Thursday, September 29, 2011

How can Jay-Z remix education? Let me see...

I just read a really interesting article entitled "How Jay-Z Can Help Us Remix Education". Obviously as a fan of Jay-Z and as an educator I was really intrigued by this title. I wanted to know how hip-hop and education are related or better yet, how exactly it helps us remix education!

Keep the Language Simple—and the Context Deep

"Jay-Z's debut album was lauded by fans for its texture and complexity. The album analyzed urban life in the 1980s and 90s and incorporated deft and engaging storytelling. It also kept him from reaching a broader base of listeners. So Jay-Z shifted things for his next album—he simplified the language but kept the context deep.
What's the take-away for us as educators? We want all students to fulfill high academic expectations, but we must balance this with the need to meet our students at their level. I often hear educators refer to this as an "either/or" situation—but we can provide the "and." We can speak in language our students will understand without sacrificing the meaning, context, and depth of what we teach.
It's worth noting that Jay-Z was accused of 'selling out' when he simplified the language in which he articulated his experiences. However, ultimately, he reached many more listeners, and his real fans respected his growth. As teachers, we may experience some pushback from peers who are unwilling to meet their students halfway, but if we engage students in meaningful learning, helping them to master critical concepts, we will have done our jobs well."
Students are often 'talked down to' and this leads to a misunderstanding or not a clear picture of the content for them. The synthesizing and understanding of content is extremely important, yet some teachers seem to forget that students simply can not grasp some concepts when they are over-explained or in a worse case, under-explained. I think that Jay-Z's stepping out to change his approach in music to reach a broader audience is a great move for him. Possibly educators can approach teaching the same way in that changing the way you approach a concept in the classroom by speaking and discussing so everyone is comprehending. It may sound silly but I know that I am guilty of not breaking it down enough sometimes and just moving forward but really if I had just simplified what I was doing and made it a collaborative process with my students, life for me and them would have been a lot easier.  
It is also important for educators to realize that our profession is not as isolated as it seems. We are similar to other occupations in a number of ways and many of the same issues and concerns that others have. Maybe making those connections can be a healthy way for us to develop a greater understanding of the world our students are headed into and how to help them work in it. Collaboration is key!

Collaborate With Diverse Partners

"Jay-Z understands that his professional place in the hip-hop universe is strengthened by diverse, visible collaborations—often with unlikely partners. He's made an album with rock band Linkin Park ("Collision Course") and has lent his voice to the albums of a wide range of artists, from Juvenile and Drake to Lenny Kravitz and Coldplay. He even invited Gwyneth Paltrow to sing the hook to "Song Cry" at a recent London show.
Just as Jay-Z enriches his solo work by collaborating with others, we can enliven our teaching by drawing on the expertise of our peers. Unexpected combinations can be especially productive, encouraging students to see a concept from an alternative perspective. Math teachers can draw upon social studies texts as we teach students to graph on a coordinate plane. Science and language arts teachers can co-create lessons that help students identify and use literary techniques as they read and respond to science texts. But however collaboration looks, its goal should always be to improve students' experiences in our classrooms."
I think this statement is exactly correct: "Just as Jay-Z enriches his solo work by collaborating with others, we can enliven our teaching by drawing on the expertise of our peers." Every time I have the opportunity to sit down with other educators and discuss new methods, share ideas and just talk, I feel like I come away with a huge opportunity to broaden my classroom with not just new ideas but new influences and possibly a new project! This is where technology becomes really proactive and helpful in collaboration. Sharing is so much easier when the web is involved and tools like Skype and website tools such as  wikispaces help develop a global opportunity to build partnerships with diverse people and diverse places. That is what the PLN (Personal Learning Network) is all about! 
Honestly, I think educators could all take a look at this article and see exactly how to remix our education system and create a better classroom for students to grow in. Check it out and let me know your thoughts!