The Occupy Movement of 2011 prompted thousands of young people around the globe to mobilise. Sitting down in public spaces, they peacefully protested about social and economic inequality. During one such protest on the University of California Davis College campus, students were asked to disperse but remained sat in lines. Campus police officer Lt John Pike walked along the line pepper spraying them. A gaggle of photographers captured the event, but one image stood out and quickly went viral. Within days new photoshopped versions of the image began to appear on the web. Remixing and sharing the image created a meme - a recurring, iterative theme that conveyed multiple meanings to its audience.
Remixing content has since become the lingua franca of the digital world. With more than two thirds of the world connected via social media, mobile phones and the internet, remixing and repurposing existing content has promoted new forms of working, living, entertaining, doing business and learning. User generated content, which is generated by individuals and small groups, has grown exponentially. Memes, remixes, iterations, retweets, shares and web scraping are ubiquitous. In many ways this creative movement has impacted directly on our individual identities, local cultures and global society.
In 2007, during the early development of the social web, Michael Wesch, an associate professor at Kansas State University posted a video on YouTube. Entitled Web 2.0 ….The Machine is Us/ing Us. The video shows how anything can link to everything, and that remixing and repurposing of virtually all existing digital content is possible. Wesch also highlights the fact that the content on the Web is now largely being generated by individuals. The video went viral because it was useful to so many who wanted to create and repurpose their own content for the emerging social web. Videos, blogs and podcasts were shared via popular social networking platforms, and audiences burgeoned.
What does it mean for education? Remixing may offer several solutions to struggling teachers in pressurised environments. In school, there is very little time for reflection or creativity. Much of classroom time is taken up with behaviour management, record keeping, delivery of content and assessment, and evenings and weekends consist of endless marking and preparation of teaching plans and resources. There is little time for teachers to create new activities and experiences for children, and often the same, tired resources are recycled year after year. The photocopier is the place where teachers gather every day to reproduce content time and again. It's little wonder that some lessons are boring, students lose interest, and resources are less relevant and not as up to date than they should be.
By 're-mixing' relevant content, teachers no longer have to 'reinvent the wheel', and gain more time to make new activities and exercises. In the hands of students, remixing can be a powerful motivation for learning. Textbooks and videos may not always excite students, but being able to extract content and personalise it for learning can be creative and gives students ownership. Further, remixing content allows students to extend and deepen their learning, allowing them to explore an extended context around the topic they are learning. Finally, sharing this new, remixed content among their peers and wider audiences through social media, can offer students incentive to raise their games and produce a higher quality performance.
There are caveats to using digital content. I always advise my students that they should assume that unless otherwise indicated, any web content they discover is copyrighted. Digital content is easily trackable, and those who own copyright on photos, videos and music for example, are able to discover who is using their content quite quickly. There are ways around this roadblock. A Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Education Licence allows teachers to legitimately copy and re-use content from published material.
One way to share content freely is to apply a Creative Commons (CC) licence. Among the most commonly used CC licences is a version that allows free use providing the content is attributed back to the source and the originator is acknowledged. I often apply a use and remix CC licence too - which allows anyone to use my content in part as well as whole. Therefore, one of my photos can be cropped or recoloured, or a text can be partially quoted. I once discovered that there had been a spike in my blog traffic from Latin America and was curious to discover why. I found that someone had translated some of my blog posts into Spanish. They did so under the use and remix licence, and there was no need to ask my permission to translate - it had already been given.
As Michael Wesch claims, we are the web, and the content we share and remix reflects our triumphs and disasters, our joys and sadness, and ultimately every aspect of the human experience.
About the AuthorSteve Wheeler is a Learning Innovations Consultant and former Associate Professor of Learning Technologies at the Plymouth Institute of Education where he chaired the Learning Futures group and led the Computing and Science education teams. He continues to research into technology supported learning and distance education, with particular emphasis on the pedagogy underlying the use of social media and Web 2.0 technologies, and also has research interests in mobile learning and cybercultures. He has given keynotes to audiences in more than 35 countries and is author of more than 150 scholarly articles, with over 6000 academic citations. An active and prolific edublogger, his blog Learning with ‘e’sis a regular online commentary on the social and cultural impact of disruptive technologies, and the application of digital media in education, learning and development. In the last few years it has attracted in excess of 7.5 million unique visitors.