How to Teach

Using Modern Family in the Classroom

Each of the authors use media in the classroom in differing ways, but all of us agree that there needs to be some sort of assessment if video clips are to be used. Video clips could be used to introduce a concept or a term with a unique twist, such as Luke’s definition of frozen assets. Alternatively, clips can be used to summarize material with a follow-up clicker question, or be the basis for the start of a discussion topic or even the theme for a problem set question. We have prepared a set of slides that we present to interested groups that show how we use media clips in the classroom.

Have you proven that using media helps students?

While most of the feedback we receive has been anecdotal, Chu (2014) found that exam scores were higher for students who were exposed to pop quizzes that featured characters from The Simpsons compared to traditional pop quizzes with generic names and companies. This result was strongest for students at the lower end of the grade distribution (C, D, and F students).

More Resources

While Modern Family does have a significant amount of usable material, there are gaps in the show that just aren’t applicable. For example, there’s very little discussion about market structures despite the fact that all the adult members of the cast are employed. There’s even a gap in the show revolving around larger macro topics such as business cycles or international trade.

Luckily, there is a growing community of educators who use pop culture in the classroom. If you’re looking for clips from other television shows, you can find them online for the following shows:

There are also websites that aggregate a variety of clips from comedy, film, and music: Economics Media Library and Dirk’s Media Library. There are a few more websites devoted to solely country music or Broadway shows. Finally, there are academic publications devoted to the tv show Adam Ruins Everything, super heroes, and contemporary film. If you’re looking for the top ranked films that educators have identified as their favorites for teaching economics, you can check out this paper by Mateer, O’Roark, and Holder (2016).

Critical Commons

All of the clips posted on this site actually housed on Critical Commons, which serves as a fantastic source for faculty looking for a location host their video content. While you don’t need an account to view the clips hosted on Critical Commons, if you want to download the original files to use in your slides then you will need to sign up for a (no-cost) instructor’s account and download them to your local drive.

In order to identify your account as an instructor account, you must use your university-affiliated email during the account registration process so that you can be verified. After approval, you will need to login to your account and each video you view will now have a “Download” button available in the bottom right of each video. You can use this link to save the file to your computer (by right clicking) or you can share this link with your class. If you’re interested in embedding the link into a course management system, the site will also provide an embed code.

Teaching with videos

Each of the videos hosted on this site have the ability to be downloaded for embedding in PowerPoints of course management systems that allow for HTML embedding. By embedding videos into slides, you can:

  1. Create a seamless transition between slides
  2. Not rely on internet connectivity
  3. Appear tech-savvy to students

There are a variety of methods for using video clips in the classroom and is fully dependent on the comfort level of the instructor. Geerling (2012) provides motivation and examples of how to use media in the classroom, while Calhoun and Mateer provide a chapter in the International Handbook on Teaching and Learning Economics on incorporating media and response systems in the economics classroom. Unfortunately, many of the resources listed in the media section (Movies for Economics and Television for Economics) are no longer updated or no longer exist.