It is generally believed that the common school classroom does not lend itself for any innovative new science, and therefore has limited use for science fiction. However, most educators agree that, by bringing pop culture resources to the classroom, teachers will be able to better communicate with their students and engage with their interests. Science fiction references, in particular, will incentivize kids and teenagers to be more involved in STEM initiatives.
An advantage of using Sci-Fi materials for teaching purposes is its variety. Films and novels are the most known options but very useful didactic resources can be found in magazines or television series, among others. Furthermore, Sci-Fi is often connected to several STEM subjects –thus, it can be used in different contexts- and often shows current hot topics -such as environmental concerns, medical and genetic investigation, engineering research, etc. - that might be of many students’ interest.
The use of science fiction materials also serves as an interdisciplinary approach. Science fiction usually represents a blend of science and technology, social sciences and arts and it frequently addresses social issues through a scientific lens.
One of the main profits of using Sci-Fi in the classroom is that it can encourage creativity and innovation. Sci-Fi stories can spark the learners’ curiosity and inspire them to be creative. It is crucial that students develop as critical thinkers, so they are able to raise questions and not accept everything as it is initially presented.
There are other science related tools that can be used in the classroom but that are not considered Sci-Fi. For instance, biographical movies on the life of famous scientists can help kids identify with them, hence portraying possible career outcomes and positive role models. Even though, it is important to not create unrealistic expectations of the real work of scientists.
Learning through entertainment should involve materials to be used for educational purposes only. In that sense, teachers should be able to frame the content of the Sci-Fi materials in an educational way and be able to link it to the science content that is required to be learned in the curriculum.
Unfortunately, there are not enough opportunities for teachers to learn how to teach using Sci-Fi resources or even to learn on science fiction literature, in general. While some classes are implemented at a university level, it is not a generalized subject. In any case, some scientific institutions have taken account on the popularity of Sci-Fi and have started producing their own Sci-Fi products in order to attract a bigger audience.
Some concerns have been raised on the many misconceptions that can be caused by using materials that contain more fiction than science. This disadvantage could always be turned into a benefit by promoting students’ critical thinking and by encouraging a critical debate on controversial issues. Nevertheless, educators should always be aware of the students’ capabilities. It is not suitable to carry any critical debate if pupils have not previously learned certain basic concepts or are too young to come up with elaborated theories or scientific models.
An option is to change the curriculum and/or the examination system to encourage pupils to express their creativity. In general, the course planning very much consists in gathering knowledge to be assesed in an exam, which some criticize for its rigidity and for only assuring short term results. In fact, exams should also reflect the capacity of a student to be creative as well as their innovative thinking.