Let’s Get Explicit

How can I explain it? If you’re all down with OEP (Open Educational Practices), I think that it’s time to make one thing clear… we’re a bunch of wannabe hip hop artists and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I’ll take you frame by frame it.

According to The Zulu Nation, there are five essential elements of hip hop. In this post, I hope to describe each of them a little bit and then try to relay them into a metaphor for Open Educational Practices, or just open education in general. I am more of an expert in the latter than the former, but I learn more (and love more) about hip hop every day. As we’ll see, there are different roles to play in each of the elements. Some people are known for one over the other although everyone crosses boundaries, here and there.

1.  Lyricism (Rapping)

In hip hop, emcees are the ones rhyming on the mic. They smith the words, make the rhymes, and deliver it to you with rhythm and flow. There are absolutely endless examples of different, riveting ways to rap. Just listen to a few of the greatest rappers of all time

To me this is the easiest and most obvious category to relate to Educators. Our emcees are the faculty members, out in front of students, spittin’ hot content. It’s not just what they say, it’s how they say it. I mean yeah it’s definitely more what they say than how they say it, but sometimes it’s just a mixture of both. I mean, I would listen to any of Rajiv Jhanghiani, Robin DeRosa, Jesse Stommel, Jim Groom, Maha Bali or countless others talk about anything just based on how they deliver to be honest.

So who do you think are our Missys, Tupacs, Biggies, and Weezys?

2.  Turntablism (DJing)

Grand Wizard Theodore took a piece of equipment that was supposed to just need a little bit of your input to get started, and turned it into a dynamic instrument that could blow your frickin’ mind. The record player was made to just dutifully sit there and turn in clock wise circles after you carefully place the needle at the outermost part of a record. Grand Wizard Theodore thought “fuck that” and dropped that needle wherever he pleased, and manually took over just which way that record was spinning. It most surely did not say to do that in the manual. The results are that every single damn record ever made and ever will be made are now a portal to endless new sounds and new worlds. Just watch Mixmaster Mike do it here (start at around 1:45):

If someone could have a look at the LMS and do that with it, that would be great. I’ll wait.

That said, I’ll go right out and say first that the DJs/Producers of Education are the ed-tech folks and the instructional designers. There are folks in ed-tech who try to master, mess with and straight up own the technology like hip hop DJs/ producers have. Some of the results are absolutely mind blowing and I would love to see more and more and more of it. And then some more.

If you’re a faculty member looking for a DJ to make some tight beats for your content, find yourself a Martha Burtis, an Alan Levine, or a Tom Woodward to make the technology do just what you want it to do and not the other way around. And keep pumping out Open Educational Resources so we have more material to sample.

So who are the Large Professors, Dr. Dres, RZAs, J Dillas of Open Education?

3.  Breaking

Hip hop doesn’t care if your knees and back don’t want to dance. There’s a b-boy or b-girl inside of all of us ready to lay it down at the altar of hip hop. Sometimes, an altar is made of cardboard and the DJ leads the service. You don’t want to get raptured, so you better get to poppin’ and lockin’.

https://vocalo.org/playlists-the-5-elements-of-hip-hop/

If all has gone well with numbers 1 and 2 in your work developing learning experiences, guess what? We all turn into a bunch of b-boys and b-girls for each other. I have never been a part of a community so supportive of each other, who constantly pumps each others tires by liking and sharing their work, making connections and just generally heaping praise all over the damn place. And you know why we can do it and want to do it? Because we know each other. Because we are open. And we want to get to know you, too.

So the next time you’re retweeting and liking the work of a fellow open educator, just remember that you are figuratively doing for your friends what Bag of Trix are literally doing below.

4.  Graffiti

Graffiti is a controversial inclusion as an element of hip hop, but there’s no denying that it shows up everywhere, and that it can be quite beautiful. If graffiti is a visual expression of hip hop, then maybe openly licensed imagery is the graffiti of open education.

Where would our emcees be at their lectures and keynotes without a slide deck full of some bomb ass (openly licensed) photos? And I’m going to put this out there that Alan Levine, also one of the listed great “DJs” of Open Ed is also its greatest graffiti artist. Just look at the 50 million images he’s put into the Commons on his Flickr page (actual count: 65547). Have look at your attributions on your slide decks and you probably have a cogdog in there somewhere.

Perhaps another side to the graffiti metaphor is all the annotation that we can put all over any page of the Web done via Open Web Annotation using tools like hypothes.is. If that’s not tagging stuff up and adding our piece, I don’t know what is.

Update! As suggested by Martin Weller, another amazing source of graffiti in the Open Education space is The Fabulous Remixer Machine from Bryan Mathers. Get in there and make some art for us!

Let’s have a listen to someone who began his hip hop journey as a graffiti artist, and then went on to become on of its greatest emcees: KRS-ONE.

5.  Knowledge

The last essential element of hip hop that we’ll cover here is knowledge of its history.

“Don’t come at it without being willing to learn and grow alongside it.”

https://vocalo.org/playlists-the-5-elements-of-hip-hop/

I think we can all relate to that over here in Open Education. Avoiding the historical amnesia that Martin Weller refers to in his book 25 Years of Ed Tech is obviously a good idea, and a tack that helps you gain acceptance into the folds of both hip hop and the open education communities.

You’ll also find that as you learn from the people who share their experience of the history of Open Education or Ed Tech, like Martin, you can actually connect with many of them and build yourself into the networks.

Kendrick Lamar couldn’t make something this good with out knowing what and learning from what came before him.

So there you have it. In the midst of the pandemic, online learning is maybe having its biggest moment. If this is a fork in the road, I want to take the path that has more of the community, the innovation, the creativity, the control and everything else except probably the fat stacks of cash. We should follow hip hop’s lead and get as explicit with it as we can.

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

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