Remix: An Attitude ‘Re’adjustment


Course 3 Round Up…

Visual Literacy: Improved the look of my blog and the use of images in my lessons…Check.
Digital Storytelling: Already happening in my classroom…Check.
Infographics: Related to work on reliable sources of information…Check.
Presentation Zen: Took a tedious PowerPoint and made it a conversation piece….Check.

Remix Culture: Well….um….Remix? Reuse? Mash-up? Transmedia?

I have to admit that as I worked my way through Course 3, this was the one section in which I started to feel a little out of my depth in applying it to my classroom. I make a serious effort to educate my students about plagiarism and using ‘permission to use’ media in their projects. We have expectations regarding citing sources and attribution in any type of assignment with media. How would I introduce ‘remixes’ and ‘mash-ups’ after all that? As I started looking through some of the assigned readings and media I realized I needed to take a step back and ‘readjust’ my perspective on this creative form.

Reassessment
After watching Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything is a Remix” videos, I quickly realized my perceptions of ‘remix’ were predominately based on what I knew about music and movies. I was familiar with how ‘sampling’ evolved through hip hop music and how the movies like Star Wars drew inspiration from other movies and sources. So how would these (often) big budget art forms translate to the classroom? I realized I needed to get a better understanding of ‘remix’ in general and then explore its application to the classroom.

According to Lawrence Lessig, “remix” is simply “a creative work that builds upon the creative work of others.” A simple definition that brought ‘remix’ to a much more applicable level. Henry Jenkins in Learning By Remixing points out that many of our students are already doing this creative work on their own anyway.

America’s children are become media-makers: they are blogging, designing their own websites, podcasting, modding games, making digital movies, creating soundfiles, constructing digital images, and writing fan fiction, to cite just a few examples.

Josh Karp also refers to taking advantage of what many of our students are already familiar with and transferring it to learning. In Remixing as a Classroom Strategy he states,

remixing is finding its way into the classroom as a way of fostering students’ creativity and helping them learn and express their ideas. It also doesn’t hurt that the medium is second nature to today’s students.

Readjustment
As I began to consider ‘media-making’ activities we already do in my classroom and school (digital storytelling, blogging, podcasting) I realized that ‘remixing’ wasn’t something that should just be happening in art and technology classes but across the subject areas. (and even among them…see an interdisciplinary example of remixing in “Teacher Created Transmedia Experiences”) Remixing, no matter the subject area, requires critical thinking skills. In just producing a digital story in my Humanities class, my students had to make countless decisions and solve various problems to complete their final project. Josh Karp continues in his discussion about remixing in the classroom saying..

…remixing forces students to take a critical look at source material and then apply it in ways that prove a thesis or illustrate a point. The students carefully determine whether music, video, text, software or whatever else they are remixing fits the requirements of an assignment, and then they figure out how it can be used to make it their own.

Realization
With my perspective adjusted regarding remixing and its useful, appropriate application in my classroom, I still had to consider how to still promote the expectation that we should not copy or steal other people’s stuff. How could I balance that with asking my students to deconstruct, remix, reuse, mash-up and reassemble other peoples’ creations in the name of learning?

In continuing his definition of ‘remix’, Lawrence Lessig adds that remix “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.” I think this means that the process is more complex than throwing some images or video clips together. It is thoughtful in production and in respect to the origin. Mr. Lessig continues,

When you use someone else’s work, you give them credit. We need to stand up and acknowledge what we’re doing, give people credit, and thank them…We have to respect the people whose art we build upon.

In this respect, the use of remixing activities in the classroom offers us the opportunity to talk about the ethical and legal considerations regarding the use of others’ work in our own. So by having my students create ‘remixed’ products that address our curriculum goals, we also create learning and discussion around how we handle others’ creations in our own creations. Henry Jenkins, concludes

…in emphasizing totally “original work”, schools sacrifice the opportunity to help kids think more deeply about the ethical and legal implications of repurposing existing media content; they often do not provide them with the conceptual tools students need to analyze and interpret works produced in this appropriative process; and they don’t teach them the relationship between analysis and production.

I’ve come full circle. My original concerns that using remixing as a learning tool in my classroom would somehow conflict with the expectations around avoiding plagiarism have been replaced with the optimism of how the two are connected. Using remixing as an educational tool requires addressing our ethical and legal responsibilities and those responsibilities guide the production of a remix or a mash-up as a reflection of creativity and learning.

 

Lessons that address Fair Use and Remix Culture
Teaching Copyright
: Fair Use: Remix Culture, Mashups, and Copyright (high school)
Common Sense Media
: Lesson: Rework, Reuse, Remix  (middle school)

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