The Teacher DJ

In preparation for my former IBDP class’s exam session, I approached a grade 11 student with lyrics.  I rewrote the song ‘Frozen’ as a manifesto for students approaching their final exams.  The student agreed to record these rethought lines, and my colleagues were happy to feature in the video above.

We played the video at our farewell-to-the-seniors assembly.  The applause was mighty.  Did I break copyright law?  Hmm.  Parody fits in the exception to copyright law.  Does this cover the screenshots from the film I used with the green screen effect?  I’m not sure.  I’ve searched and searched this one, and I cannot seem to find a definitive answer.

I took a risk, and I remixed the incredibly popular song as an act of love for my departing students.  I live in a culture where remix is king, and the parody is beloved.

Would George Michael appreciate my parody of his hit song ‘Faith’?  If he knew it was to support my school’s literacy week he might.

I believe there is a time and a place for parody.

There is also a time for celebrating the culture Creative Commons is establishing.  That time is…and now.

All the signage in my classroom is made possible via images I have personal created, visual notes constructed by my students, or the wonderfully CC-friendly Haiku Deck application.

Sample Visual Notes Photo by Tricia Friedman
Sample Visual Notes
Photo by Tricia Friedman

Through Twitter, I am constantly gaining access to amazing ideas from other teachers.  One of my favorite online colleagues is Michelle Lampinen

Michelle was kind enough to share an amazing guide to annotating extracts for one of our DP course assessment tasks.

I remixed her idea as a student-constructed project called ‘Astounding Annotations’

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 14.30.55

You can see one example of this remixed project here.

I would love to see another teacher grab this concept and do something different with it.  Inspiration should beget inspiration.  That’s why teachers thrive on Twitter.

I made a purposeful decision to tell my class where the idea for the project came from.  I want them to know that I look for ideas, and I try to adapt them to our context.  I’m their learning DJ.

439139934_c1831bf463 Photo Credit: D.L. via Compfight cc

Giving credit where credit is due isn’t just an online attitude–it is something we want our students doing in every context.  As learners, we have so many people to thank.  Our ideas and our learning are the direct result of those we cross paths with: on and offline.  When we are able to better communicate knowledge, we need to frame that communique inside of a series of ‘thank you’s.’

Understanding the ins and outs of Creative Commons allows us to remind our students of their responsibility to construct the culture in which they exist. Technology invites artistry.

The most recent episode of Slate’s Culture Gabfest (available here)

explores the court’s ruling on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” copyright infringement.  Pitchfork offers this interesting read on the case as well.

It seems to me that the real problem with “Blurred Lines” was not its plagiarism, but the lack of a legal structure for acknowledging that musical debt and repaying it in some measured way. No one disputes that “Blurred Lines” owes something to Marvin Gaye. Maybe not as much as the $7.4 million the jury awarded, but how were they to choose a proper amount? There is no standard. And it’s this lack of a standard—not the fact of plagiarism in music—that needs fixing.

Copyright laws are their very own collection of blurred lines.  This case opens a door to an authentic conversation around artistry, remix culture and law.  Teachers need to take these opportunities.

Never before has it been easier to share content online. Never ever.

As we find ways to invite creativity into our classrooms, it makes sense to promote the Creative Commons culture.


A culture of remix reminds us that creativity is the result of play..not of some imaginary gift.  That reminder takes loads of pressure off.  We don’t need luck.  We need to engage with our culture, we need to listen to the wisdom that exists.  We need to tinker with the art left behind.  Brian Lamb is entirely correct in asking us to make friends with this continued recycling by falling in love with the remix.


Published by TriciaGpers

I blog about all things Global Perspectives!

2 replies on “The Teacher DJ”

  1. Hi Tricia,

    You truly are a Teacher DJ! Great post on the need for citation/attribution, not the need for stifling the creative process. I like how you are even citing lesson ideas and the teachers that you borrowed from. Really, how is borrowing/adapting a lesson plan to your own classroom any different than finding inspiration in a song and remixing it with your own ideas?

    I’ve thought a lot about the Blurred Lines case during Course 2, and Pitchfork’s and your own takes on the case summarize my own beliefs. It is not about whether or not you can remix I feel, it is whether or not you are giving credit (and royalties) where credit is due.

    The Pitchfork article talks about a “lack of a standard” in this situation as well, and I feel that can be our biggest struggle as educators. Correctly attributing is such a big deal educationally, ethically, and legally. Yet we live in a constantly changing world and a world where copyright laws vary from country to country, and we as educators might feel nervous about providing incorrect information to students. I am optimistic though, b/c isn’t figuring it out why we are in COETAIL anyways?

  2. @triciafriedman I couldn’t agree more with many of the points you raise in this blog post. Your connection to “Blurred Lines” as an authentic, relevant way to open up discussion with students is spot on and we need to find more ways to engage with students of all ages about copyright law and alternative resources and tools to promote a thriving culture of creativity and innovation. I really enjoyed your music video remix of ‘Let it Go’ and ‘Faith” and wish my own teachers had prepared me for the drudgery of exams in the same creative and entertaining way. I have also been doing some research to find out if screen captures count infringe on copyright laws and it is another ‘blurred line’ in the CC world. This website ( seems to explain that “fair use” includes “commentary, search engines, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship”. I think in both cases your use was for teaching purposes which would not technically infringe on copyright law. Perhaps if you started to make money off these 2 incredible musical renditions, you would run into more legal trouble. Thanks for an insightful, thought-provoking and cleverly written piece on a topic and area we are all still trying to navigate!

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