The Message


Photo credit: Kameelah via Flikr cc

Remixing is not a new trend. In fact since the beginnings of recorded sound in the late 19th century, technology has enabled people to rearrange the normal listening experience. Dance hall culture of the 60’s and 70’s allowed local music mixers who deconstructed and rebuilt tracks to suit the tastes of their audience.

Grandmaster Flash was one of the pioneers of hip-hop. He has based his whole career on incorporating recordings from other artists directly into his work. Grandmasters Flash and the Furious Five’s  “The Message” is probably their most well known single. I love it, I even own it on vinyl!

This song has itself been sampled a in amazingly more than 200 separate songs. Grandmaster Flash really started the remix culture as we know it, both in and out of education.

Mark Twain spoke about in with a literacy focus stating  “All ideas are secondhand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources. We are constantly littering our literature with disconnected sentences borrowed from books at some unremembered time and now imagined to be our own.”

Photo credit: Bago Games via Flikr cc

Darrel Johnson states “Star Wars” was really nothing more than a remake of the classic Western, complete with bad guys in black hats and heroes in white.” 

So that explains the remix culture in music, film and word. But how does this link to education? 

Doug Sery, an acquisitions editor at MIT Press in the new media, game studies and design group talks about those early days of sampling as “taking songs, splicing them together and making different creations. Now people are using different media to try and get across their ideas.”

Remixing teaches key concepts and skills such as: –

  • systems thinking
  • connecting ideas
  • information gathering
  • experience
  • collaboration

So by asking children to remix using new media tools we are allowing children to show their creativity and express their ideas and thoughts using technology that they are comfortable working with.

Projects such as “YOUmedia — a Digital Library Space for Teens,” are rethinking what it means to be literate. Children are encouraged to make noise, hang out, messing around and geek out. The great thing about this project is that children are encouraged to remix and create “not on what adults think students should be doing, but on “what kids actually do and how they engage” with media and one another.”

Photo Credit: The Shifted Librarian via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: The Shifted Librarian via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: kongtemplation via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: kongtemplation via Compfight cc



Photo Credit: danxoneil via Compfight cc

The Institute of Play and The Neville Project are other projects that are remixing education putting children at the centre of what they are learning. Children are “participatory learning” using the skills mentioned above and creating and teaching others.

We are in one of these rare moments in time where what it means to be literate today, what it meant for us, is going to be different from what it means to be literate for our kids

So remixing, reworking old ideas but changing or adapting them to the 21st century can work. Maybe what we need to do as teachers is become teachers 2.0?  So teachers today need to teach

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
  •  Analysing Information
  • Problem Solving

We need to teach in a 21st Century way because children do not learn in the same way. Therefore our teaching must adapt. How we communicate has changed because of social media. Collaboration is the norm for teaching and learning to be effective. Children no longer need to remember facts that we did in our time at school. Instead children need to be taught how to criticaly think and analyse information. Problem solving will be a vital skill in jobs that have yet to be created.

So how does this affect the Grade 1 students who I work with? 

Well last year the Grade 1 students have been introduced to the remix culture. We looked at some remix/mashup such as NASA Johnson Style ( Gangam Style Parodoy) and Curiosity Rover “Call Me Maybe” Mashup. Last years our Grade 12’s took part in the schools first Lip Dub, which the Grade1’s loved seeing. Perhaps this could be a way of introducing it to 6 and 7 years olds.

Another way that Grade 1 have been exposed to the remix culture is through the use of  MIT’s Scratch. Scratch is one of the Apps on the iPads that we use daily and the children are enjoying coding at an early age. I would like to try more coding with the children and am looking forward to taking part in the hour of code between the 7th and 13th December. However Scratch does much more than that the website allows users to import any type of media into the interface and apply easy to use drag-and-drop programming modules to remix the pieces into new media productions.

But what about the copyright laws and plagiarism? 

Eric Faden’s A Fair(y) Use Tale mashes up Disney movie clips to attack current copyright laws and explains the fair use in the process. As our online habits and our teaching and learning is adapting does copyright law also need to change?

I suppose our role as teachers is to educate and model how to the remix culture could work in schools.

Remix culture can be whatever you do with it.

No one has summarised it better than the great artist Salvador Dalí “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”

So what’s the Message?

4 thoughts on “The Message

  1. I’m such a geek. These are new resources for me which I totally can’t wait to check out. And any post with Grandmaster Flash is alright with me. Love all of this!

    I love the idea of your grade 1s thinking about remix. I think little kids get the idea of giving thanks and credit to other people’s ideas. Here’s one from a kindergarten class:

    PS- interestingly the quote about Star Wars is actually taken from Everything is a Remix. I think, appropriately this does prove that everything is a remix.


    1. Thanks Rebekah for the comments. The Remix culture is one that First graders can really get a sense of taking part in. I am really looking forward to trying scratch out with them ( and myself)
      I really enjoyed writing this post as it took me back to my youth – watching Star Wars and messing around with Vinyl. Good times!
      It’s important to teach 6 and 7 year olds these important skills that they will use throughout their lives.
      Everything is a remix!


  2. Joel,

    Your post really opened my eyes to the remix culture. Especially due to the fact that you can do it with 1st graders that means there is no excuse and I should try to do it with my 4th graders!

    I would have to say one thing this course has definitely done for me is open my eyes to all of the resources out there and how others are using them in a purposeful way within their curriculum and classrooms. That is a HUGE thing for me. If I am going to incorporate this technology and resources within my already crazy busy curriculum, it has to add meaning and purpose! It is apparent that you are very knowledgeable and passionate about these resources and the history of it all, but it is great how you tie it back in with what really matters, your students’ learning.

    Thanks for sharing!


    1. Hi Danelle,
      Many thanks for the comments. I agree completely when you mention all of the amazing resources that people are posting other COETAIL blogs. It is hard to keep up with all of the great stuff people are posting. I think we have to be careful of what we try – we have to be excited to use tech in a meaningful, exciting way. Remix culture is for me exciting and I love the idea behind it- after all everything is a remix!
      I think it comes down to trialling the things that interest you and seeing how they go. This comes down time and as teachers we all know that there is not enough time in our days! Some of the resources, we see on COETAIL, won’t suit and some will, some may need some modification to work in our classrooms.
      Thanks for your comments,
      Cheers, Joel


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