Last night was an amazing Twitter filled evening. It was a brilliant mash-up of two Twitter chats that had participants discussing the blending of culture, authenticity, and agency in education co-moderated by New Tech Network and the team from #HipHopEd . The focus was on Project Based Learning and Hip Hop Education, which some might think makes an unlikely pair. Those people would be wrong.
At the heart of the conversation were the core principles of both hip hop and PBL. Engagement in learning and student choice were prevalent themes as was the focus on synthesis of new and existing information and how to represent that through technology, art and community. Hip hop allows for self-expression through multiple mediums like a well-crafted PBL unit does, often resulting in higher engagement while promoting student choice and demonstration of content knowledge. The natural marriage of these two topics also encourages cross disciplinary projects.
What was so exciting to watch were all of the creative thinkers who are experimenting with project design in after school programs, stand-alone PBL classrooms, and all types of communities sharing their resources and experiences so freely. The ideas came fast and furiously as questions were posed about the organic intersection between Hip Hop and project based learning in a variety of content areas where facilitators are making that integration come alive. Here are just a few resources and people who contributed to the rich conversation and some possible project/problem ideas for your own classroom.
Math: Timothy Jones shared his algebra word problem in the form of a full hip hop song. Mike Conway spoke of multiple projects he has done including one on the trigonometry of sound. Math and hip hop? Not usually thought of in the same sentence but I like the possibilities of blending the two.
Science: Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S is a New York City science rap competition for students to demonstrate not only their lyrical ability, but also their content knowledge about various science topics and oral communication skills. Check out how these students blended their learning with lyrics. A real world competition for students is a great project to look for.
Social Studies: The possibilities are endless here. The history of hip hop, the social perceptions of the hip hop culture, the geographical influence on the style of hip hop, the pedagogy of hip hop….the list keeps on going. If this is your content area, I encourage you to find a connection that interests your learners and go for it through PBL.
Music: By nature, the theme of the night was full of music references. Some were about the lyrics, some about the culture portrayed through song, others about the way songs can be used to educate in authentic contexts. This resource, the Top 40 songs based on Educational Value, created by #HipHopEd could be a great jumping off point for project ideas as you need inspiration. Maybe there is a song that speaks to a current content standard you are teaching or perhaps a debate about the rankings of the songs fits into your oral communication standards or an OpEd about a song that was excluded might be a great way to encourage argumentative writing. The possibilities seem endless here.
Art: John Larmer poses an intriguing driving question: Should streets artists be part of the gentrification of Hollywood Blvd.? Is there a comparable situation in your community that could be made into a driving question?
World Language: I am intrigued by how and why Hip Hop principles spread to other cultures. Diane Hardy has experimented with that in her Spanish classes.
My takeaways from last night are these: expanding you PLN opens up a multitude of possibilities for blending not only content but also interests into something potentially explosive, this was a great mash-up and should be repeated, and that collaboration can be found in unexpected ways. So get out there and make a relevant, community based and hip hop focused project. Then share your product with the #PBLchat and #HipHopEd communities.