Songhai Concepts

Media Literacy/Digital Archiving Instructor

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Learning to be Unschooly

The current debate in the blogosphere over what’s “schooly” and what’s “un-schooly” reminds me of that classic Ray Charles recording, What’d I Say where Charles (the leader) shouts a line and the Raylettes (his background singers) repeat the line back, in unison. It’s like a preacher asking, “Can I get an Amen” and the congregation shouting back, “Aaaaameeeeennnn.”

At a certain point in the song, Charles shouts “heeeeyyyyyy,” and the Raylettes repeat the line “heeeeyyyyyy.” When he says “hooooo” the Raylettes respond back with “hooooo,” using the same approximate pitch and tone as Charles, the leader.

When Charles speeds up his lines, “heeyyyy, hooooo, heeyyy, hoooo, heeyy, hooo, hey, hoo, hey, hoo, hey, hoo, the Raylettes respond by speeding up their lines. This interplay is repeated numerous times throughout the song. Even the bass and piano lines are built on this same classic call and response exchange.

I contend that a similar call and response takes place in the classroom, between teachers and students. In many ways, the teacher’s lesson plan is like a musical score that is first sung by the leader – the teacher, then, the students, the chorus, upon hearing the leader’s phrasing, (lesson plans) respond back in generally the same key and tone as the teacher. The students do this through their schoolwork, homework and imaginative class participation. Once this simpatico is established, you have what is commonly referred to as a jam session.

In my mind, this musical comparison is far from radical. One might even call it conservative, even schooly. But as many a seasoned player has said to me in the past, “you’ve got to know how to play in, before you can play out.” As a teacher/leader, I need to hear you play the Julie Andrews version of My Favorite Things first, and then we can talk about playing it John Coltrane style (or your way). As a teacher/leader, I need to hear you play All The Things You Are in the tradition of Hammerstein and Kern, first, and then we can talk about playing it Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins, Paul Bley style. If that is being schooly, then I don’t want to be unschooly. (Luther Ingram)

This week my students were asked to sub-title their weekly This Week In Blogs slideshow “The Unschooly Edition.” This week, and possibly for the next several weeks, I want my students to arrange and design the curriculum and assessments for this final marking period as they see fit. Students in my Media Literacy class will use Survey Monkey, the online survey creation tool to create a series of tests, surveys and to take polls on a wide variety of schooly and unschooly topics that we mutually agree upon. My students will also be given the freedom to propose topics and assignments that are of particular interest to them. I'll be sure to keep you current.

H. Songhai

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  • At May 06, 2008 2:03 PM, Blogger sharper said…

    Sounds like you are playing the correct tune, and the learner's need to play along... Sort of like singing along with Mitch...


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