Posts Tagged ‘Popular Culture’

Critical thinking and Pop Culture don’t exactly seem to go hand-in-hand. Enter Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Director of Hayden Planetarium, Research Associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, named in Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Persons in the World” and “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” in People Magazine. Tyson has a knack for taking complex concepts and presenting them in a way that those of us who aren’t rocket scientists can understand. He seems to enjoy spreading knowledge and is a champion for critical thinking. He has published books, hosted award-winning shows, taken away Pluto and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and hosts his own podcast called StarTalk.

StarTalk targets those who never thought science could be interesting or entertaining, it connects Pop Culture and science. The introduction of each show states, “Our universe is filled with secrets and mysteries which leaves us with many questions to be answered. We find ourselves searching for those answers as the very fabric of space, science and society are converging. Here for the first time, these worlds collide.” Neil partners up with celebrity guests and comedians to talk about many different scientific topics, he says they explore “everything under the sun, or rather the universe!” He approaches subjects ranging from scientific discoveries to pseudoscience, from the possible benefits of video games to the physics of superheroes. Listeners can submit questions to the show on Twitter. Mr. Tyson approaches the topics and questions with rational (albeit, humorous) discussions backed by scientific evidence and facts. He explains that scientific literacy serves to protect us against pseudoscience. These shows are amusing, entertaining and incredibly informative. The way he explains why things happen or why they couldn’t possibly happen is fascinating and easy to understand. This was one of my favorite episodes in which he answers questions about superheroes…

He explains how a super soldier serum, as in Captain America, could not actually increase the strength of a person’s muscles beyond a certain point if the tissue remains the same size due to the physics of strength. Also, now I know that Magneto could not tear apart the universe but could theoretically “tear a new one” in a star. Superman would be torn apart by a black hole because he is made of matter from this universe. These are very interesting answers to questions I’ve personally had about superheroes.

I also found this great quote encouraging critical thinking (he’s full of them) from an interview on The Science Network. [A] most important feature is the analysis of the information that comes your way. And that’s what I don’t see enough of in this world. There’s a level of gullibility that leaves people susceptible to being taken advantage of. I see science literacy as kind of a vaccine against charlatans who would try to exploit your ignorance.”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson promotes and encourages critical thinking. He is able to do so using popular culture, through social media, television and his podcast. He makes science inviting and exciting. There is no question he is the most popular astrophysicist in America today.


There are many aspects of popular culture present in our daily lives. We may not even be aware of it.  I know while completing this assignment for my Intro to Popular Culture class, I was surprised to see how large a role it plays in my life.  So here’s a little photo tour of my pop culture world…


First up, my favorite jeans, L.A. Idols. It seems everyone has sparkles on their butts these days and while I can’t afford Miss Me’s, these are just as trendy and fashionable at about half the price. I really began to notice how popular they are when I worked at a shop that sold them. These suckers fly off the shelf!
Next is my first choice for entertainment…


My husband’s Xbox!  We turn this on on a daily basis and not just to play video games (which I am terrible at).  We have Netflix which I watch my favorite show, the very popular Orange is the new Black, and full seasons of other shows at my leisure.  We also have Hulu, to watch tv shows that we have missed. I honestly have no idea why we continue to pay for cable.  I think watching shows online will someday make cable television obsolete.
Then there’s my biggest addiction…


Pinterest. Why, oh why did I ever check this website out!? I hear it all the time, “I found it on Pinterest.” And now I’m guilty of repeating that phrase over and over. I thought it sounded boring at first but as it gained popularity and more people told me to check it out, i finally succumbed to temptation. Need a recipe for dinner tonight? There you go. Want to make your own all-natural cleaning products? There’s a plethora of links to happy homemakers with blogs devoted to exactly that.  If one of my clents wants a new ‘do, its the first place I turn.
Which leads me to the last aspect I’ll discuss…


My career.


As a hairstylist I have to stay on top of the latest trends and which celebrity has the most desired hair of the moment. My career depends on knowing who my client is talking about, what their hair looks like and how to achieve it on them. Ombre, balayage, color melting,  I’ve seen these trends come and go and then come back again. It keeps me on my toes and I have to stay up to date on the look of the moment.
Popular culture is the culture of the masses and I am just one of the many consumers of what Pop Culture has to offer today.

Gamification is the term that refers to using game mechanics and game strategy to other, everyday applications. It seems that applying it to education is a relatively new concept that is gaining popularity. However, educational games are nothing new. As a child, I remember playing Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, which taught me geography and some history and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing to learn typing skills. Today, there are many educational apps designed for children of all ages and websites that teach a variety of different subjects. Gamification can be applied to all levels of education, from grade school to college.
I believe there are many benefits to Gamifying education. Statistics say that 65% of U.S. households play videogames. Even though I wouldn’t call myself a “gamer,” I find video games to be entertaining and somewhat satisfying. There is something about “leveling up” and earning various rewards that makes me feel a sense of accomplishment. I can see how applying this to education could help motivate children and adults to succeed in school.
The reward system alone is a huge advantage that I see. Rather than having points taken off for every item that missing or incorrect, a student sees their grade or points going up. Then, after earning so many “XP,” they “level up.” This is much more intrinsically rewarding and, I believe, better for the student’s self-esteem. Last year in fifth grade, my son was told that any time he turned in an assignment a day late, it was automatically 50% credit. This did nothing to motivate him to turn in homework that he may have forgotten to bring the day before. Disheartened, he would say, “What is the point of turning it in, I already have an F on it?”
I also see a great advantage in having a reward system for class-wide achievements. This would create a better sense of community and camaraderie. Rather than some students being left in the dust, this could level the playing field, so to speak. Some students could really benefit from a little help from their peers rather than feeling unsuccessful and lost. Shouldn’t we encourage the ones that feel the most discouraged? My son informed me the other day that children that play an hour of video games, feel more secure in their environment. Of course I was skeptical but then I watched the video “Extra Credits: Gamifying Education” and the part about games giving a person a sense of agency, or a feeling of control over their lives, really struck me. I think it is important for school children and adults, for that matter, to feel secure and become more resilient in order to be successful in life.
While I do see many advantages to gamifying education, there may be some drawbacks. Not everyone enjoys videogames or has access to the technology required to play games. It seems many schools and classes have a one-size-fits-all approach teaching. I think it is important to remember that everyone learns differently and what motivates one student may not motivate another. Also, some teachers may not be comfortable using the kind of technology needed for Gamification. I have had an instructor that refused to use Blackboard because he couldn’t figure it out and asked the class not to email him because he would rather receive a phone call. College is not just for freshly graduated eighteen year-olds, either. Gamification might not be as easily mastered by older generations as someone who is in their teens. I know I am having a little trouble with some of the assignments for my Pop Culture class. However, this is forcing me to do things that I may not have tried on my own; like creating a blog, embedding cool stuff in my blog and signing up for Twitter.
I am interested to see where Gamification takes education in the future and I hope you found this post interesting. Here is a fun Infographic I found on about Gamification of Education. (I think I figured out how to embed something.)
Gamification Infographic

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media