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

Contrived doesn’t mean exciting or engaging

I observe students everyday as they learn and work.  A pedagogical stance of mine is that learning is to be authentic if learning is to occur at all.  Contrived instances or made up schemes seem not to have an impact as I predict they do.  Fairy tale learning atmospheres are thought to increase student motivation and generate a drive for learning. This has not been the case.

 

We brainstorm

Planning for learning is essential.  Assuming a teacher uses backwards design and that he/she plans with someone else, though someone may prefer planning as an individual.  When presented with something new a student has to learn, the teacher thinks of the best possible engaging learning experience possible.  Now, sometimes it is down right boring and that is a fact of life, but I do not believe there is a teacher out there who does not want his/her students really be into learning.  I brainstorm as many ideas as I can that would excite a student to learn.  With best laid intentions and a computer to type with, I compose a lesson plan that is astounding in terms of its creativity and learning potential.  The day comes and I deliver the instruction and you know what I quickly learn?

 

What I thought happened not

Here is a great example of what I thought was engaging was a complete flop.  I wanted students to see a problem in the district where I live and problem was that the town could use a new source of revenue.  Keep in mind this is my problem….the one I said is a problem.  So, in PBL style, I create an exciting opening event.  I made a Prezi, downloaded a snippit of the “Rocky” anthem and as students walk in I was playing it out and acting excited.  By the way, eighth graders do not get excited, and they were not excited or even interested in the Prezi that was playing and anthem.  I realized at that point, it flopped and my contrived instance of engagement went up in a puff of smoke.  I thought I developed an engaging opening sequence.  I thought I would capture their attention.  I thought and I thought and I thought.  My thoughts and planning didn’t do anything.

 

Contrived learning

When was the last time you learned something in a contrived atmosphere?  For instance, buying groceries thinking you have the metal cart under budget but the display as clerk shows the real dollars and sense blowing the food budget?  Or, when was the last time you painted a room only to find you were a gallon short and had to back to the store to get another gallon?  These are real life learning experiences that happen in real time and space.  Should learning be denigrated to contrived instances that have no meaning for students?  Nope.

 

My new plan of action

As I quickly realize the degree to which students do not connect real life to content, I must change how I go about teaching and learning.  In order for me to be an effective teacher I have to allow the feedback students are giving me to change how I go about my practice.  There is no better giver of new teaching tact than a student(s) reaction to my teaching.  If they aren’t into, I am going to have a very hard time getting them learn.  So, my new plan of action is to get a feel for what students want to learn about by proposing some ideas to them allowing them to have choice and then embed the instruction in their content preference.

 

Threading

As the proliferation of web technology grows, and increasingly gets into the hands of students and teachers, there will be an explosion of educational products to learn from. As it is right now, there is a vast amount of information to choose from, and as mobile devices get into the hands of more people, there will more to learn than we can possibly imagine. How can I have students create original products that show they have curated the content for what they needed? How will kids be able to choose the right web tools to show their understanding? As a technology integration specialist, I grapple with these kinds of questions to help teachers and students make the right choices that accurately portray what was learned. My students today registered for VoiceThread accounts to help them generate authentic products with voice and images as they learn. VoiceThread is one of many web applications that can transform learning.

The typical model in U.S. schools is for the teacher to download what she knows to the student who is supposed to recall, study, and regurgitate information back in almost the original form. Add to this the use of worksheets and the pump is primed for low level, unsustainable learning in the form of factoids that mean nothing. Maybe I went a little overboard there. The question for me as a technology integration specialist is how can tech be put to use to create original works that show a high level of thinking while maintaining the attraction value students love. Using a Web 2.0 app like VoiceThread helps myself and the teacher I work with to energize kids to learn.

Threading is not only about VoiceThread and working to create an authentic product that threads images, voice and video together, but also about the multi-step and multiple pathways that converge and diverge within student thinking. We call it thinking. We may want to call it threading.