Using popular culture narratives in Education

Have you read, “Persepolis,”? You could call it a book, a cartoon-strip or a story about Iran’s history. When I first read the book a few years ago, I felt that I had learned more about the Iranian Revolution than I did in my World History Class. Readers like me were able to strongly relate to the story because suddenly the Revolution wasn’t faceless anymore. It had a name, a shape, and a color. Stories, inherently, are powerful in simplifying the complex,  influencing perception and even behavior. Everyone has a different learning style – some are more visual, some more linear, but stories is a universal language. I think, it’s hard to disagree with that.

Which is why, this specific project is so brilliant. A group of professors at Eastern Illinois University & Baker University have created the most ingenious tool to help their students understand and grasp Econ 101. Answer: Seinfeld. Picture 4These professors have not only created an online sites but they also regularly use clips from Seinfeld to teach their Basic Economics class. According to the website,

Seinfeld ran for nine seasons on NBC and became famous as a “show about nothing.” Basically, the show allows viewers to follow the antics of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer as they move through their daily lives, often encountering interesting people or dealing with special circumstances. It is the simplicity of Seinfeld that makes it so appropriate for use in economics courses. Using these clips (as well as clips from other television shows or movies) makes economic concepts come alive, making them more real for students. Ultimately, students will start seeing economics everywhere – in other TV shows, in popular music, and most importantly, in their own lives.

I can’t tell you how much I love this. It’s repackaging existing media and stories into a different context that elevates its purpose from entertainment to education. This is magic. We need more of this.

The other thing I came across was Shambling Hoards – a new game from Yahoo Sandbox that uses zombies and gaming to teach economic theory. Edu-gaming is not a new concept, but I’m glad its getting more attention and resources now. Have you come across any interesting uses of story-telling / narratives in the education space?

Eager to hear your thoughts!

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