention to human rights violations in Sudan. The organization is run by Harry Potter fans and has numerous chapters in high schools and universities across the globe (Jenkins, 2015).
My reaction and fascination with this are based on two factors. Firstly, as a parent with two children who grew up as Potter fans, pretty much in chronological lock-step with Harry, Hermione, and Ron and through whom I have more than a passing acquaintance with the franchise, its images, themes, symbols, and motifs. Secondly, as a history educator, who teaches courses in Civics and Politics, which sparked ideas as to how I may be able to channel what I was reading into authentic engagement, using popular culture in my own classroom.
On inquiring with my older child, who is engaged in a number of social activism initiatives and organizations, as to whether she had heard of HPA, I was surprised to learn from her that not only did she know about HPA, but that there was a chapter at her university. When I inquired as to what she thought of it and why she herself was not involved, I was informed that she had actually been to some of their fund-raising initiatives (parents are always the last to know) such as the “Yule Ball” fundraiser, but that the chapter at her university seemed to be primarily focused on fund-raising for charities such as J.K. Rowling’s Luminos charity and were not directly involved in local social activism initiatives. In addition, she added that many of her core group of social activist friends were not involved but that it was a different set of young adults who were running the HPA at her university. This bears out Jenkins (2015) assertion that HPA’s value lies in the fact that it is targeting young people who are not normally engaged in social activism but who are culturally engaged and it helps them extend their engagement into social activism and politics, often deploying existing skills and capacities in new ways (Jenkins, 2015, p. 70).
As a high school educator, I see the same phenomenon at my school, where there is a core group of students who are actively engaged in clubs and classes that promote issues of social justice and equity. These students are often self-motivated and are able to easily translate and channel their interest and energy into a number of initiatives and their learning. However, there are many other students who are enthusiastic and keen but who are not intrinsically motivated by social justice issues, yet are keenly into culture. If this could be channeled in a way that allows them an entry point into social and political engagement, either through clubs or through project-based learning in classrooms that translates their cultural currency and enthusiasm (I am thinking of a Justice League, superhero themed club or Project Based learning assignment), then truly we could advance one of the goals of high school education, namely, developing well-rounded, aware and engaged future citizens.
Jenkins, H. (2015). Fan Activism as Participatory Politics: The Case of the Harry Potter Alliance. In Matt Ratto & Megan Boler (Eds.), DIY Citizenship (pp. 65-73). Cambridge: MIT.
Over the years, having devoured the books of Issac Asimov, particularly his Foundation series, Arthur C. Clarks’ 2001: A Space Odyssey and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, amongst numerous other works of science fiction and being a lifelong fan of the Star Trek and Star Wars series, I was particularly interested in reading Saunders’ (2015) article about deploying science fiction as a framework for learning and teaching in the classroom. In addition, being a history educator, I was intrigued by the prospect of uncovering pedagogical approaches through which I could employ into my classroom practice a genre that I was fond of. Saunders uses science fiction as a gateway to examining imperial geopolitics from a critical perspective, stating that doing so allows students to interrogate the content at some distance and develop skills that address agency, representation, inter-textuality and discourse analysis (Saunders, 2015, p. 152).
While Saunders has a narrow focus on the area of imperial geopolitics, the parallels that he draws between historical events and popular culture such as George Bush’s “you are for us or against us” polemical statements and dialogue from Star Wars, the analogy of totalitarianism as represented by the Empire in the series, and the propaganda through popular culture during the Cold War period (Evil Empire versus the Good Guys), and later, communism and its collectivization being represented by the Borg collective in the Star Trek series, had a plethora of ideas whirling through my head about how I could use some of these concepts and representations in my World History and Politics classes.
As history educators, we are frequently challenged with teaching ideas of colonialism, imperialism and resistance, totalitarianism, and similar concepts in an engaging manner, resorting to the same devices, tried and true examples and methodologies, which more often than not leave the “non-history junkie” students under stimulated and disengaged. Saunders offers an exciting and engaging way of using popular culture, both visual and print, through which to teach and engage students. At a personal level, as a history and science fiction junkie and educator, I am already inspired to try some of these strategies, both, as lessons plans and as summative pieces in my senior history classrooms and yes, the answer to the most meaningful questions is 42 :).
Saunders, Robert A. (2015). "Imperial Imaginaries: Exploring Science Fiction to Talk about Geopolitics." Popular Culture and World Politics. Retrieved from: http://www.e-ir.info/2015/06/11/imperial-imaginaries-employing-science-fiction-to-talk-about-geopolitics/
Wong and Henricksen’s (2008) article is a provocative read that asks us to consider pedagogical approaches through a different paradigm than those that are usually presented, and which are based on well-established theories of learning that are grounded in traditional disciplines. The thrust of their article is to urge educators to consider using the psychological qualities of fashion that make the experience of fashion absorbing, as a paradigm through which to generate and increase engagement for learners, especially adolescents (Wong & Henricksen, 2008, p. 180).
While the idea is unique in terms of promoting engagement through popular culture, the principles that are extracted from the realm of fashion are similar to those promoted by more traditional paradigms of engagement. For example, the authors’ state that to fashion is to create and express and that fashion invokes the imagination and the consideration of the possible (Wong & Henricksen, 2008, p. 181). This works well with the principles of Engagement Theory that hold that activities should be creative and purposeful and that when students have the opportunity to define, organize and complete their own projects, they develop a sense of ownership of their work and of their learning (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998).
Additionally, when discussing the impact and value of the Silhouettes advertisement campaign and the reasons that the advertisement is compelling, the authors state that there is a quality to it that sparks the imagination in the interaction between the advertisement and the audience. The ideas of interaction that help students transcend from where they are in terms of their learning to where they could get to with quality interactions, is very reminiscent of Vygotsky’s idea of the Zone of Proximal Development (Jennings, Surgenor, & McMahon, 2013).
Similarly, correspondence can be drawn between other areas of the authors work and the traditional areas of learning and teaching theory. While If Ideas were Fashion is interesting and provocative, in that, it sets out to chart a new paradigm, in my opinion, it essentially ends up relying on the very same traditional ideas, disciplines and principles it seeks to distance itself from.
Jennings,D., Surgenor, P., & McMahon, T. (2013). Education theory/constructivism and social constructivism in the classroom-UCD-CTAG.Ucdoer.ie. Retrieved from
Kearsley, G., & Shneiderman, B. (1998). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Educational Technology, 38(5), 20.
Wong, D., & Henriksen, D. (2008). Mirror Images: Popular culture and education. Counterpoints, 338, 179-198.
Daraius M. Bharucha is a history educator and Department Head of History at Bill Crothers Secondary School. Daraius is also a student at UOIT in the M.Ed. in Digital Technology Program.