Everything is a Remix

I have really enjoyed the Everything is a Remix series. Every single one of them was thought provoking, eye opening and I recommend them to people every time they connect to something we’re talking about. So, no doubt that I was impressed by the latest installment which relates well to our current copyright and patent discussions.

One of the points Kirby made was that when we copy others, it’s “okay” but it infuriates us to know that someone else has copied us.

I had an aha moment hearing him make this point. Just today, I had one of those frustratingly bad teacher moments. One of those times where your activity has fallen flat and you’re just not sure how to get out of it. We are currently in a unit about the ideas of reduce/reuse/recycle. We’ve collected box-loads of empty water bottles, cardboard boxes and metal cans. The next step was brainstorming new uses for these unwanted items.

The brainstorming step was excruciatingly painful. In my classroom, I have empty cans with covered sides as pencil holders. I also showed many ideas of repurposed items that I found online. So naturally, everyone wanted to make a pencil holder from a metal can or the birdfeeder from the web site I showed them. I appreciate that, I do. And I appreciate Kirby’s phrase “an act for the encouragement of learning.” But what I find out time after time, is that when I use an example to encourage my students’ thinking, I end up getting at least 10 out of 20 students replicating my ideas. There will also be the handful who have brilliant and original ideas, but then another handful that will copy them. Then the last handful sits around whining “I can’t think of anything!”

I am not even sure that the 5-6 year old brain is ready to envision a plant holder or a salt shaker from a disposed water bottle but the line is blurred here. There is no way they are going to come up with a brand new, never been done before project. But I am asking them to use existing ideas and make them different. How different? How do we “teach” them to copy creatively?

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