PULLMAN – Rather than ignoring the latest video games, rap songs and cartoon shows, teachers should be using them to engage students, said WSU Assistant Professor Trenia Walker.
“If you think students are passively consuming popular culture, you’re wrong,” Walker said.
Walker  has published “Tooning In: Essays on Popular Culture and Education”  (Rowan & Littlefield, 2007) along with co-author Cameron White, a professor at the University of Houston.
The book examines the role of popular culture in students’ lives, and its value as a learning tool. It contains essays specifically devoted to film, music, television, games, and other ways that students engage, eagerly, with the world around them.
The book’s message is aimed at teachers and those who, like Walker, teach teachers. She works at the College of Education at WSU Vancouver.
Her focus is on social studies, and she is particularly interested in how television and movies can be used to enhance learning. Movies are especially valuable for teaching history, she said, because they are the product of a certain time.
Discussion of a video game such as Grand Theft Auto can be used to explore crime and violence, and its role in society, she said.
“Give students the opportunity to talk about rap music and what it’s trying to say,” Walker said. “Get them to think about what they’re consuming.”
That approach works at all grade levels, she said. “Look at the SpongeBob SquarePants. Little kids love it. Yet it was voted the most popular cartoon among college freshmen. Five-year-olds and 20-year-olds. It speaks differently to them differently, but it still speaks to them.”