For most of us who teach or work in schools, we know that the traditional model of school goes a little like this: student sits, student listens, student works on something, student gives it to the teacher, teacher checks and grades it, student and teacher move onto the next unit. Of course, and thankfully, in more progressive schools a lot of this model has been upended to focus on learning and doing, but ultimately one thing that has remained more or less then same: homework, assignments, projects, test, etc are given to the teacher and graded based on a particular criterion. When it’s the final assessment, we call this summative assessment, and it’s not a bad thing, especially when combined with formative assessment along the way…but is that all there is?
I was confronted by this question the other week when I was introduced to a band by the name Miike Snow (the 2 i’s are on purpose). This happened while I was diligently working (I’m sure) and stumbled upon a band and their catchy music video Genghis Khan. It’s been a while since I’ve paid any attention to what’s going on in the world of music, especially Miike’s Snow’s realm of euro-techo, but in this case the music was pretty good and the video entertaining.
Check it out:
By now I’ve listened to the rest Miiike Snow’s album and even my daughter requests to listened to the “jenjiz kong” song, as she puts it.
So what does this have to do with education? I’m getting there. After searching for the music video on youtube, I noticed that in addition to the original song there were a number of remixes as well. At first I assumed this wasn’t that unusual since people have been remixing music for a long time, but what made this seem different was that the remixes were uploaded to the official Miike Snow youtube page. Now, if that makes little sense to you, think of it like the Louvre showcasing the best reproductions of the Mona Lisa in the same room that holds the famous painting. At the very least I felt like this seemed really generous of Miike Snow to display other artist versions/remixes of their work, but after a quick Google search I discovered that Miike Snow, not only displayed other versions, but actually held a contest for other artists to develop their own remixes of their song and even provided, anyone who was interested, all the random musical tracks it takes to do so.
Here take a listen to a few of the remixes:
They’re pretty good, right?
That takes guts! I mean think about it, how often do you see somebody build, draw, write, and craft something original and then present it to the world and invite people to rip it apart and make something different…maybe even better. It’s admirable and gets at the value of creating non-precious prototypes. Then add on top of all of this, the idea that the best remixes get showcased and there’s even a prize. This seems like a far cry from the advice a band would get from the legal counsel of the mainstream music industry.
Ok, so what does this have to with schools and assessments again? Well, I think it raises an interesting question about what we do with student work after a summative assessment? Does it go back with a final grade or is there something else we could do? What if a teacher took a student’s completed writing assignment, artwork, or social studies project and provided the materials to the rest of the class to deconstruct it and make a new version, a 2.0, maybe even a better version. Of course, this is easily transferable to classes that use Garageband, iMovie, and other media creation programs, but I think the core of the idea could probably apply to any class.
Now you might be thinking: “So once this remixed version is handed in, isn’t this just another summative assessment?” I’d say no, maybe it’s called “Beyond Summative” maybe it’s not even officially assessed. Instead, this is really giving a kid a chance to demonstrate what they were learning by manipulating and creating something completely new. Truthfully, it’s some of the highest order thinking a kid can experience, and at this level of thinking, what’s the purpose of assigning a grade anyway? To this point, this style of Remix Learning, really shows us the cyclical and web-like nature of learning versus the traditional linear nature of learning that most of us are familiar with when we think of schools…or to put it in the simplest of terms, Remix Learning is play!
Truthfully, when you think about the level of creativity needed to pull off a good remix, we should add DJing and Remixing to next years curricular choices. Which is ironic, because it feels like a lot educators and schools would view this sort of work as a waste of time at best, and at worst a form of plagiarism. Another way to think about this might be by comparing the differences between a cook and a chef. Now this isn’t meant to be a jab at any cooks out there, but as a former camp cook in my teens, I familiar with all of the hard work and prepping that goes into getting a meal ready. Occasionally there are moments for some creative culinary adventures, but my no means was that how I spent my time. On the other hand, chefs have the skills and experience to do all the hard work that cook’s do, but a big part of their role is to create, redesign…or remix ideas by building off of something that’s already great, maybe only kinda “newish,” and that may or may not be a success.
So as I hope you can already see, I’m starting to think that remixing something may have a lot more real world applications for students than developing everything from scratch (like we generally ask kids to do in school). For example, think about your job; how often are you responsible for creating new work to demonstrate competency, and how often do you get to build off of somebody else’s previous work? When I think of my job, I’m constantly building off and borrowing other peoples work; from redrafting letters to incoming students for admissions, to coming up with faculty meeting ideas, or personalizing a teacher evaluation tool to better fit our community…the list goes on. We’re all constantly remixing ideas, so why don’t we intentionally invite our students into this model? Or at least more often?
What do you think? Is Remixing the next big thing or just a catchy word for something you already do? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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