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Mashups make meaning

As a result of teaching my students about fair use of web content, I have become enamored with mashups. For those who are not familiar with the term “mashup”, it can be a conglomeration of video, audio, or pictures that are remixed or reused in a new way to create a new composition.

Mashups can be used in education as a creative means to communicate what students have learned.

On Bloom’s Spectrum
Mashups are on the creation end of Bloom’s spectrum and require students to make a meaningful composition from multiple sources. Mashups can be about anything. Educationally, students have to perform a variety of mental gymnastics to create a meaningful, original composition about a topic to clearly communicate what is learned.

Analytical. Students must be this. They must listen to audio or view a picture or video and decide what part of it they need to create that meaningful piece of art. The parts must fit into the whole so as to give the audience a complete understanding. If a mashup can use all three mediums, or just one, the author has to be explicit about his or her intent to communicate. Pulling apart the audio, video, or image media demonstrates a student is explicit about what they want and how it fits into the whole.

Synthetical. Students must be this too. To create a conglomeration of media, a student has to be able to pull together different mediums, sounds, images, movements, and more into a coherent whole. This isn’t just about being creative, but communicating creatively bringing together a variety of clips and images from multiple sources at the same time.

Creatively. Students can work to be this. Creativity has a place with all of us. Some are gifted with this and others have to work at it. To be creative is to look at something through a different lens sharing your point of view. Creating a mashup allows the student to put together various parts as he/she wants to. It should be a given, as I have already said, that the final product should be coherent and make sense given the topic.sun mosaic

The lower end of Bloom’s taxonomy
The knowledge side of Bloom’s taxonomy is take care of automatically. A mashup cannot be created if the content is not understood or known.

How to use the mashup
You can have kids create a mashup as a way of flipping the classroom so they become familiar with concepts before you teach. Perhaps it can be thought about has a formative unit measure.

Complex concepts can be interwoven in any of the content areas allowing the student to determine how they best fit together. The weaving together of complex ideas is metacognitive processes that leads a student to question how everything relates.

Another way is to use a mashup as a summative measure to diagnose competency from novice to expert. The use of video clips and image media would be most important here because the choices that are made – what to use and what not to use – demonstrate the complexity of thinking.

Students can create a mashup to introduce who they are, interests, dislikes, family, and passions.

Mashups give freedom of choice and creativity while giving the teacher an in depth look at what a student has learned through analysis and synthesis based on the final product.

Carey, Chris. sun12.jpg. October 2006 . Pics4Learning. 16 Jan 2013

Digital toolbelt

Digital literacy is knowing what technology to use for a specific purpose. This is one of the 21st century skills students and teachers should have in their tool belt. If a task is given to me I should be able to think of a numerous ways to complete it, but be able to choose the one web technology that allows me to complete the work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs I said, the tool belt needs to expand for all learners. Expanding it takes a bit of perseverance and determination because trying to search for specific webware isn’t that easy. To really take full advantage of finding resources I suggest doing two things. First, get a Twitter account and follow two hashtags: #edchat and #edtech. Then, learn how to curate the Internet using something like Feedly, Pinterest, Evernote Webclipper, Zite, or Flipboard. These apps or sites allow you to aggregate RSS feeds into one place for you to read as you wish.

Using Twitter and a news aggregator, look for all of the resources that are shared. Choose the ones you feel look interesting to you. Doing this will expand your digital tool belt. With a repository of digital tools tasks like research, presentations, writing, reading, podcasting, video, and others gets to be pretty easy.

There are so many ways to demonstrate what is known. Growing up there were a few ways to make things which usually involved a great deal of time. Given the current nature of technology, and the ease of obtaining content, knocking out a piece of work that shows your true understanding doesn’t have to take that long. For you perfectionists out there, devoting more time means a well rounded product.

The 21st century learner will have a large repertoire of digital mediums to choose from and know when to use them. Put on your digital tool belt.

photo credit: jwcline via photopin cc

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The worth of self-reflection

Learning is a complex and often tedious task for students as they typically wonder why they are learning what they do. As kids get older worthwhile experiences become more important to them as they assign personal meaning to certain learning experiences.

Me as a young learner
I think back to the time I spent in elementary, middle school, and high school. My mom spent a lot of time with me at home hounding me to do my homework, study for tests, and finish projects. I hated it. I still hate it. I hated the work that was assigned to me because I found no meaning in at all. Sitting in middle school math class was laborious as wondered when I would ever use concepts of fractions. Or, writing poetry when I had no intention of ever writing it. High school geometry was simply awful. Having to memorize theorems to prove something that was already proven made absolutely no sense.

I was much like the students I teach today. If what I was learning was meaningful to me and I found it worthwhile, it was easy to learn. If not, it was a grudge match with myself to learn.

In my years as a young learner, which I place halfway through college, I never took the time to think about my own learning.

The new learner
A key component of learning today involves the ability to think about thinking and reflecting on what learning means as an individual. While this idea has been around for a long time, students today are not familiar with it nor know how to go about doing this.

The new learner is bombarded with information on a regular basis. The Web hosts millions of ideas, thoughts, blogs, facts, opinions, theories and more. With so much to consider there is little time to sit back and think about what is being learned and why. A critical component of a 21st century learner is to think critically about problems to form solutions, but critical thinking goes well beyond this. Critical thinking about learning and not learning and how learning takes place and does not is of vital importance. The importance lies in being able to create solutions to problems that have not existed before, or develop innovations. Critical thinking allows us to parse, synthesize, and create based on what we know. The self-reflective learner, the new learner, is a deep critical thinker about their process of learning.

Learning discontent
The new learner is no longer content with teachers downloading information to them as they sit passively taking notes and then leaving the class with nothing but white noise in their head. Passive learning is nothing more than doodling, wasting away time as the teacher from Snoopy speaks, “blah, blah, blah.” A 21st century learner wants an active, engaging experience.

Active learning is self-reflective learning for there is no disconnect between experience and information because the student is keenly aware of pulling together information to form new ideas, to understand them, or creating ideas that weren’t thought of previously. Inquiry dominates active learning, and without inquiry, the new learner is discontented as there is nothing new learned.

Self-reflective learners are active learners with inquiry at the center of their learning universe salivating upon deeper new knowledge that can be had. Anything other than this leads to a learning discontent.

Self-reflection
As I watched the eighth grade students struggle to stay focused to create a self-reflection of the Skype experience with Will Richardson, I realized the unanimous passive learning experience they have had since their elementary years. They had not an idea where to begin or how to log their self-directed thoughts. This passive learning experience dominates education today though there is a tremendous out cry for students to be engaged in active learning. Self-reflection is active self learning.

I meandered about my computer lab facilitating student thinking asking questions, or making comments, to guide them into thinking

African visitors at meeting

African visitors at meeting

about their thinking as a learning experience. We are not teaching students how to be self directed, self reflective learners for a variety of reasons. Those reasons include state wide tests, too much curriculum, too little time, too few resources, and too little talk to students about self-reflection or allow them to do it.

Learning how to learn
What students really need to know how to do is to learn how to learn. Back to my early learning years – I had no idea, even in college, how to learn. I have since learned how to do this and do it well in a variety of contexts with success.

Learning how to learn is THE skill a student needs to construct what they need to further their own knowledge in the 21st century.

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