Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Everyday Remix Practices of Teachers: A Critique of Christopher Emdin: Hip-Hop and the Remix of Science Education

UC Denver digital storytelling students wishing to comment on this critique: 
Although I would love it if everyone had the time to watch the full youtube video, you can get ‘the just’ of this remix practice within 5-10 minutes of watching if you would like to participate in comments. Please don’t shy away because of the length of the video.

Critique Format
As part of the continued practice in digital storytelling, in INTE 5340 MA ILT at CU Denver, I will consume digital stories and offer critiques. Until now the course has focused on Jason Ohler’s assessment traits as criterions to assess stories. For the remainder of the critiques in the course, I will focus on “everyday remix practices” as described in the Lankshear and Knobel text New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning Third Ed by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel, on pages 127-140.

In efforts to transition and answer some of the questions from last week, I started to dig into some everyday remix practices of teachers. This also in light of the critique of @Remiholden #youthclinica15 with Denver youth @hivedenver5280.
@Remiholden picture from exercise #youthclinica15
Remember that ‘ed reform helicopter’ with the ‘help bubble’ and no stickies around the brainstormed topic? I’m hoping to answer some questions about ‘education reform’ especially in urban youth culture. After watching the lecture “Hip-Hop and the Remix of Science” by Christopher Emdin on youtube, a professor at Columbia University, I’m starting to think more about the things teachers can do, whether or not ‘reformed education’ is part of the curriculum. After much research and scholarship on the issue of ‘the importance of creative arts in education,’ I’m convinced the best practices of teachers may be to ‘remix’ the major subject at hand with creativity and culture whilst still supporting the required material. Christopher Emdin is a superb example of this with his integration of hip-hop into science material. Although his lecture did not mention how his hip-hop lyrical poetry helps students retain material, per se, I’m willing to theorize that with engagement, connectivity, and relativity to one’s life this allows students to retain learnt material. If nothing else, Christopher’s artful and relatable technique melts the ‘ice grill’ of any stone-cold look and opens the door to learning.

Kind of Remix: Political Remix (if one must be chosen from L&K text)

Three Literacy Dimensions:

  1. From political remix: “Having something to say that appeals to others.”
  2. From political remix: “Identifying how to convey a lot of meaning in a limited amount of space or time.”
  3. From political remix: “Requires being up to date with current news events, or familiar with significant social issues.”

“Having something to say that appeals to others.”

Firstly, Christopher’s lecture appeals to me as an educator so my ears perk up when he talks about pedagogy and methodology. I’m sure the other educators in the room during his lecture did the same. Secondly, some young students also attended his lecture and Christopher called them out as appreciating his rhythmic and poetic use of acapella hip hop around the topic of physics and science as a whole. Furthermore, Christopher talks about the culture of urban youth and the physical presence often presented as a defense mechanism to things that sometimes make them feel vulnerable. In urban slang, also known as ‘ice grill.’ Christopher says his hip-hop is appealing to his students and it brings them to the threshold of learning by melting their ‘ice grill.’ One can imagine the appeal in being able to melt that ‘ice grill’ and see the grins of engaged students. “The beautiful thing about ice is what? Ice can always be melted.”

“Identifying how to convey a lot of meaning in a limited amount of space or time.”

When Christopher spits lyrics he does so in a fashion that is in rapid succession. Rhythmically, and powerfully combined with scientific terminology. Before he began to rap, he first read from the physics text and you can hear the confusion and boredom of the crowd and he asks “Is that clear?” When he combined the information, and more ad lib, you can feel the crowd - even in the youtube video, sit on the edge of their seat listening to what he is saying. As Christopher continues to speak he continues to do so, not as rap, but still rhythmically. And as he does so he is conveying a lot of meaning with his words and the pictures and videos he shares.

“Requires being up to date with current news events, or familiar with significant social issues.”

What I really appreciated about Christopher’s lecture was first, his superficial look at the culture of hip-hop and urban youth and then his much deeper dive into the sources of these cultures through a historical and anthropological appreciation. And the concept of ‘education’ through history as an exercise in uniformity, that in many ways, strips or ignores social cultures and is stagnant to change. He talks about a need for new theoretical frameworks to analyze the classroom such as “neo-indigenous cosmopolitanism.” Christopher says, In other words, “what happens historically will play out again in the classroom.” Both globally and locally, these issues have an affect on the culture of the classroom. He compares this to “oppression at the hands of a dominant other,” such as colonial America to what we see today in the criminal justice system. And that we need to understand the connections back to the indigenous people. Not just the street corner or ‘hood’ but the historical context of the things that brought that individual to that neighborhood. I find great relevance with what is going on in current affairs and what Christopher is suggesting in his theory. This puts the magnifying glass on the culture and history and relates it to what is going on with urban youth in the classroom. Chris’s ultimate suggestion to address urban youth in the classroom is “reality pedagogy.” Overall, a very critical and relevant approach to the social and cultural issues at hand.

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

Emdin, Christopher. WGBHForum. (2014, April 4) Christopher Emdin: Hip-Hop and the Remix of Science Education