The Big Bang Theory

Published on May 19, 2015

Schema theory posits that we learn better if we build on concepts already familiar to us. Connecting new content with the familiar will allow for more in-depth application and synthesis.

Below are just a few of the great many instances of how a popular sitcom illustrates concepts from computer science and communication.

Pedagogical Background
     Schema theory (Piaget, 1958) posits that cognitive development of human beings is best facilitated by relying on the building blocks already present in our minds. Individuals’ background knowledge will allow for new knowledge to be embedded into cognitive processes through activities that tie together the old and the new (Vygotsky, 1978) with great efficiency. Connecting with the familiar in a new context will allow for more in-depth applications, analysis, and synthesis – a true realization of Bloom’s (1956) taxonomy of educational objectives.

     The Big Bang Theory is a popular American situation comedy created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. “A woman who moves into an apartment across the hall from two brilliant but socially awkward physicists shows them how little they know about life outside of the laboratory.” (IMDB, n. d.)

How can The Big Bang Theory help you understand and retain concepts related to computers, the Internet, and interpersonal communication better? Below are a few examples that highlight practical applications of relevant learning goals.

Disciplinary Competence, Working Knowledge of Ethics and Legal Compliance:

Bidgoli (2014), MIS 5th Edition Chapter Examples of practical application
The Machines Behind Computing Sheldon is constantly rebuilding, upgrading, and formatting his desktop, laptop, consoles.
Database Systems The birthplace of Big Data and CERNET are visited. See: The Large Hadron Collision.
Personal, Legal, Ethical Issues Sheldon’s WOW account is hacked, his possessions are stolen. See: The Zarnecki Incursion.
The Internet, Intranets, and Extranets Sheldon and Leonard learn about the evils of the Internet. See: The Troll Manifestation.
E-Commerce Online buying/selling practices and related hardships are explored. See: The Nerdvana Annihilation.
Global Information Systems Howard crushes a satellite IS in an attempt to impress his date. See: The Apology Insufficiency.
Successful Information Systems Leonard and co. fail to develop a successful smartphone app. See: The Bus Pants Utilization.
Intelligent Information Systems Rajesh finds a female companion he can actually talk to: his phone’s AI. See: The Beta Test Initiation.
Emerging Trends and Applications Penny gets lots in a virtual world .
See: The Barbarian Sublimation.

Communication and Critical Thinking Skills:
The series exploits effective/deficient communication and the application of critical/practical/lacking thinking skills through the everyday situations that pose mundane/absurd obstacles to its socially inept scientist characters and their down-to-earth neighbor. Each episode also illustrates how face-to-face or computer mediated communication can suffer from literal or surface-level interpretation of messages.

Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay Co Inc.
IMDB. (n.d.) The Big Bang Theory.
Piaget, J. (1958). The growth of logical thinking from childhood to adolescence. AMC, 10, 12.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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