Hi everyone! I am Alex Mitchell and here is my Reflection Journal for 

EDUC5199 Popular Culture, with Dr. Jennifer Laffier @ Ontario Tech University

Summer Semester 2020, M.Ed program

EDUC 5199 Weekly Reflections & Check-In Log


Week 1: Thursday May 7, a reflection

Here is my first week reflection, this one might be a little "rough" as I have yet to find my stride in writing these weekly reflections. I promise they will get better and more reflective as the weeks go on. 

I find it funny how there was so much talk about Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for places to share our reflections, however these platforms are useful for people in our generation, however younger generations are more apt to use snapchat or TikTok to communicate! This is certainly a reflection of the demographic of members in this class - I would guess most have Facebook, some have Instagram, and some have Twitter! Few probably have Snapchat and TikTok, however they probably know what they are! I see this as a reminder that we pop culture doesn't necessarily have to be "what the youth are doing" because there can be very relevant popular content ('culture') that is also consumed by older generations. 

This leads me to my "I wonder" ... which is, does pop culture have to be what the younger generation is up to? What about those of us in our thirties? I'm not a mother but there are certainly popular memes about moms who like to sip wine at 2 o'clock. (I hope this doesn't offend anyone). My point is, this popular culture reference is not necessarily for people in their adolescent years. What about "Dad Jokes" ... often told by dads! They are (I think) funny and relevant to the times, but perhaps not pop culture? Or are they!? Hopefully I will learn more about what defines pop culture!

Word count: 270

* this was my first reflection - I promise they will be shorter next time!


Week 2: Thursday May 14, a reflection

Questions from my last week's reflection have already been answered! I now know that, in general, a youth is 15-24 (according to the U.N.) however it's between 10-24 (according to the W.H.O.) - this is helpful to understand!

I also understand that pop culture specifically refers to the beliefs, behaviours, and trends of a group in society. I didn't really think about how this connects to the generational divide, so I understand the reason for delving deeper into definitions and characteristics of the different generations. I really like the chart that Jennifer presented in class (via the slides) - it was a chart about each generation and the descriptions, notable occurrences, attitudes, likes, and dislikes, however I feel there are great critiques to be made with this. In our SLT discussion, Seshi, Rose and I talked about the events listed in the category we belong to, and how some of those may not be defining characteristics of each generation. 

Word Count: 159 (I'm getting better!)


Week 3: Thursday May 21, a reflection

 I read The Ripple Effect by Dr. Greg Wells, and learned about his ideas for sound sleep and the outstanding affect this can have (link). This was a game changer for me - re-learning about the power of sleep for a developing brain. I didn't know the power of sleep - as it can influence one's outcomes more than their SAT scores and hence be the best predictor of how well someone can do!

A key takeaway was in the FRONTLINE film: "The same part of the brain that was working when the teens were learning their new skills, continues to rehearse and practice when the students sleep.The brain consolidates and improves on what it just learned, in a sense the lessons are effortless, happening while they sleep." (38:20 - 38:39)

Word Count: 128


Week 3: Check-In

On Thursday, May 21st our SLT met for approx. 55 minutes via Zoom

Considerations for this week’s chat... 

  • Individual Learning Goals:
    • Continue with the weekly reflections (we had to clarify this with Dr. L)
    • Maintain rhythm with posting reflections (by the end of each week)
    • Keep engagement with reading all the assignment readings!

  • Micro Teaching Topic:
    • This is an individual assignment, teach to one another
    • We all shared our ideas or possible ideas for this assignment
      • Discussed and expanded on other ideas & resources


Week 4: Thursday May 28, a reflection

Reading Chapter 1 from John Story's book (Theory and Popular Culture) really helped me understand the different definitions of pop culture. I made highlights on the text, and will go back to review this for my assignments. The Psychology Today article that references "synth culture" also brought a different perspective, and thinking about this has made me more aware of the connection between corporate marketing, consumerism, and pop culture. I really liked the line,  "Authentic popular culture acts as a societal truth" and how this relates to 'bottom-up' culture instead of 'top-down' culture. An example, I think, is the sensation of Baby Yoda. Yes, the Mandalorian Child from Star Wars was created by Disney, but the fact that it has become an utter phenomenon, and given the popular name Baby Yoda, and has created countless memes and a following of its own, is a "bottom-up" (and maybe more authentic?) representation of pop culture. 

Word Count: 153


Week 4: Check-in

On Thursday, May 28th our SLT met for approx. 50 minutes via Adobe Connect

Considerations for this week’s chat...

  • Check-in on this week's assigned readings and videos
  • Discussed the micro-teaching topics we are all going to present on
  • Clarified some points around the assignment
  • Shared videos that are relevant to our topics


Week 5: Thursday June 4, a reflection

This is a long one but I think it's justified. 

I've reflected a lot this week on the Black Lives Matter protests that have gone on this past week in the US, and I've been thinking how this relates to what we are learning in class, and how educators can use the social landscape ("the popular culture" - of what we are all experiencing right now) to further educate our society, share stories, and ignite a change so racism TRULY is a thing of the past. There's a sentiment right now that more money should be directed toward education instead of arming the national guard to stand up to the protesters. This is in America, yes; however in Canada we have widespread systemic racism toward Indigenous Peoples as well. I think this relates to the video we watched for week 5. Although the tone of this vide was light and funny, it's principles can extend to heavier topics such as addressing individual and systemic racism.

 "What's important is that an individual or a group of tastemakers took a point of view, and they shared that with a larger audience-- accelerating the process. And then this community formed of people who shared this big inside joke and they started talking about it and doing things with it." - Kevin Allocca (TedX Video)

Doing things with it (ie: the video of George Floyd) is the activism and outcry for social change that followed his wrongful death.

"An entire re-mix community sprouted up that brought it from being a stupid joke to something that we can all actually be a part of.  Because we don't just enjoy now, we participate." - Kevin Allocca (TedX Video). 

For me, this (above) is huge. I've come to understand how education is more about how we deal with the information we have, rather than collecting and storing knowledge in our brains (I am thinking more about middle and high school age education now).  Information is accessible at our fingertips, constantly, and much of this spreads through social media, which we know youth engage in! We need to teach/inspire youth how to be positive, impactful, and active participants in this dynamic world - not just a passive viewer.

"What does it mean? Tastemakers, creative participating communities, complete unexpectedness; these are characteristics of a new kind of media and a new kind of culture where anyone has access and the audience defined the popularity ... no one has to 'green-light' your idea, and we all now feel ownership in our own pop culture." - Kevin Allocca (TedX Video

Last, I think this phrase connects to the power that rests in each individual to step into their personal power as a change maker. The Dalai Lama says, "Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects".

Word Count: 291


Week 5: Check-in

On Thursday, June 4th our SLT met for approx. 90 minutes via Adobe Connect

Considerations for this week’s chat...

  • Check-in on how we are all doing (schools reopening in BC, but not in ON)
  • Shared resources for our Micro-teaching
  • Talked about the final assignment and what we are thinking of doing
  • Discusses the Black Lives Matter movement and how that's affected us recently
  • Discussed the movie (Ready Player One)
  • Shares a few other resources!
  • Seshi notes the syllabus says these meetings are to only last approx. 20 mins, however our 60-90 minute sessions have been going well. The time to connect and talk is appreciated


Week 6: Thursday June 11, a reflection

I really value the topic of digital literacy with this week's readings. As an elementary school teacher, this is an area that I wish to develop professionally, and also learn of resources or curriculum that can be used to teach digital literacy. I've opened a new folder in my "resources" file to start collecting resources that relate to digital literacy and safe online practices.  There were a few additional links from article that I've saved and added to this folder. 

I liked this line in the Promethean Blog, "digital literacy = digital tool knowledge + critical thinking + social engagement". The article goes on to suggest citizenship, character, and communication are also part of that equation. This resonated with me (and I'm going to assume most teachers!) because it is a wholistic view of engaging in the digital world, and much more that computer literacy skills. Even though our students may be "digital natives" they will still need guidance to safely and effectively navigate the online world.

Word Count: 167


Week 7: Thursday June 18, a reflection

This week there were no assigned readings, because our micro-teaching assignment is due. However, I did get a chance to read 'Your best friend or worst enemy' article. I have never heard of Gossberg's take on the four types of pedagogical practices. Most interesting, I thought, was his third model "praxical pedagogy" where he suggests, "that teachers locate places from which [they] can construct and disseminate knowledge in relation to the materiality of power, conflict, and oppression". Given the last two week's theme of the current social justice issue and the Black Lives Matter movement, I thought this was a poignant line. It stuck with me like other, similar calls-to-action that dismantle colonial influence and white-centric voices in a classroom. This is part of the ongoing commitment to continued growth in the fight for racial justice.

Word Count: 136


Week 8: Thursday June 25, a reflection

This week there were no additional readings required for the course, but so I took extra time to go through Rose and Seshi's micro-teaching presentations and review the links and sources they recommend. Out micro-teaching meetings all ran a little long, so having extra time to review material was helpful. 

I explored the idea of gamification a little more, and I realized the scope of this learning method isn't necessarily just online games, but even the use of "Jeopardy" style question (sans computer) are meaningful in this method learning facilitation. I came across ClassCraft as well, and although this platform doesn't necessarily make curricular outcomes with the platform, it is a means to manage behaviour and make rewards (and punishments) for students. What really stood out to me from last week's presentation on gamification, is that the message is in the method. For example, rather than trying to "fight zombies" students can learn and teamwork, collaboration, communication, and goal-setting skills. I am eager to incorporate more elements of gamification education to my classroom in the fall!

Word Count: 176


Week 8: Check-In

On Thursday, June 25th our SLT met for approx. 35 minutes via Adobe Connect

Considerations for this week’s chat...

  • Check-in about how everyone is doing. 
  • Feedback from last week's presentations
  • Discussed the final assignment and where everyone is at with that
  • We have questions for Dr. Laffier, and Seshi is going to email her to clarify
  • Made plans to connect via Zoom next week


Week 9: Thursday July 2, a reflection

Part of my desired avenue for continuing education in this course was to look at pop culture through an Indigenous perspective. The top search result for this was a CBC story about Crystal Semaganis and her combination of bead work and popular characters and logos. Although this was interesting, this led me to look more at the contemporary production of Indigenous material for pop culture artifacts. I came across this statement, " Indigenous popular culture is not only a field of a dynamic creative expression, but often also in one way or another stands in dialogue with contemporary Indigenous activist groups and causes working towards the goal of decolonization and Indigenous resurgence." This is something I may look to research more, as an area for continued personal education and development on Indigenous issues and my work to do as a non-Indigenous Canadian and educator.

Word Count: 144


Week 9: Check-in

On Thursday, July 2nd Rose and I met for approx. 90 minutes via Adobe Connect. Unfortunately Seshi was unable to make our meeting due to connectivity issues, however Rose and I both connected with him via email to catch up and check in on this week's events.

Considerations for this week’s chat...

  • How we are doing with our final presentation
  • How we are doing with our final project
  • What other resources/connections we have come across that may help
  • Questions for Jennifer Laffier
  • Our favourite parts of this course so far
  • Progress of our Masters thus far, and what we wish to accomplish with a M.Ed


Week 10: Thursday July 9, a reflection

Here is my reflection on my personal learning journey for this course:

First,  I really enjoyed our SLT talks, as they often went longer than the required 10-20 minutes. I think our longest was 2 hours! Specifically, a significant moment was learning about gamification from Seshi in our Micro-teaching lesson. I’ve referenced his presentation since then for another class and learning more about Minecraft actually helped me connect with an 8 year old daughter of friends on a camping trip! I've learned that this can be a great catalyst for conversation with youth. 

Second, it was helpful to learn about the broader definition of pop culture and what this really encompasses (more than celebrity gossip or movies). For example: the terms high culture, pop culture, and folk culture being defined was very interesting - this stuck with me and I’ve had other conversations about it since we learned of it.

Last, the presence of social justice movements and how it's awareness, information, and actions are being spread through social media (ie: the BLM movement that’s been ongoing since mid-May, and Canada Day - a time to reflect on the way Indigenous people have been treated in Canada and what this day actually means for Indigenous Peoples in Canada). The talks that have been happening have been a catalyst for me to learn more, educate myself, and continue conversations and actions that reflect a changing tide. This is current and I believe it is consuming popular culture at the moment. It was powerful for me to reflect on these issues throughout the course, especially in a way that betters the way I educate others. 

Word Count: 273