I'm a big fan of remix and mashup culture. I love the idea of taking one thing and adding new meaning by combining it with another; or of using tech tools in unexpected ways to build a new hybrid creation—practices like this have a role to play in digital literacy. I think remixes and mashups can be particularly engaging tools for teaching and learning, so I was delighted when I discovered the work of John D. Boswell, a.k.a melodysheep, the creator of Symphony of Science, a project that remixes science lectures and content into music videos, made using the often over-used and much-blighted audio tool Auto-Tune.
So, a big hat tip to Boswell, for being the inspiration for this playlist. Taking an artifact from popular culture and using it to make academic content more appealing—he's an educator after my own heart. He's also the creator of those wonderful "Icons Remixed" videos for PBS Digital Studios that have everyone so tickled. I poked around to see if I could find more people using Auto-Tune in educational projects; you'll see my findings below. I hope it makes you laugh, and not cringe too much—but most of all, I hope it makes you think about how you can engage your students by putting a pop culture spin on core content.
Video Playlist: Auto-Tune the Schools with Pop Culture!
Watch the first video below, or watch the whole playlist on YouTube.
- KnowYourMeme - Auto-Tune (05:53)
The good folks at Know Your Meme produced this video in 2009 -- this is for those of you scratching your heads. What's the deal with Auto-Tune? (Warning, some not-school-safe videos at that last link.)
- We've Got to Be That Light - A Gift to America's Teachers (03:54)
- Nova scienceNOW: Auto-Tune (07:08)
This fantastic clip from PBS Nova scienceNOW has host Neil deGrasse Tyson with Andy Hildebrand (inventor of Auto-Tune) exploring the science behind how Auto-Tune actually works -- using Neil's own off-pitch singing!
- Winston Churchill Backed By Band From the Future (01:22)
I think the title says it all. This one was made by The Gregory Brothers, internet remix superstars and creators of the brilliant Auto-Tune the News series (along with viral hits like Bed Intruder song and the Auto-Tuned version of Double Rainbow).
- Reading Rainbow Remixed | In Your Imagination (03:41)
- I'm In a School (Parody of I'm On a Boat) (03:18)
Saturday Night Live's profanity-filled "I'm On a Boat" music video was a hilarious (if inappropriate for school!) parody on Auto-Tune and the rap video genre, and featured T-Pain, the artist who popularized Auto-Tune as an overt vocal effect. This one's a little tamer.
- 21st Century Skills Songify (02:33)
This video uses Songify, an app (developed for The Gregory Brothers, in fact!) that turns any speech into song, to talk about 21st-century skills. Created by two teachers on a whim.
- Symphony of Science -- the Quantum World! (03:29)
"The world is a dynamic mass of jiggling things!" In this video, Boswell remixes Morgan Freeman, Stephen Hawking, and Michio Kaku, among others, to explore quantum physics.
- Auto-Tune the Harvard Medical School Professor (01:20)
In honor of a certain recent holiday of silliness: students pull a great April Fool's Day prank on a professor by switching his normal microphone with an Auto-Tune-enabled one.
- Auto-Tune: Steve Jobs | Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish Song (02:47)
At this point in the playlist you may not be shocked to know that there's a whole YouTube channel dedicated to Auto-Tuning Apple product announcements, iTuned Steve Jobs. Jobs' famous Stanford commencement speech, however, is my favorite.
- TED2012 Remixed: It's Time for TED (03:47)
I had to end once again on John D. Boswell -- this time on the familiar TED opening animation and all the speakers in the lineup from TED's 2012 event. Is there nothing this man can't remix into sheer inspiration??
More Tools for Teaching with Pop Culture
Whether you think Auto-Tune is the coolest thing ever invented or that it signals the death of pop music, there's no denying that it can be a fun tool for students to play with. And it's just one example from the treasure trove of great ideas and tools you can use when you start thinking about how to make content exciting for kids by bringing in bits of pop culture. If you're thinking of doing remixes with your kids, I've collected a bunch of good resources for fair use over on my Best Education Parodies of 2012 film festival, so I'll skip that angle and just focus on a few additional fun links here.
- Making Curriculum Pop (Resource-Sharing Community for Teachers)
- "Pop Culture's Place in the Classroom," by Liana Heitin, EdWeek
- "Don't Run Away From Teaching Pop Culture," by Marc D. Hauser, EdWeek
- Symphony of Science
- Songify App (for Android and iPhone, from The Gregory Brothers)
- Rework Video Project from Discovery Educators Network
- "Auto-Tune Education," by GettingSmart Staff, GettingSmart
- "How Auto-Tune Works," by Tristin Hopper, How Stuff Works
- "Exploring Popular Culture in Education," teaching module by Tim Wheedon
- "How Mr. Rogers Got Auto-Tuned," by David D. Burstein, Fast Company