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A Pair of Pop Pedagogues

Most teachers see pop culture as the enemy - a competitor for their students' attention. Ryan Goble and Nicole Trackman embrace it.
Most teachers see pop culture as the enemy-'"a competitor for their students' attention. Ryan Goble and Nicole Trackman embrace it.

Goble, a doctoral student in Interdisciplinary Studies at Teachers College, and his wife, Trackman, run Mindblue Productions, a fledging company that develops study guides integrating rock and roll with core curriculum. As Goble says, "we're making curriculum pop."

Ben Harper, Ani DiFranco, Radiohead - these are just a few of the artists Goble and Trackman use to connect schoolwork with students' lives. "The kids just love it," Trackman says, "and we have wonderful responses from the teachers."

"There's no reason school should be boring," Goble adds. "It's too exciting. There are too many things to connect, to see and do."

Goble, a self-described media junkie, grew up listening to Motown and worked for Virgin Records before becoming a teacher. His brainchild, Mindblue, grew out of his 1997 master's thesis on improving education through the arts and popular culture. He is currently a high school curriculum coordinator and also mentors first year teachers in the South Bronx.

Trackman, a poet who attended the Iowa Writer's Workshop, teaches at Lyceum Kennedy, the French International School, and also consults on curriculum development in the Bronx. She hopes to pursue her degree, like Goble, in Interdisciplinary Studies at Teachers College.

Goble and Trackman attended the same high school in Chicago, although they were four years apart and did not know one another at the time. They met later on as newly hired teachers at another Chicago high school. Working together, sharing lesson plans and ideas, they soon realized how much they had in common.

"It was just a kind of natural fit," says Goble. "We're very like-minded in how we see the world and how we explore the world and our views on education."

Trackman soon began developing multidisciplinary lesson plans with Goble for Mindblue. In 2005, they launched their online storefront, Mindblue.com. Last summer they took a break to get married.

What's it like, being married to your business partner?

"We balance each other out," answers Trackman. "I think it's because I'm very good at the details, and he's very good at the big picture."

In March, they put together the conference, "Popular Culture in the Classroom: Teach, Think, Play," at Teachers College. The conference, which Goble describes as "an educational sweet spot where the outside world and the school world came together," identified ways to incorporate popular culture into curriculum and classroom practice across disciplines.

Next up for Goble and Trackman: taking Mindblue on the road to schools and teachers' conventions.

"Schools call us in to rock their professional development," Goble says. "People treat us as a revelation." Billed as educational rock concerts, their presentations offer lesson plans, live music and audience participation.

So when do they have time for their own schoolwork?
"You have some sleepless nights, and you try to multitask," says Goble.

"I ask myself that all the time," Trackman says. "But we're both fortunate enough to be doing things we not only love, but really believe in."

Published Wednesday, May. 9, 2007