I don't think I could ever have been convinced that there was some educational value to be gleaned from American Idol or Survivor. But that was before reading Henry Jenkins' (2006) "Convergence Culture." In my previous post I mentioned a connection I saw between Survivor "spoilers" and student collaboration. In literature, a "spoiler" can be the student who finishes the book on his own and can't help but share the information with classmates. They love to know a secret and have a tough time keeping it to themselves. In teaching literature, I need to learn something from these "secret sharers" and do more of it myself. But in this case, it connects to the practice of product placement on American Idol which I have to admit, albeit very reluctantly, may contain some educational merit.
With product placement in mind, I need to start working on "idea" placement. Too often I have my students read something and expect them to see all the literary elements and nuances because they are as obvious to me as the product placement on American Idol. Viewers have turned spotting these products placed in shows into a game. Of course, the content of these shows isn't nearly as interesting and enriching as the text my students read (correct?!?) so that might be all that can be of "intellectual" interest to them. But a game is a game and that certainly adds an element of motivation to the reading. Without being too obvious or forceful, I need to plant the idea (the "product") and let them discover it in the text. At the same time there must be a balance so that I avoid being too much of a "spoiler." The trick is always to give them ideas to look for that they care about and to which they can relate because only then does it become a game that they want to play.