For all the talk on Course 2 of how ‘Everything is a Remix‘, one of my students recently submitted a very compelling argument to the contrary: an amazingly original video for her home learning task to create an anti-smoking campaign. As a die-hard music fan, I get that we all draw on our influences, the synthesis of which can be so subtle as to be barely noticeable. I think however, that it is within that very same synthesis lies the real originality, that truly unique approach or individual interpretation; the ‘original idea’ which we are told increasingly no longer exists.
Perhaps it is not necessarily that things are now only ever remixed, rather that they always have been. It’s just that nowadays, thanks to the omniscient power of the internet, we are so much more painfully aware of where everything comes from. I remember my joy as an impressionable teenager first discovering the genius of Eric Clapton playing on the 1966 John Mayall Bluesbreakers album; one of those formative moments that began a long and passionate affair with music. For all I knew as a teenager living in a culturally-backward, bomb-damaged Belfast, this was the first time that anyone had ever made music like this; it was only many years later, on buying a Freddie King album that it finally made sense. That it didn’t seem so original anymore. The likeness is uncanny, and Clapton’s vocal stylings are clearly modelled on King’s, to the point of being a straight-up impression rather than merely an influence. Does that make the Bluesbreakers album any less influential? Any less groundbreaking? Well no, but it certainly does place it differently on a family tree for sure. The point being, this fact would not have escaped the same digitally-connected teenager today, but when I first began buying records, it was a struggle to even get my hands on Clapton albums, never mind Freddie King.
Inspired by Rushton Hurley at the GAFE Summit in Tokyo this February, I spotted the opportunity to apply some of the ideas of copyright and fair use we have addressed in Course 2, by introducing my class to his fantastic Next Vista video competition. The concept is to create interesting videos which can teach someone something, and to build an online library of these as a resource for teachers and pupils alike. The competition has strict rules on the use of images and music, all of which must either be license-free, or used only with permission of the owners. One of my pupils put forward the idea of teaching people how to say “hello” in different languages, and from that, ‘Around the World in 40 Hellos’ was born. The idea is simple: the video travels west from Japan all the way around the world and back to Japan, with a brief diversion into outer space, teaching the audience how to say “hello’ in 40 different ways.
The impact of the project as been greater than either Ella or I first expected, to say the very least. As a teacher, helping even one pupil realise the glimmer of an intial idea, and take it from the drawing board to a final, polished piece of work; the modelling of this and the power of video as a global teaching and learning tool to other students; the promotion of fair use and copyright within my class and the wider school body – with the participation of so many teachers and children, it required Ella to distribute and collect 35 model release forms, as well as crediting all sources, and using license-free music; for Ella and the school, recognition as the first ever pupil and school from Japan to submit an entry to the competition; its use by Rushton Hurley in his keynote at the recent MABE 2013 conference for bilingual educators in Michigan; his subsequent appearance in in my school via Skype to encourage more entries for his new summer contest; and most recently, its use to open International Day at The British School in the Netherlands.
Oh yes, and the video was actually chosen as one of the six finalists in its category.
And now, it truly has been around the world.
UbD UNIT PLANNER: 40 Hellos
MABE 2013 Conference, image owned by Rushton Hurley.
Skyping with Rushton Hurley, image owned by Philip Arneill.
International Day 2013, image owned by The British School in the Netherlands.
Extract from The Lion Newsletter, The British School in Tokyo, 2013.
Padlet feedback wall for classes which watched the video, 2013.