The Remix- Beyond the Mixed Tape

I am slightly embarrassed to admit how much I have enjoyed viewing a wide variety of remixes this week. I have encountered them before, mostly through Facebook, but I had no clue how extensive the remix subculture is becoming (transforming from subculture to culture). It was Doug Belshaw, in his TEDx talk The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies that pointed out that remixes are in contrast to elegant consumption- hence my feelings of embarrassment for enjoying them so much.

In the past I had always viewed memes, LOLcats, and what I am now calling remixes as simple and worth a chuckle. I had never considered just how powerful these simple images are. These new forms of messages are not only reaching a large audience, they are giving everyone that has access to a computer and the internet a voice. As Larry Lessig put it in his talk “Tools of creativity have become tools of speech. This is how our kids speak[, think, and are]”.

I think this is evident by the crossover of serious topics, such as politics, and the use of memes. Social media has such a huge influence in our lives now and while discussing politics I routinely found myself referring to things that I had learned through Facebook and other social media sites. I also saw a lot of things that weren’t full truths (those things that are taken out of context or fail to tell the full story). and these are the reasons we need to be aware of the immense power social medias have and realize that we need to teach our students how to consume the information that they will encounter online.

Leaning about remixes and the potential our students have to be contributors to the world of information ‘out there’ brings up two very different emotions for me. On one hand I think it is an amazing opportunity that our students can create things and share them to be consumed with others. On the other hand it reminds me of the importance of teaching students to look at the source of the information they are using. I do realize how contradictory this sounds- I like the idea of my own students creating/compiling information- but I don’t necessarily want them consuming information from other students. I guess I am a bit old school and I am concerned about the validity of the information posted.

When I looked at the NCTE Framework for 21st Century Literacies the points related to ‘filtering’ through all the information out there are the ones that stood out to me:

  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneously presented information; and
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts.

I think this document provided a great goal for education, but as a classroom teacher trying to make it happen in the classroom it is overwhelming. I have to remember one step at a time. I also think that this document nicely led in to the Future Work Skills referred to in the U of Phoenix document. I found it interesting to read about how middle-skill white and blue collar job opportunities are declining and both high-skill, high-wage jobs and low-skill, low-wage job opportunities are increasing. Most teachers have heard from their students about a parent/grandparent etc. that didn’t graduate from high school and was very successful- and there wil continue to be these rare examples- but jobs in our society are requiring more training and specific skills desired by employers and we need to try to make the best candidates we can for both these jobs and educational opportunities. The Future Work Skills document also talked about New-Media Literacy being a desired skill and it reminded me of the Saskatchewanderer- an entire job based on documenting one person’s experiences in SK on social media- a job not even dreamed up 10 years ago.

The last video I watched this week was David Crystal debunking the myths surrounding texting and tweeting. I found his talk enlightening- not only because his physical appearance is not what you would expect from someone speaking on this topic, but because he convinced me that some of my preconceptions about these shorthand communications were wrong. He was very compelling to listen to and I hadn’t considered the literacy benefits of texting by simply considering that it means increased time spent reading and writing. Who knew youth could be fooled into learning :).

While I think Crystal is correct in that students know the difference between short hand and proper essay English I also think there are other results of online conveniences that we see in the classroom. I think that proper spelling is one. I am not sure it is a skill we need as much anymore with programs that correct our errors automatically or notify us when something is incorrect- but I do find myself getting worse at it. I also had an interesting experience in the last assignment I did with my Grade 10 students:


This paper was handed in as a 1 page reflection. It was not a major essay and we didn’t spend any time formally editing our papers- but I did expect capital letters to start off sentences. In fact, I had 2 papers with the exact same problem: no capital letters to start sentences. The thing that shocked me was that these aren’t weak students that handed them in.

In a conversation with a colleague she suggested that perhaps they had become so used to programs capitalizing the start of their sentences for them they simply missed this step in their writing- and she was right. They were easily able to identify the problem with their papers. It made me giggle at a new age teaching opportunity unimaginable even 5 years ago.

Crystal put it into perspective that so much of what is happening in social media and information sharing now has been around for such a short time we don’t know a lot about the long term effects. It blows my mind to think that Twitter isn’t even 10 years old and its effect on society is immeasurable. The skills our students need to thrive in society are different than the skills we needed at graduation. Sometimes we need t put aside our long standing beliefs about what our students need and realize that times are changing faster than we are and youth today are going to do things today different than we expect them to. When it comes to reading it doesn’t matter to me how youth are doing it, I just think it is important for them to do it!

In summary for this week- I really liked the idea that remixes are a shift away from a consumer-only culture to a culture where anyone has the ability to be both a consumer or a creator and we aren’t limited in our exposure to what is dictated as important in a top-down approach. I also think it is so important to recognize that there are still filters, logarithms, and designers of online worlds affecting what we see- and how to manage those settings and expectations of the content we encounter because of them.




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