This post “comes from the cotton field”

A remix quote from the legendary Muddy Waters, the “father of modern Chicago blues,” is good enough for me.

I was originally going to call this post: How Can I NOT Use aElements of Remix Culture in My Teaching? but this quote is so good I feel I could end here. As my assessors will likely demand more in the name of academia or rigor, however, I have opted not to. (Not all share my excitement for artistic license, after all).

My thoughts here should make clear my belief that the remix is a long-standing human tradition. The implication for teaching is that humans should be made more aware of it. Celebrate it. Enjoy it. Promote it by sharing themselves and, not least of all, participate in it consciously as many have unconsciously for generations.

Thanks to Jonathan Lethem for his Harper’s magazine piece for this fantastic quote from whence I was turned onto this little piece of trivia (The remix reference being my own). I am, after all, capable of derivative originality as are we all. This is really one of the fundamental points of remixing.

The term “remix” itself is new. The concept is not. This is the reason humankind has reached its unlikely status in the food chain as well as our incredible functionality. We do not have to relearn things every generation. “Framers of time” is how Neil Postman eloquently words it in his book, The End of Education.

But strangely, for this post, I considered trying not to remix the work of others. But then, how likely is this? What we know is based on what those who have come before us knew. If we are constrained by firm rules that they must all be cited we then lose the plot and fail to move forward. And let’s be honest here, historically, who breaks copyright more than a teacher? New media has made it more obvious and easier to do and then share with a wider audience than previously imaginable.

The Confessional

Now we have the internet. Before that clip art. Before that magazine clippings and Xerox machines (hand drawn sketches were for those who liked drawing and could smilingly bare student criticism but even we used the other tools previously outlined).

By recubejim (Flickr)

No problem. Crack open MS Publisher and whack out the inquiry version, equipped with the central idea, concept question, learner profile attribute, attitude, disposition or whatever on it and BAM, remix complete and tailor made for your class.

EXAMPLE: This article is perfect for my social studies class. If only it were a little more accessible. Select. Copy. Paste. Rewrite. Print. Distribute as part of a well considered class after provocations, thinking routines (other forward-thinking learning strategy:-))

Did I mention cite?

So I guess the point is that, as so eloquently presented in Kirby Ferguson’s series, Everything is a Remix, there is nothing new under the sun. Hmm… This saying needs revision. Digital media doesn’t really exist under the sun. Let’s try, “Free access to human creation is a birthright.” I like this, though it sounds a little worthy.

One last example now before calling it quits. Isaac Newton was famous for many reasons. One was for this quote: If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of giants.

Hang on a tick…

Newton didn’t write this! Not originally anyway. The 12th century theologian and author John of Salisbury used a version of the phrase in a treatise on logic called Metalogicon, written in Latin in 1159. The gist of what Salisbury said is:

“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”

The phrase may even pre-date John of Salisbury, who was known to have adapted and refined the work of others.

One thing is certain. I did fail to write an interesting blog post without reference to the work and ideas of others. The remix is dead. Long live the remix!

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About Sean Thompson

Sean has accepted a position as the Director of Technology at The Early Learning Centre, City School, in Bangkok. He is excited to be working with Giovanni Piazza and the rest of the staff to raise awareness of digital-age teaching and learning practice in this Reggio Emilia inspired environment. Sean is also an Apple Distinguished Educator, an International Baccalaureate Educator Network Workshop Leader and a Google Educator available for professional development at your school.
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2 Responses to This post “comes from the cotton field”

  1. “Free access to human creation is a birthright.”
    – Sean Thompson

    I love this and what it stands for, I’m going to use (remix) it myself 😉

    • Sean says:

      Wow, thanks. That means alot coming from you. Let me know if you ever run a workshop. I’d be happy to carry your laptop for you and definitely bring along some colleagues to attend. Thanks again, as well, for allowing me access to your wiki stuff. It helped make my Moodle much more impressive for the volume of links.

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