There are Better Ways to Use Your Time Than Mashups

Warning: I am going to come across as a Negative Nancy here.  Mashups are apparently making a huge splash across the internet, though it seems to me that the waves are only being felt by some users. Never one to miss out on Anything Cool On The Web, I have forced myself to sit through several of these newfangled mashups and I am painfully coming to the conclusion that on the whole, most “Mashups” seem to be useless for science education.   The video below is the most highly-viewed mashup I could find using a variety of search terms, such as “Science Mashup”.  I challenge you to watch this video and tell me that you think it is worth the time to make it:

Of particular relevance to teachers, of course, is the fact that teenagers apparently love them.  As usual, I asked my captive audience (my advisory class):  What do you think about mashups?  I got a few versions of this:

“They’re so funny! There is this really awesome one with Beyonce’s voice coming from Justin Bieber’s face…” [collapsing into laughter]

None of them had ever made their own, nor had any desire to.  “I would rather just watch them.” “That would take forever!”  And none of them had used them for educational purposes.

It left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  Why are mashups being written about as if they are the next-best thing since blogging?  The mashups that I’ve seen remind me of Weird Al era mock-and-roll, but now we get to experience it in full HD glory–plus I am old enough to be cynical about the music!

I wasn’t ready to give up yet.  I turned to my ever-growing Twitter PLN asking for recommendations for decent mashups.  Results? Crickets.  Not a single reply.

The last thing I’ll say about mashups is that I cannot imagine giving up a minute of class-time to produce them, or demanding that students use their spare time to do the same.   They look to be hugely time-intensive.  Even though our digital-native kids are supposedly editing whizzes, it still takes valuable time to put these videos together–especially if the students are doing the filming.  In both of these examples, there were dozens of locations, several different outfits implying multiple days of shooting, not to mention the time it takes to put together punny slogans and find random vocabulary words to rhyme.

I saw zero higher level thinking.  Minimal application of knowledge.  OK–they created something, and ‘create’ ranks high on Blooms taxonomy.

The hallowed Blooms taxonomy might say, “This is great work–the students created something!”

What I’ve learned is that just because something can be categorized as relatively high on Bloom’s scale does not necessarily mean it is worthwhile.

This course has introduced me to a lot of fantastic new ideas, but I’m done with the mashup and am looking forward to encouraging ‘traditional’ videos from my students.  My final project, the 20 cubed video assignment, is mid-production and I am loving it.


Is this where I officially graduate into crotchedy old man who shakes his head at the state of youth today?  No.  This is where I say:

You need to use the right tool for the right job.


This is fun, but is not an effective use of limited classtime.


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24 Responses

  1. Ann Durham says:

    Ryan, Thanks for your honest reflection. I think your post highlighted some of the challenges of integrating technology in the classroom in a meaningful way. It’s easy for teachers to tack on “uses technology” to their rubrics and think that they’ve created a meaningful task. I think it’s incredibly important for teachers to reflect on their learning goals and look for ways to use technology to support and enhance those goals. I shadowed a student a few weeks ago, and during Health he was researching information to include in a 90-second PSA about obesity. Students could choose the format for their PSA, and he planned to create a video in the “Draw My Life” style. (link to Obviously there was a lot more to the assignment, but I appreciated the way this task required students to learn about their topic, think about their audience, and consolidate the information into a concise message that had a specific purpose. For this class and the purpose of this task, the use of technology seemed meaningful and relevant. For Chemistry, however, I wouldn’t be so sure. Like you said, “You need to use the right tool for the right job.”

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  1. November 5, 2015

    […] old-fashioned marker from their hands and insist that they blog about it or make a video or some awful mashup!  Not all tasks lend themselves to technology integration.  There is still value in low-tech […]

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