Giving Students Ownership through Mashups

This summer I had the opportunity to do a presentation at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference with NCTE President, Sandy Hayes. (Read her blog for Digital Learning Day here.) Our presentation was entitled “Mashup and Remix: Reading, Writing, Research, and Reaching the World” and really centered around how the world of media is changing and how our approach to 21st century literacies must be altered to reflect these changes.

The Slidedeck from Our ISTE Presentation

There are many more facets to the conversation than I can do justice to in this short piece but one of the elements that I’ve been thinking about a lot since the presentation has to do with the way that students use and create media. I often say that the media that we have students create is a reflection of their world and by providing them the opportunity to create, we are giving them a voice in which they can share their thinking and viewpoints as well as help them determine what they actually believe about a specific topic.

Much like the writer who begins writing and doesn’t really know where the words will take him, creators of media experience that same sense of traveling through an idea or topic. They make connections, alter their approach, and could very well end up with something completely different from their initial thinking. What a great journey we can send kids on as they work through those ideas in the creation process.

So what are some avenues to lead students as they create their own understanding of the world?

Sure, there are some more traditional ways we can have students work through by creating digital stories through images and video. They can write, design and fashion presentations and papers, poetry and posters—but one of the wonders of the Web and the digital age is the ability to take existing content and make it your own through remixing and mashing up various forms of media to create something completely new.

One example that I shared this summer is a website that allows the user to bring in multiple forms of digital media into one project. Made by Mozilla, Popcorn Maker is a tool that allows you to create a new media clip by pulling in a video from a source such as YouTube and adding different media elements to it.

For instance, during my ISTE presentation, I took a YouTube video that I had created of the ISTE opening session and added to it text callouts, a Google Map that showed the location of this year’s conference, a Wikipedia entry about the history of ISTE and a Twitter feed that pulled and displayed the conference hashtag.

In creating this project, I enhanced my story of my experience at ISTE from a single video to a multimedia experience that I could then share with others as I wanted.  It helped to shape my understanding of the conference and offered a peek into what I found to be valuable at that moment in time.

Consider what an opportunity to remix various media sources together might do for students. They could bring in video, images and other forms of media with various feeds from the web, package it up in a manner that speaks to them and then share it with those who are important to them. Given this opportunity, they are in control of their own story, find their voice, and travel down that road to a different understanding and relationship with whatever the topic may be.

Remixing and mashing up media is just one of many ways that we can give students ownership in a system where media changes daily. Many times, we just need to provide the opportunity for them to make connections and create their world.

Most Recent: October 10, 2013
  • File Type: Text
  • Selected Literacy Topics: Digital Literacies 
  • Sarah Jencks

    Mashing up great words for comprehension

    I am so excited to see you address this topic - the synchronicity of thinking here is beautiful.  In our oratory programs, one of the key things we work with teachers to do is  to get students using their own words, along with images, music and original text, to make meaning out of primary source history texts. 

    The teachers love it because the students feel deeply connected to the original documents and people involved, and the students love it because they aren't just digesting old, tired ideas - but they are connecting to them and making them their own. 

    Ford's Theatre has just developed a web-tool (a bit clunky, but it's a beta) that encourages students and teachers - and others - to take the words of Abraham Lincoln and bring them to life, and into the context of the 21st century.  We would love any feedback you all can offer as we work to make this a useful tool.  It is really Abraham Lincoln, remixed.  Thank you for helping to contextualize this work!

    Sarah Jencks, Director of Education Programming, Ford's  Theatre Society,

    Lara Hebert

    More from Ford's Theater...

    You can learn more about the great things happening as part of the Ford's Theater Oratory initiative by following their group on the Exchange: