In which I agree with a Canadian Pianist. I share many of the same concerns about originality that Glenn Gould does when he’s mentioned in this article. Remix is awesome, and sometimes it’s the journey that matters and not the destination, but I just don’t feel right about glorifying a movement that seems to place a secondary importance on originality. I’m not entirely sure how to express the ideas tumbling around in my head, but I know the recent “Keep Calm” memes are a great example of what happens when remixing spirals out of control. Is this a silly thing to get frustrated with? Probably. I just can’t stand how many people took an awesome piece of wartime propaganda and managed to make it worse. This nonsensical anger is certainly a mash-up of the historian inside of me and the healthy skeptic. Oh the irony.
Remixing as a gateway drug. I can’t go on a rant like that without actually offering something constructive, so here’s my compromise; lets use remixing as a step to originality. It’s not difficult to scaffold activities in a classroom in a way that you re-make something first and then create something original second. In fact, I bet a lot of teachers already do this, whether they are knowingly participating in remix culture or not. When I taught Social Studies, propaganda posters were like gold because they exist in the intersection of culture and history. This is a place students are comfortable with and find interesting. So halfway through your World War 2 unit, you give them a formative assessment on remixing a propaganda poster they’ve seen before. Because you’re savvy enough to know what’s going on in the world, you refuse to let them do anything with “KEEP CALM.” At the end of the unit, you have them make their own as a summative. Attach a reflection of some sort so they can explain themselves and what they were trying to accomplish.
Final Thought. Teachers ought to be remixing (or allowing remixing) of all their content. That’s what I like about what Scott McLeod does. The guy not only makes it possible for you to take his stuff, he encourages it. Teachers ought to be doing the same thing. Enough with this Teachers Paying Teachers business. If we want our kids to do it, we ought to be doing it too.