I remember the eighties really well and I can’t help but think of that decade when I hear the word “remix”. My first thoughts are always about dance music, Culture Club and Madonna! But alas, I have long since put away my lace gloves and leg warmers. I’m just not “Into the Groove” anymore.
When I think of using elements of remix in teaching elementary grades, I think of students accessing their prior knowledge about the world, adapting it to suit their needs and creating new connections to the content they are learning. They don’t think about things that trouble adults like copyright or giving credit.
For much of a young students’ school life they have been remixing and they didn’t even know it, such as:
- when students begin to write they often use sentence starters that follow the patterns from popular books;
- teachers adapt the lyrics to popular nursery rhymes and kids’ songs and use them as memory aids for everything from counting by 10’s to learning the days of the week;
- student art work can reflect artists from Van Gogh to Eric Carle.
Older students remix in unlimited ways (and often they do so spontaneously, outside of school and with their friends). They can rewrite a favourite book and changing the ending; create a new story with a familiar character (Fan Fiction); illustrate a cartoon or graphic novel based on their favourite characters and super heroes; change the lyrics from a popular song to create a parody or a song about a specific content area; or, incorporate sections of music in a video or play to provide mood effects. The ideas are as endless as kids’ imagination.
Remixing often involves a deep understanding of the subject material with which a student is working. In fact, it is hard to make a connection to something if you don’t really understand the subject in the first place.
Lawrence Lessig likens remix to “a creative work that builds on the creative work of others”. He goes on the explain that, “It means using the work of others in a way that is transformative, or critical.”
I think that in order for a student’s work to be transformative or critical, that student must first see the connection between their ideas and those of the original artist. Children see the world around them, internalize what they see and process it so that it fits their perspective. I think that remix can help them achieve their goals and should be encouraged for the creative process that it is, rather than frowned upon as some sort of copycat behaviour.