Perspectives on Popular Youth Culture.

Modern Parenting – where are we going wrong? 

This hidden gem has unveiled the unspoken truth about parenting today. It is a must read! 

Why Modern Parenting isn’t working.

Positive candle psychology, as taught by The Sims

A wonderful post. Insight into the concepts of positive psychology and the impact it has on education.


So I recently finished a book about positive psychology written by Martin Seligman, entitled “Flourish”.

Seligman espouses that the crucial elements for increased well-being in one’s life are:

  • Positive emotion,
  • Engagement,
  • Meaning,
  • Positive accomplishment, and
  • Good relationships.

Seems like sound advice. When a child in your class is sad or you yourself get down in the dumps, perhaps it’s because of some neglected friendships with people who are important to you, or you don’t have enough in your life that truly engages you, or makes you feel like you’re making a difference.

But, you see, when I read these life elements, I also couldn’t help but think of a computer game that I was addicted to in my teenage years (and perhaps later…), “The Sims”.

For those of you who may not have heard of this game before, it is basically a life simulation game that gives…

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Learning Commons to Idea Stores – the rebranding of the Library

The library at my school has recently been renamed the Resource Centre. The primary function of this space is to provide resources to support student learning. The rebranding of the Recourse Centre included a major transformation. Creating a space more conducive to collective learning. The transformation seemed revolutionary…or so I thought.

I always considered libraries a space dedicated to expanding cognitive enlightenment with countless resources. As the digital age carries multiple access points for instantaneous knowledge, literally at our fingertips- what is the function of a library today and in the future?

Hasley Elementary School Ca. 1950
Hasley Elementary School Ca. 1950

Beth Holland’s 21st Century Libraries – The Learning Common (2015), outlines a progressive functionality for the library space in the 21st century. A common learning hub that combines the tradition and the digital. She acknowledges for libraries to be relevant they should be a space that encourages participatory learning and provides resources for a co-constructive understanding. Libraries should not only be the place for learning but creating. 

Sandlian Smith (2013)  tells a moving story of a young homeless boy who utilised the space at her library to script and perform a puppet show for the local children. Sandlian Smith, (2013) suggests libraries should be the space of dreaming. Some London libraries have rebranded the space, Idea Stores. Inspired by the concept of collective creative thinking and learning. Hubs of information that are community centred.

Idea Store – YouTube

This TedX talk by Judith St. John unpacks the concepts used in the Idea Store.

Idea Store – Judith St John

The word that stands out for me here is COMMUNITY. Providing a hub that encourages local clientele, participatory learning and creative, collaborative thinking. Similar to the concept of a café. Steven Johnson explains the space for creative thinking that birthed the Age of Enlightenment was the english Coffee House. The sense of community and hum of collaboration bore ‘Eureka’ moments. 

This concept from Paul Hamilton gives a number of creative ideas for a Leaning Common.

Image By Paul Hamilton
Image By Paul Hamilton

The integration of technology, reading space, whiteboard paint for brainstorming, as well as, barrier free (glass walls) to encourage collaborative work between students and teachers. The inclusion coffee bars creates the aesthetic of the English Coffee House and the ‘Eureka’ effect.

The library is a necessary part of education. Rethinking the resources and space will allow for communities of learners to engage innovative ideas. Derby,(2011) highlights for youth today creativity is with them 24/7, on their mobile device. Understanding these concepts and providing for creative thinking is perhaps, the direction the library spaces needs to head.


Derby, Bruce. Creativity in my pocket: No ‘I’ puns here [online]. English in Australia, Vol. 46, No. 3, 2011: 98-100. Availability:<;dn=123358511934294;res=IELHSS&gt; ISSN: 0155-2147. [cited 05 Oct 15].

Holland, B. (2015). 21st Century Libraries: The Learning Commons. Edutopia. Jan 14, 2015. [online] Accessed, 04/10/2015.

Johnson, S. (2010). Steven Johnson: Where do good ideas come from. TedGlobal 2010. [online] Accessed 04/10/2015.

Sandlian Smith, P. (2013) What to Expect from Libraries of the 21st Century Pam Sandlian Smith at TedX: Mile High. TedXMileHigh. 

That’s a Rap – Hip Hop’s undeniable influence on pop culture.


Rap to rock – whatever your taste, music defines era, culture and identity. It is the rhythm of the age and the voice of a generation.

Image by Ali Warren. Graffiti Alley- Melbourne Australia.

As a music teacher, I watch the perpetual rollover of a new genre as the artist manipulates musical elements in the endless pursuit to be famous.

Since the beginning of organised sound, music has been used as a medium for self expression. Music has the hallucinating power to manipulate emotions and frame identity. For me, music was the vehicle to search for identity. Personally, I found adolescence a time of confusion and uncertainty. It was constant battle between common sense and emotions, moral absolutes and dilemmas. There was one stream of expression I could draw on – even if I couldn’t find the words to capture the thoughts inside my head – music. Atkins, (2006) explains,

Given the amazing ability of music to express the complex emotions of human beings, it is not surprising that music plays an important role in the creation and maintenance of social groups and subcultures. Throughout history, people with common goals, ideas and belief have bonded together, and the music of this subculture is an important rallying point for them, and often expresses their beliefs.

One of the most iconic representative musical genres that encapsulates a subculture completely is HIP HOP.

Hip Hop’s popularity has intensified over the last two decade with undeniable influence on pop culture. It defines a culture and influences our understanding of that culture. Ali and Brown (2015) propose, Hip Hop has had a more profound influence on the development of popular music today than the Beatles. What then makes this particular genre of music have such a prolific influence of pop culture? Charles Pinckney (2007), suggests Hip Hop has been instrumental in social change and awareness for black Americans. Particularly in encouraging young voters to register. Pinckney also suggests Hip Hop’s influence on behaviour of young African American’s has been instrumental in social demise. Concluding participants in the study adopted the paradigms and capitalist lifestyle advocated by the music. With most content in Hip Hop glorifying delinquent and rebellious behaviour, it is easy to blame the music for the behaviour, or it is misunderstood?

A distinctive characteristic of Hip Hop is the stylistic, rhythmic and lyrical speech. Yet when Shakespeare used Iambic Pentameter he is heralded as genius. The raw commentary on social issues is often criticised as glorifying ignorance and rebellion, yet  Price, (2009) suggests, it is one of the few genres that has influenced the English language (just like Shakespeare).

The content often reflects the real life of people and social groups. ‘Straight out of Compton’ (Jackson, O., Patterson, L and The D.O.C, 1988) unleashed rebellious, intentionally graphic lyrics to paint an image of the directionless gangs of West L.A. This album became a commercial success and set up the genre of Gangsta Rap.

Straight Outta Compton (warning – offensive language)

The bravado in this song, Huey (2015) explains, is a devoid of reality as the romanticised invincibility with little consequence. In 2008, Ice Cube released a song called “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It”. In response to the blame game. The video depicts violent crimes committed by white americans, juxtaposed with Ice T., declaring his invincibility.

Gangsta Rap made Me Do It – Ice T

There is no doubt this genre has shaped generations. Ali and Brown (2015), highlight the influence as concerning. Yet they neglect to acknowledge the power of creativity Hip Hop has as social commentary precedes change.

In 2007, Kanye West released “Everything I’m Not’. In the song he talks about being true to yourself, stepping away from tradition themes. The song is empowering for a teen struggling with identity.

For me, music was a powerful influence in my search for identity. And I am able to use this very powerful tool to connect with my students. Everyday, I see young people identifying with a certain song or genre, they find a voice. Price, (2009) calls this influence “Indelible”. It unlocks and consolidates our humanity.

Everything I'm Not. Kanye West (2007)
Everything I’m Not. Kanye West (2007


Ali, L. And Brown, E. (2015). Hip-hop, not Beatles, had greatest influence on pop music, study says. L.A. Times. May 9, 2015. Accessed online [] (01/10/2015).
Atkins, H. (Copyright (c) 2006-2015 – Association for Youth, Children and Natural Psychology (AYCNP)

Huey, S. (2015). Review – Straight Outta Compton. [online] accessed. 04/10/2015.

N.W.A. (2009) Straight Outta Compton (1988). YouTube. [online] Accessed 04/10/2015.

Pinckney, C. (2007). The Influence of Hip-hop Culture on the Perceptions, Attitudes, Values, and Lifestyles of African-American College Students. Dissertation – School of Psychology, Walden University. USA.

Price, E. G. (2009) Hip-Hop: An indelible influence on the English language. Afrik.News. [online] Access 04/09/2015.

FanFic – Hijacked Literary Property or Creative Agents.

Fan Fiction
Fan Fiction

Darcy Moore’s (2012), abstract concept of “Social Reading“, outlines the evolution of the concept of traditional reading into an online collective discussion. Once a sacred personal connection between author and reader, social reading has revolutionised individual response to a collective conglomeration of thoughts, experiences and other points of view. Black (2009), refers to this as a collective imagination. A multilayered discussion fuelled by a variety of mind frames. These critique networks can provide the reader with a depth of understanding. Gaiman (2013), suggests the collective discussion of narrative is essential in building the foundations of reading and communication in our online world. He suggests, the rapid increase in popularity is due to the ease of access and the incentive of anonymity for the laptop critic.

Social reading has encouraged the rise of a new collective voice – Fan Fiction. Downes (2014), defines Fan Fiction or FanFic as any work that rewrites, elaborates on or creates alternative plots and characters from another author. The content extends on known literature or pop culture. So what of the copyright on intellectual property?

I was aware of FanFic but I was completely flawed by its popularity. To put it into perspective, according to Wikipedia (2015) list of best sellers, Harry Potter (books) to date has sold approximately 400 million copies – give or take a few. Yet in just one FanFiction site alone there are over 85,000 spin-off stories and over 2.1 million reads.

If harry was a girl

Titles such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Austen, J. and Graham-Smith, S.) and 50 Shades of Grey (E.L.James, 2011) found their genesis in FanFic and have proven to be very marketable commodities. James (2013), attributed the 50 shades trilogy as being inspired byTwilight, and was originally a FanFic story.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Downes (2014), describes Fan Fiction sites as being an ‘internet sensation’. With members being numbered in the hundreds of millions. He highlights, however; some legitimate concerns for young people. These include exposure to uncensored sexualisation through ePublications, pornographic content, and idolisation or romanising of mental illness and violence. So, a personal investigation ensued. It was a truly eye-opening experience. The number of forums are staggering. The more reputable ones have warnings and tags. Tags allow the writer to categorise their work. Some of these tags include,

FLUFF – sappy romantic themes involved.
SMUT – containing sexual content.
AU – the settings are in an alternative universe
POV – multiple points of view.

A benefit of mandatory categorisation means the writer is analysing their work (sound familiar teachers of English). Ergo, proofreading is an expectation before publication. A necessary skill indeed. Writers must also warn readers of sensitive issues or themes in their story. This is again done through tags. For example, if your work contained explicit language, rape, suicide, anxiety or depression it must include a tag to inform the reader. Whilst there is a huge amount of extreme Fan Fiction out there and some fairly sordid ideas, the concept is encouraging a generation to explore creative writing.

So I wanted to experience it for myself and wrote my first ever published work. I was surprised by how I felt. Mostly about what to write, being authentic to the original and how it would be judged. However, I survived my first publication and enjoyed it.

There is no denying, like anything online, there are dark, compromised and unsafe places, however; I love what Gaiman (2013), said, “We have an obligation to imagine.”


Austen, J., Graham-Smith, S. (2010). Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Quirk Books. Philadelphia, USA

Black, R.W. (2008). Adolescents and online fan fiction. New York: Peter Lang.

Black, R.W. (2009). Online Fan Fiction, Global Identities, and Imagination
Research in the Teaching of English, Vol. 43, No. 4 (May 2009), pp. 397-425. National Council of Teachers of English. 23-09-2015 12:08 UTC.

Gaiman, N. (2013). Why our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming. (A Lecture) In Cooper, S. (2013). Libraries are the frontline in the war for imagination. accessed 23/09/2015 at 11.42pm.

Downes, S. (2014). Column: What is Fan Fiction – and why is it making people nervous?. 01/03/2014. [online] accessed 21/09/2015.

James, E.L. (2013). Biography. [online] Accessed 22/09/2015 at 11.04pm.

Moore, D. (2012). Social Reading: Fad or Future. Darcy Moore Blog. [online] accessed 21/09/2015 at 5.45pm.

Potter, C. (2009). Harry Potter and The Temple of Witchcraft. [online].  accessed 22/09/2015, at 5:15pm.

Wikipedia. (2015). List of best-selling books. [online] accessed 23/09/2015 5.45pm.

Digital Literacy – More than Words 😶📱

Shakespears’ dauntless vocabulary is heralded as literary genius! Yet his works were filled with an almost laughable excess of new and modernised words. He twisted and manipulated the boundaries of traditional written language and used slang to connect to the community. His prose is now a fixture in our curriculum. Perhaps, just as Shakespeare did, digital slang is transforming literacy from its’ traditional form, one post at a time.

Boyd (2012) outlined the primary function of literacy according to ACARA as,

“…to develop students’ ability to interpret and create texts with appropriateness, accuracy, confidence, fluency and efficacy for learning in and out of school, and for participating in Australian life more generally.” 

Increasingly, as digital media saturates every facet of life, being able to understand, interpret and communicate digital language is an essential skill for anyone wanting to participate in a productive society. Boyd (2012), highlights this as a shift from the traditional understanding of literacy to a broader, rounded perspective that collects the digital matter under a holistic paradigm.

Bill Boyd – Literacy and New Media Landscape

What is digital literacy? Traditionally, mention literacy we immediately think of words, spelling, writing, grammar, themes, books or reading. Digital literacy, however; goes far beyond the fore-mentioned. Hague and Payton (2010), identify digital literacy as critically engaging with technology. They go on to say it,

“Develops social awareness of how a number of factors including commercial agendas and cultural understandings can shape the ways in which technology is used to convey information and meaning.” (Hague and Payton, 3:2010).

FutureLab Handbook for Digital Literacy in the Curriculum.

Limiting literacy to written form can limit student outcomes. In my music classes I introduced a songwriting unit. Students’ write their own song, record it and create a music video. Within a short space of time students started to post their songs online in a variety of forms. Some students even created their own Sound Cloud accounts. At first I was overwhelmed and hesitant to inform my Faculty Head. The litigation…I don’t have parent permission (gulp)😳. After a while I realised, these students had taken a leap into real life production and had mastered the digital literacy of production. Dowdall (2009), supports this concept of children as producers. She acknowledges the evolution of text production through new technologies, and advocates the concept that digital forums provide opportunities for mastery of digital literacies.

Windows 10 have created an ad that illustrates the future. The announcer outlines the babies pictured, as the future digital consumers. This ingenious marketing, presents us with a glimpse into the saturation and influence that technology will have in the not so distant future.

Windows 10

Windows 10 - window to the future
Windows 10 – window to the future

The opportunities are endless if educators embrace the forums available at the click of a button. Assessment can be as diverse and innovative as the creator desires. Best of all this is, of course, no longer limited to the classroom. One of the most difficult issues I have both faced and foreseen, is having a grasp on the technical aspects. This is where we become networkers with the experts the students themselves.

Technology enable the discovery of new literacies – and just like Will Shakespeare himself – can challenge the established idealism to forge a platform of innovation. Perhaps by offering opportunity to explore these new territories, a new literary genius will rise.

This is one of my students’ Doolie and her original song- this young lady is exceptional.

Cleopatra by Ms Doolie Shadforth


Boyd, B. (2012). Literacy and the New Media Landscapes. (Accessed 09/09/2015)

Burnett, C., & Merchant, G. (2011)Is there a Space for Critical Literacy in the Context of Social Media? English Teaching: Practice and Critique. may (2011). Vol. 10:1. pp 41-57.

Dowdall, C. (2009) Masters and Critics: Children as Producers of Online Digital Texts. In Digital Literacies: Social Learning and Classroom Practices. SAGE Publications, London.

Hague, C &Payton, S. (2010). Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum. A Futurelab Handbook. Futurelab – Innovation in Education. (Accessed 10/09/2015).

Common Sense Media -Social Media – The Power of Good and Evil.

5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media

What a wonderful insight! Caroline Knorr’s (2015), measured article on the benefits of social media for our teens is a refreshing mix of reason and caution. Whilst it is true FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is the latest categorisation in a plethora of social disorders, Knorr (2015), has injected some much needed perspective for the pre-generation Y’s.


After some disappointing conversations with my Year 9 drama class on Friday, I hung my weary head in despair as I realised the more “Education” we give them, the more they engage in disappointing online activity. I picked myself up and realised there was indeed a positive side to our conversation. They were really engaged and seemed to have a moment of connection. Our conversation led down the dreaded “Sexting” pathway and revealed a distinct lack of connection with what they have been told and what they actually participated in. They did not connect consequences to their personal actions. The article points out that although some youth engage in reckless online practice, it is certainly not consuming their entire social lives. Most young people use social media seeking innocent connection.

It is so easy as adults to focus on negative behaviours. There is no doubt – Sexting, CyberBullying and Trolling are issues that need attention. However, we don’t necessarily have to throw the baby out with the bath water. Knorr’s (2015) suggests that through adult guidance, social media can add value to young lives. She lists 5 benefits exposure to social media can bring.

It Strengthens Friendships: The majority of teens identified that social media enhanced their friendships and was a method of communication that allowed them to be more approachable and outgoing.

It offered a sense of Belonging: Community, friendship and connection is a basic human need that consolidates our identity. The pinnacle of development for identity is during adolescence. At this stage of maturation, we seek belonging.

It provides genuine support: Last year my 17 year daughter, lifted her head from her computer and asked, “Mum, what do I say to someone who wants to kill themselves?” Understandably horrified, I gathered my thoughts and had my gorgeous daughter begin to scribe as I counselled this desperate young person. Together we provided her with the appropriate support network available to her in her area. She was on the other side of the world and through Tumblr we were able to reach out. This was definitely the right place – right time. It was in the middle of the night, her parents were asleep and we (my daughter) were her lifeline. I am happy to say, she contacted the crisis centre we found and is still in contact with my daughter. Although this is an extreme case, conversations are going on all over the world, every hour of every day that provide a kind or encouraging word.  It is the right place and the right time for someone.

It helps them Express themselves: Creative expression has never been this accessible for everyone at this time in history. As a music teacher my students have their own SoundClouds and YouTube channels and have literally thousands of followers. Instagram, Tumblr Blogs, and so on. It is a fiesta of creative imagery that is easily accessible and exposes your talent to a wider audience. Skills are enhanced in not only the arts but the production of works and digital literacy need to accomplish them.


It lets them do good:  Martin Seligman (p95, 2011) exemplified Geelong Grammar’s positive psychology model by the use of technology to enhance mindfulness and as a vehicle for change. In my own school, all of the altruistic ventures organised by students incorporate social media. They use it to promote, manage and educate about their issues.

Martin Seligman – Flourishing

These 5 reasons give me a perspective to be able to guide the young people in my world through the forest of social media. After all perspective requires more than one viewpoint and more than one voice.

Knorr, C., (2015) 5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media. (Accessed, 23/08/2015)

Seligman, M., (2011) Flourish. Random House, North Sydney, Australia. NSW 2060.

Shock and Awe – does the shock tactic work when delivery a serious message.


After watching this confronting and well made drama, it was difficult for me to imagine how this would not have significant impact on my Year 10 cohort. After a bout of “incidences”, I knew the issue needed addressing. So, like any conscientious Head of Pastoral Care, I trolled the internet for a hip, cool resource that would engage this lost bunch of young people and offer an amazing “Ah ha” moment that would change their behaviours. And, of course set them on the pathway to success. Perhaps, naivety or simply my overly mature frontal lobes, envisioned a completely different outcome after sharing this with my cyber-drenched year level. I imagined hearing a collective gasp as they realised the horrors they have been engaging in and expected I would hear a flurry of comments like, “That was amazing.”, “I’ve learnt so much”, ‘I will think twice.” These images danced around my head as I prepared for the presentation on the Year Level Meeting. I could see it now, I would be inundated by these comments from an enlightened cohort.

Much to my dismay, this was not the case. In fact the sniggers and jeers should have prepared me for the nonchalant and unimpressed sea of, disengaged, lights off eye rolls. I was shocked, perplexed even, by what I though for sure would be a life changing experience for the room full of eager, uninitiated minds longing for my guidance and wisdom.

I had to ask them! I needed to know – what did they actually get out of this clever, relatable and high quality production. Most just smiled a “She has no idea” smile and simply shrugged their shoulders until one young man gave me something I could work with,

“The chick was sort of hot, Miss.”

Who would have thought the Ah Ha moment was for me. This was not an educational, look at yourselves clip… this was pure entertainment. It had not connected to their lives, this was a fantasy devoid of reality. Their reality was with the young men and women in this room and the myriad of facebook, tumbler, snap-chat, periscope followers and virtual ‘friends’. This was pure entertainment, a story. For them their reality did not include someone actually hacking into their account, into their profile.

Dowdall, (2009)explains the competency of young people to adequately facilitate their online presence as “digital literacy” (p50, 2007). As the rolling online juggernaut of social media evolves with each passing second, maintaining adequate protection almost becomes a mute point. Educating young people on their digital literacy becomes a never ending minefield. It does however seem more valuable educating about safe connection from a much earlier age. The federal government esafely website offers some reasonable resources.

Esafety Federal Government

The question still remains though – does saturation equal education? What are the basic human needs our young people are missing out on – connection, human warmth, a conversation? Are we offering resources that shock to replace genuine and authentic conversation? One thing is glaringly obvious, digital connection is here to stay – young people have no choice but to live within a digitally connected world. It is up to all of us fully functioning frontal lobers’ out there to be the protectors, the guardians of safety and human carers.

Mercutio’s Dream

Mercutio was Shakespeare’s commentator. His discourse offered measured insight for the audience as his young cousin negotiated the turmoil of forbidden love, family expectations and social norms.
This blog is designed to analyse youth culture by unpacking a variety of popular media. Books, movies, blogs, social media, games and music. By filtering viewpoints and perspective through the voices of academic commentary, my goal is to present a measured insight into youth culture.
My name is Ali Warren. I am a mother of four, music and drama teacher and the current Head of Year 10 at a high school. I am passionate about empowering the next generation to live their best life and to develop an understanding of what engages our youth. This is valuable insight I can apply in my teaching practice.

I hope you enjoy this blog and please comment – your insight is very valuable. 


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