Popular culture in a digital media studies classroom

This article documents the ways in which one teacher incorporated student interests, including popular culture, into the curriculum of a digital media studies class in an urban public middle school in the United States. Drawing on data from an 18-month-long investigation, this research employs a connected learning perspective to address two research questions: (1) how might connecting the online social networking practices in which youth engage with classroom literacy instruction support students’ growth as authors in a school with a mandated print-based curricular focus? (2) What are the possibilities of allowing students to design texts that incorporate popular cultural artefacts and practices as part of the official school curriculum? To do so, I share portraits of three students in the digital media studies class, highlighting their experiences bringing their popular cultural practices to the design of school-based texts. Findings highlight how inviting popular culture into the classroom not only increased students’ abilities to think and write critically about the media they produce and consume both in and outside of school, but also positioned them as community activists who designed and published texts that gave voice to inequities in their community.

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