Case-Study of a Re-Mixed Up Kid

Re-Mix Culture

Re-Mix Culture










  • Coetail Course 3 Week 6: Remix Culture
  • Assignment 6:  Describe, in a blog post, how can you use the concepts behind remix culture in your teaching.



  • Definition of Remix: “Generally speaking, remix culture can be defined as the global activity consisting of the creative and efficient exchange of information made possible by digital technologies that is supported by the practice of cut/copy and paste.”

Re-mix, mash-up, parody—whatever you want to call it—our students are doing it. If not in the classroom, then definitely outside it.  They’re entertained by them. They entertain themselves by making them. It’s an unstoppable force.

Software, hardware, and publishing tools that were only for professionals a decade ago are cheap and easily accessible to this generation.  The Pandora’s Box is now opened and this is the new literacy that has emerged.  It is called Transliteracy.  Teachers who aren’t in denial of the changes are going to harness this new literacy and bring it into the classroom.  We’ll teach with it.  We’ll allow our students to bring the contents of the Pandora’s Box (Transmedia) into the classroom as a vehicle for learning and as a new medium to show us what they’re learning.  We can allow them to bring it to us.  Or, we can shut it outside the school while our students wait impatiently for each school day to end so that they can turn on their cellphones & laptops and start their “real lives”.


Transmedia is the use of multi-media, multi-platforms, multi-devices to communicate. (Multimedia:  text, images, sound effects, puzzles, games) It is often interactive with the audience; it’s an on-going, asynchronous dialogue or storytelling between author, audience, and medium. In our media-rich laden world, it’s something we have to come expect from credible communicators.  A black & white, typed, letter-sized essay isn’t gonna cut it anymore.

I found this example of a transmedia story to be extremely fascinating.  It is Inanimate Alice in China from the website, Inanimate Alice. While I was watching it, I felt like I had fallen into a video game.  It was a very compelling experience.  Where have I been? (Discovering new things like this has a way of making me feel old and out of touch).

In the Classroom

I really enjoyed reading this essay about a classroom teacher whose class was reading the novel, Weslandia.  The students branched out in all these ways in order to “experience” the novel: digital storytelling, blogs, wikis, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and Youtube videos etc.  Heck, the students are experiencing life through these things.  It’s a small step for them imagine, create, and communicate about how the protagonist of Weslandia (Wesley) would experience his life through these forms of media.

This week’s assignment is to describe how we would use the concepts behind remix culture in our teaching.  Well, Inquiry Learning is about allowing students’ desires and questions drive the direction and the course that their learning will take.  Certainly, their desires include the connected world and the connected tools that are intrinsically a part of who this generation is.  The problem is when the students wonders, “How would Wesley’s Instagram have looked on that day?”.  Will the teacher say, “Cool! Let’s look at that! Instagram isn’t blocked at our school.  We already have a class account.  Should we use it, or should we create a separate one?”  This is in contrast to the teacher who says, “Insta-what?  What’s that?  Hmm…I don’t really know how to deal with social media and all the security-issues that come with it, so let’s avoid going there.” (That would have been me pre-Coetail.)

Challenges to get there

Anyway, you get my drift. I actually don’t feel that most teachers are opposed to, or afraid of technology.  You sort of hear people complaining on social media about Technology-Luddites or Technophobes. Lots of the complainers are technology coaches it seems. To me, the biggest challenge for teachers is having the time to learn these tools, to engage in these tools on a personal level, to keep up with the new tools and updates.   I am quite aware that because I’ve been a part-time teacher lately, that I have had time to keep up with the technology curve.  For example, I spent the morning reading and learning about the Inanimate Alice project.  I can’t imagine any teacher not finding this a fascinating form of literacy.  I had the time to study her though.  I’ll probably spend the week imagining how transmedia is going to transform a look at one of my favourite children’s books.  Maybe how about, Alexander’s Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day! by Judith Viorst?  My class looked at that picture book in my very first teaching post.  Fast forward 20 years….how will that book be examined and re-told using all these tools at our finger tips?  To me, the problem isn’t engagement or motivation. The problem is that teachers don’t have the time to get a hook onto these type of engagements themselves.  I can see why the 20% free project-time or Genius hour for TEACHERS is such an important concept.

Well, I’m not going to go over the points about remix culture and copyright in this blogpost.  Instead, I thought I would share an example from my life of a 14 year old who has harnessed technological tools to re-mix, create, and publish music for his own pleasure.  What he does in his bedroom music-studio, is not that different from what professional artists in recording studios did when I was a teenager.  The difference is that he’s still a kid.

Case study of a Re-Mixed Kid

I’m talking about my 14 year old son.  Now, most of you know that I am musical.  Even though I was trained as an elementary school classroom teacher, I took graduate studies that qualified me to also teach as an elementary school music specialist.  Indeed, most of my part-time teaching positions were music positions.  I was trained through classical music.  Yep. I’m old school.  As such, there were many years when I gave little respect to what my son was composing in his bedroom.  To me, it was a form of folk-art—transient, of little substance.  Someone said that the audience to folkart are”hicks”.  I’m not a hick.  I’m a classicist.  Classicists have–class! …and they are eternal.  😀

One of the influences of Coetail on me was the opening of my eyes to the transformative work that our students and children are doing right under our noses. I no longer ignore, wrinkle my nose, or roll my eyeballs at the music coming out of his bedroom.  I take an interest in it.  I listen.  I ask questions.  I learn new words and new genres (Dubstep genre, InHouse genre, compression, stems).  I’ve had to finance a few gadgets and pieces of software for which I have NO CLUE what they do, but I know that having the right tools is so important to how far we can take our art. Thus, I’m willing to buy what he needs.

I thought I would share with you one of the projects my son undertook.  Yes, he did re-mixing.  I mean he REALLY did re-mixing (and not just cut and pasting together).  The end product was a new song.

Brian Lamb: “In the field of music, pioneers in the art of modern music remix had to use predigital technology, laboring to loop and splice tape or to manipulate vinyl records on turntables to create new sounds and styles. Without question, the rise of digital media has pushed the practice to new levels of activity and imagination. The ease of copying and manipulating digital media naturally supports the sampling and recombining of materials… media production tools have gotten cheaper and easier to use even as they have become more powerful. The result has been a flood of work created by largely anonymous media artists who are reimagining the iconography of popular culture, unearthing forgotten artifacts and contextualizing them anew. One only has to spend an hour surfing to get a sense of the subversive fun being had by hundreds of thousands of culture mashers.”

Ok, Brian Lamb has explained better than I, the cultural context behind what my son does as a favourite past-time.  I’ll just give you a snapshot of how my son created his song.

Re-mixing his Song

First, he learned of a Remix song contest that one of his favourite Dubstep artists (name is Protohype) was sponsoring. Prizes included having your song officially released on FirePower Records. The contest gave 4 “stems” that entries needed to incorporate (remix) into their new song.  “Stems” are essentially short tracks of electronic sounds.  One of the stems was a vocal.

Here are the 4 stems that contestants were given and which had to be re-mixed into the entry.

Here are the 4 stems that contestants were given and which had to be re-mixed into the entry.


Below Image:  The different horizontal bands in the right-hand window are the different stems in the music timeline:

Music Stems in the music timeline

Music Stems in the music timeline


My son took these 4 stems and re-mixed and transformed them.  In his words (I can’t explain it myself), he “….compressed them (has to do the with the audio levels), added effects to the vocal stems, added drums, and speeded the whole thing up….”  He did more that I can’t even write properly about, since I don’t understand it fully.

Black dots are the drum beats he added

Black dots are the drum beats he added


See a short video clip of the music timeline playing in the software window:




Here is the end-result that he shared on SoundCloud (free for you to download too. Click the ‘buy’ link):


As part of his Design & Technology class, he created his company logo “Saerium” you see to the left.  Saerium will DJ your dance for you—-re-mixing old and famous favourites on the spot, and also playing some original compositions of Dubstep songs.  He’s been able to make a bit of money with his hobby now, by DJ-ing for birthday parties.

Augment the old with the new, Transform, Redefine

Now, young people are not abandoning the old classical tools or history.  He is classically trained like his Mom.  He plays piano and cello.  He has added guitar and bass guitar, out of his own interest.   Re-mixing may be random chaos, but it doesn’t have to be.  It doesn’t all have to be of folkart quality.

There’s that familiar archetype of the Prima Donna that falls ill and then a “nobody” from the side-wings steps in to substitute at the last minute.  The substitute does an amazing job and is catapulted to stardom.  That story sort of played out last year.  He had asked to DJ the middle school disco (They call them Discos, here in Europe!  I have to resist snorting aloud when he uses that word 😀 )  The student council turned them down.  Then, the DJ they wanted couldn’t make it.  At the last minute, “Saerium” was called to DJ the dance and the teens were so impressed that he isn’t short of gigs anymore.  One of the teachers (with a musical background) remarked that it is obvious that my son has a musical background.  You wouldn’t think so, but you can tell by his DJ-ing and digital compositions that he has musical training.  He has an understanding of beat, rhythm, tempo, key signatures, style… and can combine them seamlessly in a ways that are musical and not jarring. So, in the world of Re-mix, there are different levels of quality. It’s not all rubbish.

My take-away from this is that students don’t abandon their old skills of reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic when they embrace new media.  The new media is augmenting what is already there.   My son has 9 years of classical music training.  It laid the foundation for him to use these new tools to take song-writing to new heights (transforming) that I will never be able to obtain. Together, with his generation, he is creating new genres of music (re-defining) with new sounds that the analog generation never heard.  Nowadays, I look at what he does will respect and admiration.  I try to learn what I can so I can be relevant to my students.  I’d look like an idiot trying to pidgeon-hole my students into the old Rondo or binary forms 😀 when they’re already multi-lingual and should go beyond what I did and can do, now.

So, when you hear words like new literacy, transliteracy, new media, transmedia—-it doesn’t mean we’re throwing away the old.  We’re making it of a higher standard than we could have ever dreamed of, as children ourselves.  I dreamed about songwriting and publishing.  He’s DOING it.  We’re making it more engaging. These tools are definitely more interesting (even to me) than pencil on music staff paper or blank paper.   Most importantly, we’re making it relevant.  If it’s not relevant to them, they’re not going to remember it.  It works both ways.  Now that I see the relevance of what he is doing to my studies in pedagogy,  I “get it” about his Re-mix endeavours.

Now, he pulls out the cello to play with me in my world;  I’ll dance to his music controller pads in his world.  Both our lives are richer.

Notable Links:

  • Lovely read on Re-mix Culture, “The Ecstasy of Influence“.  This essay has become a meme in and of itself.  Tumblr has a #ecstasyofinfluence hashtag. The entire hashtag timeline is a re-mix of the original essay.
  • Would you like to try to do your own Re-mix of any topic you choose?  Check out Pipes.

Do you have a favourite example of a Re-mix (from Youtube or elsewhere) to share with me?


P.S. My son just said that he didn’t enter his song into the contest.  He feels like he still has a lot to learn before being ready to compete.  In the meantime, he’s learning.

About Vivian

Vivian @ChezVivian is a Canadian-born Chinese, currently living in Switzerland. She has also lived in Hong Kong and Indonesia. She holds a M.S. (focus: Educational Technology Integration), B.Ed and a B.A. and graduate studies in Kodály and Orff music pedagogy. She is an elementary school classroom generalist, but has also taught as a music specialist, ESL/EAL and also in Learning Support. Most of her teaching career was in International Schools in Hong Kong. She is excited about the IBPYP and the possibilities of using technology to Inquire. Recently, she has been looking at the opportunities that computer programming gives to put #TECHXture back into the hands of children. In other words, technology need not be just about looking at screens. It can be about building things with our hands; and computer programming levels-up what children can do with the things they build---encouraging higher thinking skills. She is a Coetail Post-graduate Certificate grad ('13-'14), a former Coetail Coach and one of the co-founders of #CoetailChat. Her blog home curates her assignments for Coetail and her M.S. graduate studies about Educational Technology integration and anything else educationally-related that she feels inspired to write about. Her twitter tagline sums it up: "Mom to 4, Mentor, Educator, Musician (in that order)".
This entry was posted in Coetail Effect, Course 3-Visual Literacy, Digital Literacy, Philosophy & Ideology, Remix, Social Media, Thought-Provoking, Transliteracy, Transmedia and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Case-Study of a Re-Mixed Up Kid

  1. I have just completed course one in COETAIL, so am a little behind you. I enjoyed your definition of transliteracy, and also viewed the “Inanimate Alice in China” production. I enjoyed the music side as well; I love Classical music but have very limited musical ability. However, I will put our Music teacher onto this blog; he would really benefit from it. I agree fully with your main point about the fact that these tools enhance productivity and allow works to find audiences and to use tools unimaginable at such low prices and high quality in our day! I also enjoyed the “genius hour” concept – a perfect fit in the rich web 2.0 world we inhabit.

  2. Vivian says:

    Hi @Kevin

    Thanks for your comment. It’s not really my definition of “transliteracy”. That’s actually a new word I learned this week while looking at remix culture.

    There’s not a whole lot in my blog that might specifically benefit a music teacher. I tend to mention music when we discuss copyright and creative commons. I look at copyright from a music perspective. A photographer or an artist might mention copyright in terms of images 🙂 Thanks for sharing about my blog, though!

    I hope you’re enjoying Coetail. You’ll be learning all about copyright and creative commons in course 2.

    It’s nice to meet you and thanks for dropping by.


  3. Bart Miller says:

    I am also a classicist. A stalwart and curmudgeon, too, if anyone asks. However, remixing is nothing new to classical artists. Mozart built his melodic genius and harmonic expansion atop Haydn’s brilliant forms and structures. Brahms’ wandering harmonic invention grew out of Beethoven’s daring symphonic explorations. There is no question that classical composers influenced each other, even to the point of copying certain elements of another artist’s approach.

    Interestingly, ‘serious’ music is often remixed from folk music. As an example, Antonin Dvorak built a tremendous body of work by ‘discovering’ Slavic and American folk melodies and arranging them for classical ensembles and ‘sophisticated’ audiences.

    As you correctly pointed out, it is technology that makes today’s remixing different. Aspiring composers no longer need to attend conservatory to gain access to the scores and other resources to learn the secrets of the masters. In fact, contemporary remixing goes even further toward providing equity as learners have the tools to manipulate the sounds without understanding any of the formal elements.

    That’s what makes me feel uneasy. My classical sensibilities are offended by the notion that I could work for months on a piece of music, composing, editing, copying, publishing, recording, only to have my precious creation mutilated by a kid on the computer…

    My hangups aside, here’s a link to one of my remixes. It’s an arrangement for jazz big band of the folk song, Streets of Laredo. Hope you like it!

    • Vivian says:

      Hi Bart,

      It’s great to see you, here! Yes, you are definitely correct that the “Music Masters” learned from each other and imitated each other. Every generation is influenced by the one that comes before either by copying or rebelling. Even the ones that “rebelled” were following some conventions as their roots would have led them there, even subconsciously.

      @aaronreed and I discussed this on his blogpost: Whose Property is it?

      You can easily see on his blogpost how visual artists were influenced by each other, and copying each other. It’s a bit harder to see it in music (have to hear it!), but it’s definitely there!

      I know that many apprenticing painters would copy their Masters as part of their training. They would literally copy masterpieces. This partly explains why there are so many copies of famous paintings kicking around. I’m sure this happened in music too, though I don’t know of a specific example.

      I’d forgotten that point about a lot of serious music growing out of folksongs but it’s a very good point.

      There has to be a dividing point between what is artistic and what is just cut n paste re-mixing. It would be wrong to lump it all in one group.

      I totally understand what you mean by having your hard work “mutilated” by someone on a computer and your feelings. I read somewhere in the readings that in this cultural shift because of technology, the re-mixed work is being seen as being of more weight than the original (as if it’s more clever to re-mix than to be the original). Seems incredibly unfair to me;this may be what people are starting to feel, but I definitely don’t agree with it. (I think the people coming to this consensus are probably not artists themselves and have never made anything original themselves.)

      No easy answers but I’m glad I’m not an artist trying to make a living out of my art. My art is for my pleasure and I make a living teaching it and spreading the joy of it. You and I are lucky to be in such a position. 🙂 That was the position of a lot of the old grand masters in Art and Music. Most of them died before they became famous. Most of them were not richly paid for their efforts. Maybe in another hundred years, the Arts will shift back to that. It will return to being for expression, pleasure, joy. The profit motive will wane. It’s already waning. I read somewhere that artists are rebelling against Spotify as they get ~$15.00 US for their song being played a million times? (something like that)

      Rebelling Against Spotify

      No easy answers but taking the money & profit motive out of the Arts might balance things out. Before, the power was in the recording companies. Now, the power has tipped towards the re-mixers and the ones downloading illegally. The creative artists are always caught in the middle, it seems and getting the short-end of the stick. The whole thing needs a re-set.