Thursday, July 2, 2015

Ed Reform Remix: A Response to Lankshear & Knobel Ch 4

80's kid remix (me)

Upon the first read of chapter four in New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning Third Ed by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel I glossed over many of the details described in remix practices. This essentially happened because I have ‘grown up’ at an age that can be marked as the beginning of the digital age. Thus, I am very much aware of the the remixes described in chapter four. Some of which remixes I practice on an everyday basis as a means of production and to facilitate learning and explanation in my professional practice. In a way I have taken it for granted that digital remixes are a means of expressing culture and ideas as ‘new.’ It wasn’t until the second or third read that things started to ‘sink in’ for me to recognize the importance of remixing and ‘new literacies’ and that remixes are and always have been a part of human culture.

Additionally there is controversy surrounding the idea of remixing and copyright laws in the digital age. As I write this, I just reviewed my Twitter feed (#copyright decision) to find that the US Supreme Court just made a decision that could affect the rights of programmers who create API’s (application programming interfaces). Virtually every remix as described in Lankshear and Knobel is subject to copyright laws which may or may not be enforced depending on a variety of reasons, but essentially, in my view, the ability to make money on said remix or not is the deciding factor. One may also mark the digital age as a ‘corporate age’ where money rules all regardless of how greed affects culture, social practice, and the progress of humanity.

Although analyzing the text to understand the implications and effects of copyright on remix practices is interesting, the subjects in the Lankshear and Knobel texts are very broad. Therefore, I have limited my scope for this reading response to a focus on read-write social practices and the skills necessary to participate in these practices. And in further synthesis of the focal theme I have chosen for this digital storytelling course, ‘the importance of creative arts in education,’ and additional scholarship associated with the theme, I can make many comparisons to the points expressed by Ken Robinson in, Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education and the ideas expressed in “New Literacies.” Although I have included scholarship from the works of Ken Robinson, in previous responses to Lankshear and Knobel, I do not believe I have exhausted these resources as there are numerous accounts and comparisons that are useful in the discourses I have chosen. Furthermore, the texts written by Ken Robinson are exceedingly rich with value that can be expressed to further deliver meaning in conjunction with the Lankshear and Knobel text.

Firstly, I’d like to point out from Lankshear and Knobel text, in reference to Lessig, that participating in remix practices are both ‘RO’ and ‘RW,’ or read-only and read-write (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011, p. 97). One may only consume digital stories to create intrinsic meaning without ever contributing to said culture by producing remixes of their own. Such as, being a watcher of funny cat videos on Youtube but never actually capturing video of their own cats engaging in funny things and then posting it on Youtube. Where as read-write may be perceived as making a remix of the funniest cat videos on Youtube and coordinating it with music to be re-uploaded and consumed by others. By further reading the text the reader gets a lengthy, very detailed description of a person known as ‘Maguma’ who engaged in ‘RO’ practices for sometime before engaging in ‘RW.’ The anecdote in the the text spans from pages 117-126. But essentially, RO practice, in my view, is a typical practice for people to learn about cultures. Not only said culture but the means to create and be functional in said culture. Once a person is ‘cultured’ he or she may feel like they can engage in critique, discussion, original works, or remixed works.

The level of involvement which someone chooses to put into a culture can mean learning many technical things in addition to social aspects and language required to engage. Referring to the ‘Maguma’ example again, 

“Maguma has pursued a deep understanding of what needs to be done to create what other AMV remixers consider a ‘good’ AMV” 

(Lankshear & Knobel, 2011, p. 122). 

It is the concept of ‘good’ that I would like to emphasis when I think about the importance of creative arts in education. ‘Maguma’ is unique individual that had deep passion for AMV and anime culture. It is this interest that motivated him be so engaged in many technical things like audio and video editing and post production effects along with an understanding of anime culture, all things considered. But what about people or students that don’t have a deep passion to dive in and participate in read-write social practices? There can be fear of failure, lack of ability to be creative, and lack of skills necessary to engage in the social practices of remixes. I think for many, because of this, they are simply passive read-only participators. I believe integrating the arts into core subjects in both digital and analog ways can stimulate interest and ability to participate in everyday remixing practices as part of ‘new literacies.’

This week alone, as was seen on the daily creates as part of Ds106, there were several drawing assignments. Several people participated in these exercises, but also they noted along with their tweet texts or blogs that ‘this is a bad drawing,’ or similar negative comments on their own work. The expression of their work and self-confidence is negative, most likely because they do not have any formal education or informal practice drawing. This could be due to lack of interest or lack of application in school or professional practice. Regardless, an education that synthesises visual arts, performing arts, music, technology, and core subjects creates situations for which students to adequately and confidently engage in remixes and ‘new literacies’ by means of practice in the fundamental creative means of expression. Thus, potentially creating more positive read-write experiences for the participators.

An example of a school that practices ‘remixed’ education, as I think of it, was given by Ken Robinson in chapter six of “Creative Schools.” In reference to High Tech High, a school in San Diego, he says:

“You’re trying to wet the pedagogy of tech with the content of academics. The students cover the whole curriculum effectively because they integrate one discipline into another. Art and biology might be combined for instance, or humanities and math. The students are publishing texts, making documentary films, and creating a wide variety of projects” 

(Robinson, Ken Ph.D. 2015, Ch. 6).

The students at High Tech High are participating in many of the practices that are part of engaging in everyday remixing. Their works are publicized and open to critique and the students develop a language and appreciation for criticism. It is this practice, whether in person or in an online forum, of publicly displaying works that engages students in the art of self-reflection and effective communication. One can see these things as valuable practices in order to be successful in college or the professional world. “Nearly all High Tech High students go to college, and seventy percent of them go to four year colleges. Our college completion numbers are extraordinarily good” (Robinson, Ken Ph.D. 2015, Ch. 6). If High Tech High is so successful what is stopping other schools from implementing curriculum like this?

As I review what was learned in chapter four of Lankshear and Knobel “New Literacies,” as well as what I learnt from continued scholarship in the works of Ken Robinson, I can see tremendous value in the the everyday remix practices for creative educational purposes. As seen in the appendix of the Lankshear and Knobel pages 127-140 there are many different ways to engage in these remixes. I think about education reform in order to make relevant and enjoyable curriculum, most if not all of these kinds of remixes promote literacy beyond what one would typically receive from public education. Furthermore the social practices of everyday remixing contribute to a sense of humanity and culture and a sense of belonging. As a society we should seek to leverage these remixes for education, however after analyzing Ken Robinson’s text “Creative Schools,” I know we are not because of standardized testing enforced at a governmental level. Where curriculum is developed to support performance on the tests, in other words ‘test prep.’ The additional complicated and exhausting details of which I will not include here, however, as I understand through synthesis of texts, the point of typical education is not to create situations for which students to be functional and prepared for society. Rather, to perform well on tests which feeds the ego of a competitive global ‘educational’ landscape measured on ‘core subjects’ rather than core relevancies.

When education is no longer relevant it brings up many questions as I think about the future of education and ‘new literacies.’ Such as, if public education is no longer relevant will we see more home schooling and online alternative education? Will there be a massive privatization of education in order to seek relevance? Will some social classes be left out of home school or privatized education? In some ways the future looks bright, but as with all change in paradigms, which we are currently experiencing, there will be struggles and resistance to change. I for one, will continue to look forward to the future where everyone has access to relevant education designed just for them. And I look forward to seeking answers to these questions from the following chapters in Lankshear and Knobel as well as in the works of Ken Robinson and continued discussion with peers and colleagues. 


New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning Third Ed by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel. McGraw-Hill Education 2011.

Aronica, Lou; Robinson, Ken Ph.D. Creative Schools the Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education. 2015. Narr. Robinson, Ken Ph.D. Tantor Media. May 8, 2015. Accessed June 20, 2015. Digital File.