“Stole it? Nope, rEmiXeD it!”

Picture from Celeste Hutchins<br />Remixed by Joe Winston

M Lisa w/ Picaso


Whether it be music, literature or art, remixing is definitely NOT new. Beethoven payed “homage” to Mozart by incorporating elements of Wolfgang’s music into his own.
Grandmaster flash did it and Vanilla Ice sure as hell did it.

What’s the difference now?
From the article 7 Essential Skills You Didn’t Learn in College, they claim “The creative act is no longer about building something out of nothing but rather building something new out of cultural products that already exist.”
Created by Mogodore J Bivouac
With the variety of music and video editing tools available it’s hard to resist the urge to take something you see and put your own spin on it. Note the Halloween themed spoof of the classic painting by Grant Wood, American Gothic.

“Remix,” in the sense the competition intended, means a creative work that builds upon the creative work of others. That doesn’t mean simply grabbing or using the work of others. It means using the work of others in a way that is transformative, or critical.  -The “Imbecile” and “Moron” Responds: On the Freedoms of Remix Creators

Take a walk with this video series by Kirby Ferguson entitled “Everything is a Remix”. He explains how people have been remixing throughout time and how it’s become an important tool for people to express themselves.

By allowing students to mix and remix media that they find, they can explore an outlet to express something they want to share. They can change something to fit their emotion/ social needs and maybe use it to touch someone else that didn’t understand the original piece of work, but can better relate to this new adaptation.

Students should be given the opportunity to share their understanding through the various medians the experience life everyday. I let my class combine technologies to make something new, rewrite the words to songs to show their understanding of a chapter, redesign a cereal box to fit our social studies unit.

These concepts aren’t new. The tools we use to do it, an the avenues we use to share it have. Dioramas are still around, but there are other creative outlets that students today would want to have as an option. Letting them have the freedom to explore and create is key.

I Feel a Change Comin’ On

Like the popular Bob Dylan song suggests, not only do I feel a change a comin’, I see it happening all around me.

I just finished reading Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. The biggest overall thought I get from the summary is, Things Are Different. My parents felt this way with me and I know I will do the same with my kids. For us it’s partly the fact that we’re the “digital immigrants.” I love that term. We’re the immigrants. We’ve watched the technology build up around us over time like a wave engulfing everything we thought we knew how to do; but yet, we’re the immigrants.

The report concludes that digital resources have changed the way today’s youth: hangout, socialize, date, communicate ideas and feelings, create social media, view others, develop interest and support groups, motivation for learning and sharing… In short, most things that we consider to be detrimental to development. What we (the digital immigrants) need to learn is different doesn’t = wrong. We teach this to kids everyday, but it’s hard for “Adults” to sit back and watch. I constantly hear phrases each year from the parents of my students saying, “That’s not how I learned it.”

Also addressed is getting parents more involved in the understanding of the “Digital Native’s” way of thinking. I fully support this. Parents (and teachers) need to be educated on the ins and outs of social networking and online groups and the psychology that goes along with it. It describes these online social sites as the new hangouts for kids instead of the mall, parks, and playgrounds. There is the importance for parents to have conversations with their kids to instill the values that they want them to have before they send them out into the digital world. This is something that is crucial. The article Problems With Lack of Family Communication points out the irony of the lack of communication in today’s families even though we have more ways of staying in touch with each other than ever before. This is why educating parents, about the differences their children are facing as they grow, can help them better understand these foreign lives their children lead. I have been a part of my school’s parent education evenings about the basics of social networking sites for the elementary students. These are usually well attended, so the desire to learn is there.

The other unmistakable area of change is in education. The Living and Learning with New Media report puts forth this question, “And rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, what would it mean to think of education as a process of guiding kids’ participation in public life more generally, a public life that includes social, recreational, and civic engagement?” Is this where we’re headed? Is education moving farther away from content and more towards process? Does the old “Traditional” form of education prepare today’s students for that? Hmm…, I smell a change a comin’.

What Are We Doing?

What are we doing to help students prepare for the ever changing world they are plunging into? Over the past week I’ve read several articles, blogs and attended the 21 Century Learning conference here in Hong Kong with this question in mind.

In “Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project” I read the section on messing around. As I read about the importance of allowing students to have the opportunity to explore their interest with technology, I reflected on what brought me to the footsteps of technology back in 1981.It was a total mistake. I came to school early thinking I was going to jazz band in 7th grade. I didn’t get the call that it was canceled so I sat in the hall. The school librarian saw me and asked if I wanted to help her take some boxes to her office. It was a Commodore 64. She told me that she had little interest and knowledge of what to do with it and wondered if I could get a group of kids together to help her learn how to use it. Inadvertently she had given us the “Free Ticket” to mess around. This built my interest and confidence in the use of technology.

The report says, “messing around can function as a transitional genre that leads to more sustained engagements with media and technology.” What adults sometimes consider as “wasting time” or “not learning” are actually the students attempts to personalize what they are doing. After reading this report I let my students (4th grade) have 10 minutes to create avatars that they can use on their websites, emails, and so forth. It was interesting to see how much or how little they wanted it to look like them. It also lent itself to a great discussion of presenting yourself to others online. The students were eager to use their new avatar to update their online image. I have noticed several students accessing different sites more frequently since adding their own avatar.

I want to find more opportunities to give the students time to “mess around and tinker” with new programs and technology in the classroom. I want them to explore tools that they might use to show the understanding of a concept or explain an idea. They can explore different uses of technology they already have in their possession and find new ways to use them that I wouldn’t come up with. I know that I won’t be able to give them the Google model of 20%, but they need some exploration time that’s low stress with flexible goals. This will help develop more confidence and self initiative.

At the 21CLHK conference I had the opportunity to listen to Sugata Mitra. He posed the question, “Do teachers get int he way of learning?”. It made me think about how many times have I intervened to speed up a process because PE is in 5 minutes or have I given students the enough times to fail before assisting them.  What’s more important, the path or the product? I hope to let the students take the reigns more for their learning. I want them to develop the problem solving, adapting, and seeking skills they’ll need to be successful in this ever changing world.

Wired All Around Me

I’ve recently read a section from “Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project“* about “Hanging Out”. It talks about the shift of the definition due to the implementation of technology.

As I read the article I was sitting at a café in one of the most WIRED cities in the world, Hong Kong. I would periodically pause from my reading to see its findings laid out around me.  The report describes how some kids use it as soon as they awake to communicate with friend or significant other. Some use technology as the center piece to gather around and be social (video games, web searches, youtube). Across from me is a group of four guys in their 20’s. They’re sitting in a circle playing a linked game between their PSPs while joking and having a good time. The girl across from me as been slowly sipping her latte while chatting with a friend in Japanese on Skype. The couple in the corner have a Y jack for headphones in their Ipad as they watch a movie together.

I count 47 people in the room. 28 are using technology in one form or another. Almost all have cellphones out or at the ready to read, share, and send texts. It is a new era of hanging out.

If hanging out through the use of technology is becoming the norm for a growing number of people, why are so many educators stopping it in the classroom when it could be used as a valuable resource for our students to gather information and collaborate worldwide?


*The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning  |  November 2008