10 September 2019

Research pick: Science and Star Wars - "Star Wars science on social media! Using pop culture to improve STEM skills"

Might popular culture, such as the Star Wars science fiction franchise be used to boost skills among those involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)? Writing in the International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, Stephan Längle of the Danube University Krems in Austria discusses the possibility.

His study is based on the period 2000-2018 and focuses on Star Wars as one of the more enduring and well known of the science fiction franchises, It began in the late 1970s and still persists with a huge fan-base across all kinds of media, not just the original cinematic format. He points out that an increasing number of scientists use pop-cultural elements to communicate scientific theories and methods to the public and Star Wars is one of those. Längle suggests that learning through social media is on the increase among STEM students and the pop culture of Star Wars is successfully engaging many students in those areas.

The research suggests that there are two ways in which pop culture might be used in class: science principles might be communicated directly with reference to a fictional world, for instance, or the world might serve as a template for preparing teaching materials. Of course, some learners may not want to learn about the real science behind Star Wars and it may not be suitable for every class, some may be fans of Star Trek or another fictional world. Educators should, regardless, take into account the interests of their students and do so in a serious way so that those interests might be integrates into everyday school life in a positive way that improves learning.

Längle, S. (2019) ‘Star Wars science on social media! Using pop culture to improve STEM skills‘, Int. J. Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp.137-149.

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