BY SYLVIA KOHL
For better or worse, but TV shows today occupy quite a different part of our lives than they used to, let’s say, twenty or thirty years ago. From an easy way to spend half an hour every now and then without paying too much attention to what you are watching, they’ve turned into an integral part of our culture. Shows like Twin Peaks, A Game of Thrones, Fargo and dozens of others require a considerable investment of time and attention to be enjoyed; they boast impressive budgets, plotlines that take years to unravel and complicated imagery. It is no wonder, then, that TV shows have found their way from living rooms into classrooms, becoming a subject matter of university courses. What is even more interesting is that they are not limited to film and media studies departments. One may wonder if it is justified – so let us find out if courses based on TV shows matter across the education system.
1. They make for a powerful emotional supplement
It is no news that people perceive information better if this process is combined with some powerful emotions – which is rather hard to achieve when you deal with spreadsheets, graphs, and statistics. That is why, e.g., sociology makes use of shows like Wire to supplement factual data with vivid imagery of what it all boils down to on personal level. Although this show isn’t a documentary, it depicts its subject matter with enough accuracy and in a much more compelling manner than any study.
2. They offer an immediately recognizable language
Absolute majority of people, especially those of college age, watch TV shows, and a number of more well-known ones, like A Game of Thrones, have almost universal appeal and can be freely used as supportive imagery for projects that have no immediate connection to them – yet they will be recognized at once, creating a foundation almost everybody can relate to. Therefore, if a course chooses a show as a medium by means of which it transfers information, it immediately acquires a powerful means of finding common ground with students.
3. They provide a memorable illustration of their subject matter
Although TV shows we are talking about here are no documentaries and often stray far away from their foundations in real life, they still can provide valuable insights into things they describe. A Game of Thrones has been used as a basis for a course aimed at the study of modern interpretation of medieval history and culture. South Park helps study political correctness, one thing its creators hate most of all. In other words, almost every show that takes a strong stance or demonstrates a lot of groundwork can serve as a basis for studying what it portrays.
4. They serve as a reflection of broader culture and social trends of the time
TV shows can be interesting not only because of what they depict directly but due to unintended reflections of the society in which they are created. For example, studying shows coming from earlier periods can provide an insight into prevalent ideas at the time, societal norms and so on.
As you may see, there are many very good reasons to use TV shows in education, and not just to teach people to make more of them. Valuable lessons can be learned by students of many other disciplines, including sociology, history, philosophy, anthropology and so on.
Sylvia Kohl is an IT teacher with more than 8 years of professional experience. Her main spheres of interest are e-education and she convinced that learning process doesn’t stop after years in school and university.