Radiohead and Your Classroom

What does this announcement, via Read/Write Web, say to us about the types of consumers our students are or will become?

Rock band Radiohead has already pushed the envelope in the past year by first releasing their new album under a pay-what-you-want price scheme in October, and then calling on fans to create a music video
for any of the album’s songs in March. Now the band is at it again,
teaming with Apple, makers of iTunes and GarageBand, to launch a public
remix contest.

The contest offers up the single “Nude” from the album for remix.
The band has for sale on iTunes “stems” for the bass, voice, guitar,
strings/fx and drums for the song and anyone who purchases all five
gets access to a GarageBand file that can be opened in GarageBand or

Until May 1st, the public can vote for their favorite remix, and
remix authors can use a MySpace or Facebook widget to allow fans on
social networks to vote for them. The prize, though, is just that
Radiohead promises to “listen to the best.”

To me, it speaks to everything Larry Lessig was talking about a few years ago at TED, when he told us how these generations would interact with electronic media.

This also points us to the fact that our students today have an altogether different view of intellectual property. Is what Radiohead is doing counterproductive to our efforts to teach responsible copyright? Does it muddy the water?

Common sense and an appeal to my preferred view of the future of copyright (heavily focused on the use of Creative Commons) tell me that this is not so, that Radiohead is onto something here that more and more artists will do to capitalize on participatory culture.


6 thoughts on “Radiohead and Your Classroom

  1. Hey there, Patrick. Have been meaning to drop by for awhile now. Appreciated your ASCD blogging very much; I wish I’d found your work before going so I could have cornered you for coffee. (Ambushing educators I don’t know and starting conversations about learning has worked wonders for me this year.)

    I speak here as a Radiohead fan made even more rabid by the free and generous approach to their work they have pioneered, but it’s struck me recently that it actually isn’t all that pioneering. There’s a rich history of collective ownership of art, particularly in music (jazz and blues especially), and in my discipline of English in oral storytelling. It’s just that–as with everything it touches– the digital age has put the long stretch of chronological time that usually accompanies such stuff on amphetamines, and made it accessible to the nth degree.

    I love this empowering, populist aspect of technology, myself. But it’s no coincidence that copyright was invented in tandem to the last technological revolution of information– the printing press. I wonder how copyright will evolve in response to Radiohead. Great article on some of its economic ramifications here.

    But having just caught a kid out in plagiarism not an hour ago, I can also say that drinking from a spring shouldn’t preclude being honest about where you got the water.

    Great post. Thanks.

  2. I think one of my favorite things about living in the world we live in today is the collective sense of intelligence and open-ness (is that really a word) of many of the world’s best thinkers.

    Who would have ever guessed that “open source software” would become a reality? And consider the thousands of edubloggers who share their thinking willingly and freely with the world.

    Heck, I just discovered Flickr CC the other day and downloaded amazing images I’ll likely hang in my home! Wikipedia has their own collection of CC material that makes it easy for students to “borrow” fairly and even MIT opened their courses to everyone that has an internet connection.

    In their terms, these are acts of “intellectual philanthropy.” I love that term.

    While it kind of runs counter to everything we hold dear here in the good ol’ capitalist system of America (where invention is quickly followed by trademark protection), it makes all of us more creative, inventive and intelligent.

    I still like Dina’s rule of thumb, though:

    But having just caught a kid out in plagiarism not an hour ago, I can also say that drinking from a spring shouldn’t preclude being honest about where you got the water.

    That’s an easy lesson to teach any kid!

  3. I agree one hundred percent. Consider this, what would that song be with out listeners? Not really anything at all. So who really owns it? The people who created it or the people who actaully paid for it and really listen to it. Now the implications for teaching will definitely start to get very messy. But I think there is a big difference between what Radiohead is doing and cheating/plaigarism. I am 27 and I can still remember my teachers telling me to ‘just write what’s in the text book, but change it a little.’ What kind of skewed vision did that give me. In a way aren’t we already asking students to consume certain information and spit it back out on the test. Then, if it isn’t close enough to what we said…it’s wrong!

  4. Dina,

    Funny story: I heard there was someone blogging the conference, and I made it a point to try to find that person while I was down there. The only problem was that I didn’t realize how unbelievably large the conference was. So, instead, I found your feed and just had it update on my phone. I followed you via RSS the whole time.

    I, too, am wondering what will emerge from this cloud of traditional copyright infringement, but I hope that it’s led by someone like Lessig. There is a strong attachment, both economically and intellectually to the content we create, and I don’t believe it should just end. However, if you look at Bill’s comment above, he coins a great term (or borrows, I am not sure) with “intellectual philanthropy.”

    As for your capture of the plagiarizer, we have a lot of catching up to do as educators if we are going to keep that behavior to a minimum.

    Thanks for the comment.

  5. Steve,

    What a conundrum you bring up; I think we have to truly look at assessment and the fact that there is/should be a huge chasm between grades and assessment. What types of tests are we giving? Do they truly assess for understanding?

    Right now, I am working with a group of teachers in a study group in our district on assessment practices. I’ll admit, it is a difficult process to divorce the two terms for most teachers.

    One of the things that spurred this post was an idea that we have been toying with here: creating multiple assessments for each specific unit so that not only are we giving students multiple ways to access material, but also providing them with multiple ways to demonstrate true understanding. Granted, it tends to be easier for the humanities than it is for math, but we are just getting started.

    Good luck, and make sure you change every other word.

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