Much Ado About Remixing: OER, Cognitive Stages and Scratch

Remixing has friction–no doubt about it. There are definitely hearts and minds that need to be won over both to the camp (in terms of copyleft) and the practice (in terms of creating things).

Remixing and Open Educational Resources
One example of this friction is open educational resources, like OER and MERLOT. Someone said to me this week: remixing hasn’t really taken off in the open education community. All day I wondered: though I don’t know if that’s true, how can we accelerate remixing into widespread use?

Frequently, open resources have an end-user disconnect. Folks opt-in with their license selection, upload their materials, and voila they become part of the movement.  All great things, certainly. However, this process doesn’t prompt the author to consider their audience (end users)–only that authors contribute.  And, often the information architecture of open resources drives one to drink.

There’s a solution baked within this line of thinking: be a good content steward. Consider the future of your content when you upload. There’s another level of consideration if you’re creating content that is primed for reuse and derivative works.  Make it easy to find! Tag it! Describe your content! Describe who it might be useful for!  Or, even better, build your audience into the content development process. At Flat World Knowledge I encourage authors to think about designing content that will attract the widest audience possible–and folks can tweak it as they see fit.

Remixing in Classrooms
This week, I spoke to a colleague with had been challenged about remixing.  How can we encourage children to remix, she relayed, when children are a vulnerable stage in development, when their individual identify formation is so important and children’s points of view tend to be egocentric?

Answer: creativity is not a zero-sum game–it’s big, and there’s room for everyone in making things. Remixing asks makers to consider the point of view of someone else.  It prompts empathy and sharing.  Apart from developing “expert learners,” that about rounds out my short list of learning priorities.

But admittedly that’s easier said than implemented in a classroom. There’s a major stumbling block for kids who think of remixing as “stealing others work” and that their ideas will be “messed up.”  My friend Aaron and I are putting together some resources for Scratch to overcome those challenges.

Winning folks over with Scratch
Educational technology provocateur Audrey Watters asked about remixing this week, and led to the eventual question: “How do we get from deconstruction and remixing to construction and building? Is there a learning path (or even a difference)?”

I would say remixing is construction–it’s co-construction. It’s a collaboration across time and possibly about disciplines.

As we build out resources for Scratch, our framing is remixing is about options and possibilities. Remix is a compliment.  As a way to prompt the practice, we will:

  1. Encourage learners to think in terms of drafts, iterations and versions. Drafts introduce distance between the creator and content, and from there we’ll move to remixes being another kind of “version.”
  2. Consider assessment in terms of dialogue with the learner, as opposed to how much of the assignment the learner actually “did.”  If a learner downloaded a Scratch project and can articulate what’s going on in a script (even if they didn’t actually make it)–what’s the difference?
  3. Use reflection to ask Scratchers what they brought to a particular remix, and also ask them how peer feedback led to a final product. The goal is to think about all projects as conversations with a learning community.

It’s our hope that a remixing curriculum will help build out that learning path.

A Learning Path for Culture
Flat World’s MIYO tool makes it easier than ever to remix foundational content. Scratch infuses remixing with a level of status by featuring “What the Community is Remixing” on it’s home page.  How else can expand the gestures of remixing into our everyday lives?


5 thoughts on “Much Ado About Remixing: OER, Cognitive Stages and Scratch

  1. Great post. Remixing is construction or at least an important enough component of construction, that I wouldn’t try to think of them as separate processes.

    Academic research is another interesting example of remix culture. As a researcher it’s not enough to correctly attribute other peoples’ ideas in order to copy and paste them, but you need to rephrase them in your own words. Which often aren’t as concise or elegant as the original author’s.

    Compare that to software developers. Re-writing someone else’s code is considered wasteful (unless the code doesn’t work very well) and knowing how to re-use other code is a key skill of great developers.

    With respect to assessment however I would go beyond /understanding/ to /application/. It’s not enough to deconstruct and understand. Real mastery is demonstrated in applying the deconstructed tool and solving a problem.

  2. Philipp re: “application/assessment” generally I agree with you. What I’m trying to offer an alternative to a strict rubric that dictates: “learner made 4 scripts” “learner used 2 variables” etc. I find that sort of structure unpalatable.

    Maybe we should frame the assessment in terms of flexibility (like you alude to with developers) and prompt learner with a problem: “This script only makes noise. What else could it do?”

    • Asking people to turn noise into sound is a great example for a challenging problem with many solutions. The rubrik and practice of assessment is harder to define. What makes one type of sound ‘better’ than another? Can you rely on the opinion of experts or is it safer to rely on lots of other re-mixers to give thumbs-up/+1

      I like the idea of making future re-mixes part of the assessment as well. If your work is taken as the foundation for lots of other people’s projects, it implies influence (which we can accept as a proxy for quality). Places like scratch (or github) make it very easy to see those levels of influence, because you can track re-mixes. It’s harder to do in other areas, where the ideas are less embedded in actual code, but I think it’s an interesting direction to probe.

    • Thanks Bill! I’m working on a Scratch remixing curriculum this week, so looking over what the learning goals of remixing should be!

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