Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day 106 - The Perfect Match: Music and Primary Document Pairing - Michael Milton, BHS History Department

This post originally appeared on Mr. Milton's Blog

“We’re not gonna take it. No, we ain’t gonna take it. Oh, we’re not gonna take it anymoooore.”

While preparing for the upcoming school year, Twisted Sister’s epic protest song began playing as I read the Declaration of Independence. Obviously my mind drifted to imagined Thomas Jefferson and John Adams letting their hair down and dancing around the streets of Philadelphia during a break from drafting the epic document. I realized then that I serendipitously uncovered something that I could use in the classroom – pairing music to primary documents to demonstrate understanding!
I spent the rest of the afternoon matching songs with historical documents – Washington’s Farewell Address, the Monroe Doctrine, and even Andrew Jackson’s Bank of the United States veto message. I then moved on to pairing music with events and felt that if George Washington crooned Coldplay’s “I will Fix You” at the Constitutional Convention there would not be a dry eye in Independence Hall.
Clearly, if there was an essay contest of “what I did during my summer vacation,” this day alone would have been in the running.
While the idea was fun, I had yet to figure out how to actually use it. After mentioning the concept a month or so later on Twitter,  tech-guru Greg Kulowiec, he works for EdTechTeacher, suggested the app Spreaker might allow me to play around with this concept. Spreaker is a free iPad app that allows you to mix two tracks (and a microphone). Armed with an album of historic speeches and my iTunes playlist, I went to work finding “the perfect pair.”
For the next hour I explored the functionality of Spreaker and went to work mixing one of my favorite speeches – Winston Churchill’s Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat speech – with Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia.” After an hour which included no blood, toil, tears nor sweat (it was actually quite simple), this is what I came up (second attempt)!

While I am toying with the idea of giving students the option to use this to demonstrate their understanding of primary documents, I have not yet put this into action. Currently, I have it planned for a 4th quarter assignment with my juniors. I will surely update this post when I have some student samples!

So check out Spreaker and let me know what you think! And if you have done an activity like this, let me know too! And if you have ideas for perfect musical pairs, let me know in the comments. That’s always a bit of fun!

One day I do dream of having students auto-tune historic speeches. That is not something that I have figured out yet (although I do mention it to my students, in case they can figure it out).

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