As tends to happen with most tech tools, my mind soon moves to the question “What are the possible educational applications?” I’d suggest all educators ask themselves this question of all they tools they use in their civilian lives. My experience have been that answers can range from the simple to the substantive to the sublime.
Here are my seven ways to use Spotify in school.
1. Hype mix: My last in a long mix is “Exam Jams.” I made this for my Spanish 4 class last week, with the hope that it excites, inspires and gets them thinking en español. I have CDs going back years, and now that I think of it, I should probably recreate and share these.
2. Target vocabulary & grammar: By carefully curating a playlist based on specific vocabulary and/or grammar points, foreign language and ESL teachers can reinforce traditional study. Instinctively, teachers have done this forever: Juan Luis Guerra’s “Ojalá que llueva café” for the subjunctive mood and Marc Anthony’s “Dímelo” for commands and pronoun forms. Sharing a playlist and even allowing students to contribute to one in progress could compound the learning beyond the class confines.
3. Curate famous speeches: Spotify has speeches and recorded audio from thinkers and leaders like Thomas Edison, MLK, Malcolm X, Obama, JFK, Langston Hughes, and Pablo Neruda. These audios breath life into primary sources and give voice to what students study. These speeches can stand side-by-side with or in place of the text versions. As an added benefit in these times of ours, we might ask our students to listen carefully and critically to tone, diction, reasoning and resonance. What are the facts? How are they laid out? Are there any “alternative facts” to be addressed?
4. Gloss historical periods & moments: Studying the Dust Bowl Era? Make a playlist. Vietnam War? Make a playlist. Reagan’s America? Make a playlist. 9/11? Make a playlist. Get the picture? In this case a playlist can be worth–or even contain–a 1,000 words. The interesting play here would be to create a dialogue between and among audio files: speeches and contemporary songs, modern songs with echoes of past artists and ideas. Through songs and audio, students can trace themes across genres and generations.
5. Theme weeks & months: Black History, Hispanic Heritage, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, first/last day of schools, inauguration: these are all but a few of the possibilities. This is when Spotify really opens to edu applications. These could be teacher-curated or crowdsourced collections. Give it a try!
6. Shared school-wide lists: Our school librarians have done great work making electronic resources accessible to students and teachers. They have also used social media to connect with the school community and model appropriate, authentic use of platforms like Twitter and Spotify. Earlier in the year they put out a “call for playlist.” A few teachers answered and I hope we can keep this up. (My contribution was “Cox Rocks!” if you are curious.)
7. Create a whole curriculum: Maybe it’s a stretch, but it’s conceivable to think that one could create a whole lesson, unit, or even curriculum using Spotify. Teachers can combine audiobooks, speeches and songs. Music, language and literature courses are easy fits, for sure, however it would be interesting to see how far one could take this model in history, science and even math or art. The content curated in Spotify could be complemented by additional audio via The Library of Congress, TED Radio Hour, StoryCorps, iTunes, SoundCloud and podcasts. Publish all these links via an LMS like Schoology or Google Classroom and one can create a whole audio course. For extra credit, have students create and publish their own audio. Even if an audio curriculum like this never replaces a more traditional set-up, the thought experiment could be beneficial to students and teachers.
This is just a sampling of how teachers can use Spotify to begin to expand how they use and create audio in class. Check back for more ways to leverage Spotify specifically or audio more generally. Feel free to add your own ways in the comments below.