Mixtape your curriculum: Using Open Educational Resources to customize your teaching and their learning

Guest Blog

Guest Blog | Monday, September 17, 2018

Mixtape your curriculum: Using Open Educational Resources to customize your teaching and their learning

Creating mixtapes allows us to adopt the role of archivist, editor, and active participant in creating a remixed product that meets and suits the desire of the listener. Apply this idea to our lessons and you have just mixtaped your curriculum!

[callout]This post is written by Stephanie DeMichele, an educational consultant, speaker, and instructional coach in Cleveland, Ohio. You can find Stephanie on Twitter @sdemichele or on her website stephaniedemichele.org. [/callout]

I’m a proud, completely unapologetic, mullet-sporting, shoulder-pad wearing, Flashdance sweatshirt-owning, card-carrying member of the 1980s–and I have the mixtapes to prove it. (Although I no longer have my yellow Walkman…sigh.)

I have continued to create and curate my mixtapes well into college and beyond. While the method of musical delivery evolved, my enthusiasm for mixtapes stayed constant. Of course, I eventually traded in audio cassettes for CDs, and then the CDs for iTunes playlists; today I’m creating playlists on Spotify. Mixtapes have withstood the test of time, and I’m not the only one who believes the popularity of mixtapes hasn’t waned (Thanks, Guardians of the Galaxy!)

So what does this all of this random mixtape talk mean to you, an educator? Why are mixtapes still a thing? it’s because we can personally customize and create a product that coherently adheres to a theme. Think about it…when we painstakingly created our mixtapes in the 80s, we arranged songs in an order we felt best conveyed a particular mood or tone.

The mixtape curator becomes less a listener, instead adopting the role of archivist, editor, and active participant in creating a remixed product that meets and suits the desire of the listener.

Here are some examples from teachers with whom I’ve worked to use as models to follow:

Get Mixtaping In Your Classroom

Over the years, I’ve re-thought and revised this three-step process to create the following Mixtape Your Curriculum Instructional Design Template that I use in my workshops. (I like to start small: mixtape just one lesson, and then another, and then another until you’re acting like Young MC and Busting a Move all over your curriculum!)

Start with the standard to help drive the theme of your curricular mixtape, and then it’s as easy as 1-2-3

Step 1: Curate Your Tunes (Find OER Content)

Gathering online materials is like picking just the right songs for your mixtape. Now, before you start Googling your ELA, math, social studies, science, etc., subject matter, take a look at these top-rated and highly-recommended content sites curated by content area. Or, check out this huge database of open resources you can use.

(This is the easy part.)

Remember: the key here is to curate the perfect content to customize learning. A lot has changed in the four years since I started my OER journey, and it’s much easier to pick and choose from sites now than it was before.

Step 2: Record Your Music (Deliver OER Content)

A good mixtaper knows that the quality of the cassette tape has a direct effect on the overall sound. You never buy a pack of five blank cassettes. (As if!)

So, whether it’s something as simple as pushing out content via Google Classroom or Schoology, or perhaps trying out a learning pathway in BlendSpace or Recap Journeys, let’s remember that we can’t be analog in a digital world. Push out digital content in digital manner. Here are some other options to consider:

Step 3: Get the Listener’s Reaction (Give & Get Feedback)

How will you know that your students learned something? And how will you provide the necessary feedback to let them know that they’re close to hitting mark or way off base?

Formatives and what I like to call “pulse-checks” (five minute or less formatives) are the way to go. The best and easiest and most engaging right now is Flipgrid, but this list has some other quick and easy options, too.

Ready to give it a try yourself?

  1. Use this template to get started.
  2. And, for a little added inspiration while you create, listen to the soundtrack of the 80s.
  3. As you re-channel your 80s chick or dude, please share your mixtape templates to my Twitter account. I hope to publish them as real examples in my future presentations and for an ebook I’m writing.
  4. Use the hashtag #MixtapeLearning when you post, and don’t forget to tag me, too (@sdemichele)!

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are the mixtapes of the 21st century, a chance to dump the textbooks, workbooks, and study guides to create, customize, and make relevant our own curriculum mixtapes–not only for ourselves, but more importantly, for our students.

And that makes this 80s-chick-turned-21st-century-instructional-coach completely geeked to help you do the same. Happy mixtaping, and don’t forget to share!

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