What classifies something as being a creation? When are we allowed to take ownership of something we make? Are true "creations" only composed from raw materials? Or is it the idea and design decisions regardless of the source of materials which makes something a "new" creation? These are the thoughts which ran through my head after watching Kirby Ferguson's TED talk on "remixing."
Let's look at some of my favorite contemporary artists. Several of Félix González-Torres pieces are piles of candy in the corner of a room which viewers are invited to take from. The candy represents the process of dying as the pile slowly disappears. Gonzalez-Torres did not physically arrange the candy at each location, nor did he make the candy himself. In 2005, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Gates opened in Central Park. The 7,503 fabric and vinyl gates were installed by 750 employees and the fabric was sewn in several locations along the east coast. Christo and Jeanne-Claude were the minds behind this endeavor and footed the bill, but never actually made the materials. Daughter, Sept. 13, 2001, by my sister, Colleen Mulrenan (MacFarlane), was featured alongside the work of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in an art exhibit entitled, riverrun. This powerful piece paired her own captured video with audio from FDNY film footage of Ground Zero. She did not capture the audio; she edited it, and made a mash-up with her video footage. While these four artists displayed enormous creativity, not one of them used entirely original or raw materials. It is how they used their content which elevated it to "Art."
So how does contemporary art relate to education? The answer can be found in David O’Brien’s article, “At-Risk” Adolescents: Redefining Competence Through the Multiliteracies of Intermediality, Visual Arts, and Representation. In this piece, O’Brien describes a student archetype I have come to know all too well, the struggling reader who is labeled “inept, unresponsive, lazy, obstinate, and lacking in intellect.” In an age when educators have so much information regarding multiple intelligences and learning styles, I find it abhorrent that so many of the tasks used to measure student achievement fall back on the good ole reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic. His description of Dan, a struggling reader and reluctant learner who was able to create a multimedia documentary by remixing photos, text from magazines, and narration, is proof of the need for an expanded view of what quantifies student learning.
As Ian O’Byrne says in, Online Content Construction: Students as Informed Readers and Writers of Multimodal Information (2012), “The nature of literacy is rapidly evolving as the Internet and other communication technologies emerge. These changes demand an expanded view of “text” to include visual, digital, and other multimodal formats.” O’Byrne also claims the “Internet has become the dominant text for their (students’) reading and writing activities.” I agree with these statements, but I feel they can apply to any content construction which draws upon technology and multimedia sources, not just online content construction.
For the upcoming school year I would love to have my students blog, but teaching elementary school students means I face a lot of red tape when it comes to online publications. Therefore, instead of OCC (online content construction), my students will create MCC (multimedia content construction). A program I like to use with struggling or emerging readers and writers is Clicker6 Find Out & Write About. These computer-based programs offer three levels of text, and sentence constructing grids which allow students to build paragraphs on non-fiction topics. Students are essentially remixing the information presented in the text using the sentence grids to create their own knowledge. Last year I used Find Out & Write About - The Human Body in conjunction with Chatterpix Kids, an iPad app by Duck, Duck, Moose to create multimedia presentations. After creating a brief paragraph about an internal organ, my students searched the web using an iPad to find a picture of their organ. Next, they imported their pictures to Chatterpix where they created talking cartoon versions of their organs using their own voice! Rather than upload online, they were shown on loop at the entry to our school’s literacy night celebration. I hope to complete a similar remixing project with my future first graders.
Screenshots of Clicker6 Find Out & Write About - Dinosaurs
Mark Twain professed, “All ideas are second-hand.” Henry Ford stated, “I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work.” Could we think of these two visionaries as remixers? If so, we should certainly accept as such from our students. I leave you with a slightly edited version of George Carlin's thoughts on innovation, “If you can nail together two things that have never been nailed together before, somebody (edited) will buy it from you.”
1st grade teacher, former special education teacher, Zumba Fitness instructor, graphic designer, cupcake baker, wife, and pet mama working towards a 6th Year Certificate in Instructional Technologies and Digital