I have this idea. What if we put a guitar in every classroom? How about a piano? Maybe some drum machines. We’re always sitting around talking about BYOD this and 1:1 that. Why don’t we think outside the glowing screen for a moment or two? I used to use my guitar all the time early in my career, but I realized recently that I’d drifted away from it. Did I get crusty and rigid in my old age?
So I brought it back. This was partly inspired by the group of boys in my class who live for 70s prog rock. Let me tell you something: I’ve never taught a group that was into Rush or Emerson Lake and Palmer. Ever. I’ve taught kids who adored all kinds of nostalgia such as grunge, hip hop, gangsta rap, techno, brit pop, but never Eric Clapton. It’s a musical lesson for me.
They can’t keep their hands off the guitar. While talking about math, they strum. Sharing their insight into the big idea of a book, they pick and pluck. The give lunchtime concerts.
Today I actually heard them talking about drop D tuning. Yes, you can go right ahead and wikipedia that. I absolutely love listening to students having detailed conversations about topics of their own interest.
I was so horrified that I myself had gotten out of practice. I admonished myself for losing the calluses on my fingertips. How dare I forget the chords to Hallelujah? Shame on me. I wondered if it was symbolic of something.
I find it’s hard to keep joy out of your classroom when you have a guitar in there. Even if no one can play, you end up learning. And, boy, if there are some adept ones, watch out.
Long live the classroom piano/guitar.
I invite my middle schoolers to bring their headphones to class. It’s not just because the year is 2012, or because stringy white ear buds are as ubiquitous as skinny jeans that sag beneath boxers. I want them to use their music and headphones for at least a few reasons…
It’s a beautiful way for students to attain instant solitude when it is needed in a class of near-thirty. Whether it’s listening to your favourite playlist, an audiobook, or a podcast exploring your passion, there’s a place for being in one’s own head in the sometimes-melee that is a middle school classroom.
Learning partners can find paired solitude when doing invaluable partnered work and thinking. It’s a hygiene-obsessed person’s nightmare, but it often aids the best kind of group work – that which occurs between two, not more, people.
I have so many metacognitive students. When left to their own devices (so to speak), many of them contend that music is a must for studying and/or learning. I don’t really see why that shouldn’t be leveraged in my classroom, simply because the proverbial buck ultimately stops with me.
Do you permit students to use their iPods and headphones in your classroom? What are your reasons for doing/not doing so?
Overheard in my classroom the day many sites went #blackoutsopa:
Boy 1: Dude, did you hear about the Google page today?
Boy 2: Ya, it’s so cool. Booooo! SOPA!!!
Girl 1: What’s SOPA?
Boy 1: The government wants to stop us pirating movies ‘n’ stuff.
Girl 2: WHAT?!?! Boooooooo!
Boy 2: Ya, I need to pirate stuff!
Are there more difficult teachable moments to enact than Wikipedia going black? As Clay Shirky reminds us, SOPA and PIPA are less about piracy and more about democracy. For my students, however, it’s challenging to take the conversation meaningfully in that direction. They don’t perpetually juxtapose a world of share, send, download, and upload with one where we sat on a couch waiting for an old white guy to tell us about what was happening in the world. They don’t know that latter world. It’s a History Channel episode.
The ability to pirate video, audio, and gaming content means a lot to them, however. Want to see a group of kids collaborate like a pride of lions stalking buffalo? Ask them if they know how to get movie x or game y for free.
Yes, it’s so important that we engage students in learning about CC licensing, intellectual property, and the ethics of the internet. And, yes, most young people today are grossly ignorant about these issues. But, no, the best way to do this is not by wagging one’s finger like so many Just Say No educational videos. And, no, it’s not the kids that are the problem.
All of us adults are conveniently looking the other way when we pretend that swiping the credit card for the hardware is the end of the transaction. We’re also turning our glances when we say we are against downloading the Harry Potter movie yet will work that Xerox machine in the copy room until you can cook an egg on it.
Now, to get off my own soapbox and back to that teachable moment…
Do you know what made it a lot easier to have a discussion about SOPA and PIPA in my class? The fact that my students post regularly to the internet, comment on one another’s work, receive comments from the far reaches of the globe, remix work, share links, and honour CC licensed work.
I asked the students how they would feel if their ability to do all of things was restricted, or even taken away, without debate or a tribunal of some variety. The room went silent for a minute which felt like an hour, but we proceeded to have a rich discussion about democracy without ever mentioning the word itself.
I know they still care much more about whether the next Eminem song will get on their iPods, but at least we were speaking about something we really know, not just have heard of.
You may be able to stop people from sharing their creations, but you can’t unlearn the power of the act itself. Stop SOPA and PIPA.
I use music in my class for all sorts of reasons. One of the main ones is to serve as an audible background for collaborative learning. I tell the students that it’s our Starbucks cafe music, not meant to distract us or be noticed, just to be enjoyed and to help us think and be collaborative. Here are a few things on our playlist:
What’s on your classroom playlist?