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ISSN : 2092-674X (Print)
ISSN : 2092-6758 (Online)
Asia-Pacific Collaborative education Journal Vol.8 No.1 pp.39-58

Technology-enhanced rap music pedagogy for history learning at an alternative school: impacts of a culturally-sensitive computer environment on at-risk teenagers

Chris Deason, Ke Zhang
Chris Deason is an Assistant Professor at Full Sail University in Florida, USA. He received a Ph.D. in educational technology from Texas Tech University.
Ke Zhang is an Associate Professor in the highly regarded Instructional Technology Program at Wayne State University. Previously, she was an assistant professor at Texas Tech University in 2003-2006. Her research focuses on online learning, problem solving, and emerging learning technologies.
Received Date: May. 30, 2012 Revision received Date: June. 12, 2012 Accepted Date: June. 18, 2012


This article reports a case study on the impacts of an interactive, culturally-sensitive computer-based learning environment on at-risk teenage students' motivation and learning of American history in an alternative school in the United States of America. Hip-hop culture combined with interactive software and digital audio workstations was applied to motivate at-risk teenagers and to promote active and effective learning. Data were collected through interviews, archived multimedia data, learning artifacts, teacher’s notes and reflections. Multiple positive impacts were found on both learners’ motivation and learning outcomes. Implications on practice and research were discussed, together with suggestions for educators, researchers and practitioners.


 Continued academic failure and low achievement and academic motivation in USA public school systems are a reality for many students of color such as African American, Native American, and Mexican American populations(Diaz, 1999; Ford, 1995; Ladson-Billings, 1995; Pewewardy, 1993). Minority learners, particularly non-voluntary ethnic groups (Ogbu, 2003) face constant challenges of preserving their own cultural values (Ladson-Billings, 1995) at school. Academic underachievement of Latino students, for example, could be due to cognitive, cultural, and linguistic disconnections between school and home culture (Mestre, 2004). The current education system is not taking advantage of minorities’ cultural values and learning expectations (Hanson, 1994).

 A majority of studies report that hip-hop culture and rap music are used to affect ideas concerning race, social inequities, economics, and cultural understanding in the classroom (Akom, 2009; Hill, 2009; Kirkland, 2009; Morrell, 2008; Pulido, 2009). Emdin (2010) explored how hip-hop culture and rap lyrics were used to modify science teaching and learning in science classrooms to ameliorate urban student’s alienation from the instructional content in two United States high schools. Morgan (2011) explored how ten Black male K-12 teachers used the organizing principles of hip-hop culture for pedagogical purposes.

 Morgan (2011) discussed the implications of these principles for creating teaching environments that attract and support Black male teachers. Darius (2012) explored how hip-hop artists constructed a sense of democratic education and pedagogy with transformative possibilities in their schools and communities. Paul (2000) claimed that rap music, as a pedagogy for academic achievement, has especially been effective for urban Black and Latino youngsters. Rap music pedagogy may be combined with computer technology for an even greater effect. Rodriguez (2009) explored cultural capital and student engagement via hip hop pedagogy in the high school and university classroom.

 A limited number of research addressed the combination of hip-hop culture and computer software applications to impact pedagogy and classroom performance, such as Pinkards’ (2001) early literacy software called Lyric Reader, Deason and Olivarez’s (2005) Pedagogical Uses of Rap Pedagogy and Digital Audio Work stations, and the University of California Berkeley’s Youth Hip Hop Digital Music Production Project. Few studies, however, have interrogated the cultivation and production of youth literacy such as hip-hop culture combined with computer technology for ethnic minority pedagogy (Pinkard, 2001). This study thus investigated the impacts of a culturally sensitive computer environment on at-risk teenagers, using technology-enhanced hiphop pedagogy for history learning at an alternative school.

Relevant Literature

 Research indicates that culturally relevant pedagogy may promote learning motivation and self esteem, and thus lead to improved learning outcomes. For example, Ladson- Billings (1995) theorized an increase in minority children’s positive self-perception and value for school work in a learning context that was collaborative, authentically assessed, and culturally sensitive. Dimitriadis (2001) claims that Rap music has become a text and lived practice for many teens today, and thus is one of the powerful cultural artifacts with great potential to be a powerful pedagogical tool as well. Greenfield (2007) states that the curricular inclusion of elements of popular culture has been found to enhance affective links to the classroom and engenders stronger academic performance and critical thinking skills. Children, especially teenagers, constantly seek out positive outlets for their energy and enthusiasm (Schneider & Stevenson, 1999). McHugh (2005) proposes that K-12 educators must work to motivate a new kind of digital learner who interprets the world via computing devices. Shneiderman (2003) states that computers are becoming extensions of human creativity. In a well-designed, culturally sensitive multimedia-learning environment, students may learn various knowledge and skills through creation of their own musical representations of the instructional content delivered by their teachers.

 Black and Latino youth attending alternative schools need extra emotional and academic support (Esters, 2003; Laffey, Linda, Moore, & Lodree, 2003; Miller, Fitch & Marshall 2003; Powell, 2003) in meaningful and diverse learning experiences (Hill, 2001; Hutchison, Cantillon, & Wood 2003; Rothman, 1990). Rap music, as pedagogy can be very effective, “By getting student to write their own rap songs, they are obliged to construct their own meanings in verse” (Lock & Lock, 1993, p244). Mahiri (2000) found that pop-culture pedagogies dynamically engaged people in technology-mediated processes for constructing meaning. Computers may be used as mind-tools (Jonassen, 2003) in which at-risk learners can immerse themselves in cognitive flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996) and orchestrated immersion. Rap music naturally uses a superimposed meaningful structure and flow (Ormrod, 1999) in the forms of storytelling, poetry, and rhyming, which can lead to improved student learning and long-term memory retention. Shanklin (2001) made the case that rap can be a vehicle to teaching basic writers. Hellweg (2005) discussed a successful renovation of the English program through the integration of hip-hop culture and rap lyrics to literature and poetry, and another case with local hip-hop artists in language learning classrooms. Such efforts turned a 70% failure rate into only 2 out of 150 failing her class that year.

Research Method

 An instrumental exploratory case study (Berg, 2004; Yin, 2009) was conducted to investigate the impacts of technologyenhance rap music pedagogy on at-risk teenage learners in history learning. An interactive multimedia software program, Forgotten American(FA) was developed for teenage students at an alternative school. 38 students were actively involved in researching on a topic of their choice on American history, created their own hip-hop music and lyrics reflecting their learning outcomes of such topics, then recorded their own music creations through the software program. 4 students volunteered to participate in this study with parental consent, including 3 Hispanic teenage males (i.e., Juan, age 16, Sammy, 18, and Joe 15) and one White female, Jen, age 18. Strict guidelines and protocols were followed to protect minor participants. Participants identity was well protected and pseudo names were used, except for Jen, who was legally an adult by the time of the study and requested to use her real name in the reports.

 Multiple data were collected through individual participant interviews, 12 weeks of classroom observation notes and reflections, and artifacts in the form of completed rap lyrics and audio recordings of these raps. Semi-structured, open-ended interview protocol (See Appendix 1) was followed in all individual interviews (Denzin & Lincoln, 2007; Yin, 2009). Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed to textual data for analyses (Creswell & Clark, 2011; Denzin & Lincoln; Yin).

Context and the Interactive Learning Environment

 The classroom where the interactive software was implemented was well equipped with network-ready computers and color printers for students. The Forgotten American software was loaded on each desktop computer together with Magixⓒ Studio for audio recording and production. FA interface used a book metaphor, including an About the case study section, avirtual Jukebo to hold and play each participant’s recorded rap song, a Mixer to train the ear for making beats with the Magixⓒ Studio audio production software, a Lesson section for explaining the instructional goal, a Tutorial section for tutorials on downloading copyright-free hip-hop beats and recording with the Magix audio software, and a Record button that executed the Magix audio production (See Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Forgotten Americans Software Interface and Home Menu

 Other buttons on the bottom of the interface and illustrated in Figure 1 included a Quit button, a Clock for keeping track of time on task, a Draw button for brainstorming ideas, a Lyrics button to share lyrics, a Text Edit button for calling up a basic text editor for composing lyrics, and an Internet button to call a Web Browser for research. A small desktop microphone was available on each computer for vocal recording. Participants were required to supply a short biography of their chosen Forgotten American, and locate one photograph or illustration of his or her Forgotten American.

Data Analyses

 All qualitative data were open coded via inductive content analysis using the constant comparative method (Cresswell & Clark, 2007; Yin, 2009) to interrogate emergent themes using MS Word’s highlight function and insert comment function. A codebook of emergent themes was developed (Neuendorf, 2002). Member checking was implemented with the participants, and multiple data were triangulated to ensure trustworthiness (Cresswell & Clark; Denzin & Lincoln, 2011; Yin).

Findings and Discussions

Findings from the Interviews

 Question 1: Did FA learning environment improve motivation and learning American History?

 Table 1 summarizes participants’ responses with emergent codes, percentages of participants for each code, descriptions of codes, and selected sample quotes.

Table 1: Summary of Responses to Question 1

 Participants clearly indicated that an interactive, culturally sensitive learning software like FA, integrating hip-hop pedagogy, made learning fun, increased content retention, generated new knowledge and skills, and lead to the discovery of hidden talents. These results are consistent with Ladson-Billings (1995) CRP theory that self-perception and value(i.e., motivation) for learning will be improved when collaboration, authentic assessment, and mindfulness are addressed in the classroom. Likewise, Maye & Day (2011) found that teachers working with at-risk learners should utilize culturally relevant practices more frequently in the classroom to impact knowledge retention, learning motivation, and new skills. Goldman, Meyerson, and Cote (2006) posit that children’s recall for stories was increased using verbal mnemonics like prosody (i.e., rhyme, rhythm, stress, and intonation). The lead researcher, who was also the designer of the software and the classroom teacher, often observed participants recall of factual information was improved following recording and re-recording rap lyrics. Recall was more noticeable each time a participant recorded his or her rap. Practice improved memory retention based on persistent observation of participants. Most participants recorded 3 or more times prior to perfecting his or her rap. Zinn’s (2008) survey research identified the classroom teacher as the single most important element in making learning fun for young learners. Increased learner motivation is the result of fun learning. Thomas and colleagues reported that 21st century skills are developed when high school learners use technology-driven authentic activities (Thomas, Xun, & Green, 2011). Mahiri (2000) posits that Twenty-first century popular culture pedagogies have the potential to engage people in technologically mediated processes for making meaning and giving meaning to people’s lives. Mahiri (2000) posits that Twenty-first century popular culture pedagogies have the potential to engage people in technologically mediated processes for making meaning and giving meaning to people’s lives.

 Question 2: How might technologyenhanced hip-hop approach support classroom motivation and learning besides United States History?

 Table 2 summarizes participants’ responses with emergent codes, percentages of participants for each code, descriptions of codes, and selected sample quotes.

Table 2: Summary of Responses to Question 2

 As interviewees indicated, with a hip-hop music pedagogy like in the FA environment, retention might increase, classroom engagement might increase, and meaningful learning might emerge. This is consistent with Hootstein’s (1996) research that found that four major conditions influence at-risk learners classroom engagement: relevant subject matter, presentation of interesting instruction, students sense of satisfaction, and expectation for success. Aligning rap pedagogy and digital audio workstations provided an interesting instructional approach to teaching United States History that might be used in any subject matter.

 Question 3: Possible problems of using hip-hop rap pedagogy 

 Table 3 summarizes participants’ responses with emergent codes, percentages of participants for each code, descriptions of codes, and selected sample quotes.

Table 3: Summary of Responses to Question 3

 Participants were open and frank about possible problems they could foresee when using hip-hop culture and historical rapping as a way to learn about United States History and other school subjects. Lack of authenticity and embarrassment were the two most dominant concerns. Lack of authenticity in this case inferred that learners were sometimes frustrated that they could not rap using profanity in their raps and rap about subjects outside the scope of United States History.

Observation Notes and Reflections

 Twelve weeks of persistent and daily observations were hand recorded into a spiral notebook, and then transcribed into MS Word for analysis. 5 themes emerged from this data source, as summarized in Table 4.

Table 4: Summary of Observations

 Twelve weeks of persistent daily observation notes revealed the following emergent themes: metacognition and self-determination were impacted, authentic assessment impacted participant’s goal setting, collaborations and interactions, factual recall was impacted, connections between school and home emerged. Again, factual recall was an emergent theme. Participants were observed recalling his or her rap from memory after 2 or 3 practice-recording sessions.

 Participants were observed collaboratively solving challenging writing and recording tasks, monitoring their writing and recording performances, and evaluating the efficiency of their actions to accomplish writing and rapping within the allotted during school or after school time. These results are consistent with Ifenthaler’s(2012) research that challenging instructional prompts often elicit self-determined problem solving and learning. Authentic assessments like lyric writing and song recording can strengthen this self-determination. Brooks & Young(2011) discussed how self-determination underpins research on learner empowerment. Learner empowerment is the goal of all teachers and learning institutions.

 After the first four weeks of daily observations emergent theme codes revealed participants collaborating and supporting each other’s research and writing motivation via non-prompted dialogues. A conversational dialogue stream quoted directly from the researcher’s observation notes illustrated these non-prompted participant dialogues:

 Joe responded, “Oh yah, time to get my pen and paper out.”
 Juan continued, “I can freestyle about the Mafia.”
 Joe exclaimed, “We need a chorus!”
 Mike responded, “Oh, you want a chorus, a repeat, Oh I see what you mean, It’s the mob, mob, the bomb squad, go ahead and rob.”
 George responded, “Yah, that’s cool, I’ll write that down.”
 Mike asked, “should we use Mob or Mafia?”
 George responded, “How do you spell Mafia?”

 Shank’s (1999) notion of authentic goal-based scenarios might explain the non-prompted motivation and dialogues. Goal setting is an important motivation factor. Further interrogation of rap pedagogy combined with audio workstations with a larger target population is needed to explore how goal setting and cultural values can strengthen classroom motivation factors.

 An unintended result was a phone call to school principal from one of the participant’s mothers. She expressed gratitude for whatever was making her son come home and talk about what he was learning in his United States History class at school. She stated that her son discussed his writing and recording experiences in the project everyday. She stated it was changing his attitude about school and learning which he previously felt was boring and unuseful. Christianakis (2011) found parent involvement within inner-city schools was paramount to building bridges between school and community.

Rap Lyrics and Audio Recorded Artifacts

 Figure 2 is a screenshot of the Lyrics section within the FA software that housed each participant’s final rap titles, brief content about his or her research, and a photograph or illustration that represented the rap song. The Lyric’s section allowed sharing with other participants in the case study and a created a collection of writing-based learning artifact.

Figure 2. Lyrics section of the Forgotten American’s software interface

 Figure 3 illustrates the virtual jukebox within the FA software for organizing and sharing students’ final Mp3-formatted rap songs. Each participant’s song was added to the virtual jukebox by the researcher once the participant completed his or her final mix of his or her rap using the Magix Studio audio recording software. The real names of the participants as displayed on the digital jukebox are covered with an opaque rectangle in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Screenshot of the virtual jukebox within the Forgotten American’s software

 Four of the ten final raps were selected and presented here in this paper as well as hyperlinked online, with participants’ permissions, to illustrate the learning outcomes using this interactive, culturally sensitive software for rap pedagogy. Punctuation and line length within each rap song below remain genuine to his or her rap lyrics.

 Jen’s rap entitled Anne Hutchinson(may be heard on the Internet Archive: details/AnneHutchinson)

 Jen’s rap was about Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643), a Puritan woman minister, who was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony as her religious convictions were at odds with the established Puritan clergy in the Boston area.

 Here’s a little lesson in history, a long time ago in society, the people of England would receive execution, if they put up a fight or opposition.

 So there was a lady who had lots of babies;

 She moved from England so she could speak her mind, to Massachusetts where she would find; Freedom of expression had no meaning, So she secretly organized religious meetings; A man named Winthrop wanted her to stop being affluent; so he made Anne out to be such a nuisance.

 Winthrop had her put in front of a judge, because Anne Hutchison would not budge.

 Without a lawyer she would find; that winning the case would put her in such a bind.

 When at last she won, she knew that she would be the one; But the courts were mean, and made Anne leave;

 As a group of young Braves asked for some water, they opened fire on Anne and her family and fought her.

 This is the story of Anne Hutchison and not much has been heard from her since then.

 Juan’s rap entitled Virus (may be heard at:

 Virus attempted to capture the perspective of Tecumseh, a Native American leader of the Shawnee and a large tribal confederacy, which opposed the United States during Tecumseh's War and the War of 1812.

 Tecumseh is a heroic figure in American Indian and Canadian history.

 Sittingonaclifffromabove, Gazing down at this beautiful land that I love; I see spirits flying all around me, a cool breeze blows right through me.

 I am blowing away when I open my eyes, I see people with skin as white as milk, eyes as blue as the sky, hair as gold as wheat.

 Without warning you begin to destroy my land, like a virus, as you consume not paying in mind what you do.

 Your teachings are so different from mine as you force this new language on me.

 No, I will not disgrace my people. Why do they worship an object as if it were a God? God is all, God is love, God is peace, and He is suffering; But you build you life around a book; and at all of these experiences I look.

 As time passes, for some odd reason, animals and my people begin to fade; New illnesses that no herb can cure, kill us off one by one.

 Even though we spent days together as one, Peace is still off by one, Peace is off by one; You have no sympathy for us fighting a war that we are sure to lose; Now as I sit on this cliff I feel nothing but rage and pain; Once again, life is beautiful, but I will not be consumed; What is next? Will you kill off yourself?

 Joe’s rap entitled NikolaTesla(may be heard at:

 Joe’s rap illustrates the life of Nikola Tesla, who was an inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer.

 Nikola Tesla was an electrical inventor; know much as a winner, never a quitter, what ever came to mind became an invention; oh yeah did I mention worked as a telephone engineer; many people feared but wanted to work with an engineer; born in Yugoslavia educated at the polytechnic school at Graz, and at university of Prague; Thomas Edison tried to make him look like a fool, money hungry man just wish he could understand; that Tesla was the smarter man that worked with care, and lit up the state fair; he also turned Niagara Falls into a power plant, his creativity was not scant; Experimenting independently in the lab with his pen and a pad; wearing his 13 inch shoes to keep his cool; all he really wanted to do was make the world a better place, but the CIA was always in his face; with military ideas what a disgrace.

 The day he laid down to rest they searched his place, but little did they find but a dead man ahead of his time.

 Sammy’s rap entitled Invisible Heroes. (may be heard at: InvisibleHeroes)

 Sammy was a legal adult at the time of his recording and chose to have is real name represented on his recording of Invisible Heroes. Heroes Sammy composed Invisible Heroes to illustrate that most heroes throughout History go unrecognized for his or her accomplishments during one’s lifetime. Sammy’s song had the best audio quality since Sammy produced his rap using with his personal recording hardware and software at his house. Sammy’s song is also the longest rap produced and the most lyrically complex of all raps produced by the participants most likely due to his prior song writing experiences.

 chorus: I've been thinking bout my people I've been thinking bout my heroes, I've been praying for my freedom, just waiting for my time to come, and take me to a better place....

 You thought you were just going to forget about the people in History, I cant believe this, I got some news, they still here baby, they ain't never gone, aint going nowhere, we are going to put it down one more time, we are going to change it up a little bit for the high school kids still trying to graduate, got my Hershey Shirt on, Mr. Deason where you at? Mr. Brown where you at where you at?

 Its been too long ya'll been for forgetting faces misplacing names that you read people who made a change when Earth was a sea doing the unforgettable things still its hard to see United States a part of me the look in your eye wanna tell you my country is free wanna break down and cry and the only question is why gotta get on that path to the light and live with the knowledge inside let your brain cells multiply instead of deprive every man is raised for success but only those who believe will perceive the rest will be blest with the best and all of those who choose the wrong direction and lead to the blackhole where its so cold and life in misery, said its so wrong it is so gone and life is so blown from the pain that it takes to be all alone and the road is so long and by the time you reach the beat your life is so gone, somebody just send me home, somebody just send me home, bring it back one time, got plenty of time to blow and taking this flow better bust with the flow cause the way that we go we gotta go go go,

 chorus: I've been thinking bout my people I've been thinking bout my heroes, I've been praying for my freedom, just waiting for my time to come, and take me to a better place, so we can we can have a better day, cause I've been thinking about my people.

 Yes I have. Just think of the pressure on my shoulders not even close to my olders still I feel on their level with they, I think to myself if they have tried to make a change why I can’t do the same, a person known for famous things and politics don't even recognize your faith, breaking your back for what you believe in, and people still don't see all the thoughts in your mind become reality, the bones in your body become so cold, the brain in your mind becoming and feeling so old, Oh Lord give me the strength to go on and believe, I'm feeling the burn from below, I might be too close, feeling choked by the dope who believes in the dream to the point where there is no purpose on this Earth, if being around somebody important makes you nervous, but little did you know how much they are hurting trying to fix the burden and patch it America's curtain just seems to be too much disturbance and people trying to hold you back and makes you aware of a better place for a better day and if the sun shines every day I'll do my best for God, I'm going to graduate and shine just to look on my mamas face, everyday. Sometimes I know you want to fly and get away for a while. Just close your eyes cause it will be alright, its going to be O.K. and if you want to cry, I will be the light all those cries you sigh if you ever need someone its aright, its gonna be O.K., If you want to cry, I don't even mind, I'll always by your side. Call if you ever need my mind, I'm right here, the shoulder you lean on, the one that you call on.

Further Thoughts

 Interestingly, retention of content emerged as a code theme from both interview questions 1 and 2. Rondeau (2010) explained how he used verbal mnemonics as a memory crutch for his college organic chemistry class. Rhyming and various forms of language prosody are powerful memory devices. Educational hip-hop companies like Flocabulary create hip-hop based curricular materials to teach academic content in grades K-12. Their website claims that over 15,000 schools are using their curriculum. Flocabulary’s URL is the following: The Educational Research Institute of America (2009) claims that Flocabulary’s The Word Up Project produced statistically significant results between The Word Up Project Group participants and a control group. All participants were in grades 6 -8. The Word Up Project group’s reading and writing scores were higher than the control group scores in Pennsylvania, Alabama, New York, Texas, and California. Verbal mnemonics using prosody can be used as a memory tool for any subject matter. However, findings like these should be used with caution to make predictions about learning. Recall does not necessarily infer understanding or comprehension. There were times that informal discussions with participants revealed that although facts were recalled, comprehension and impacts of historical people and events were lacking. Informal discussions between the participants and researcher were often helpful in supporting comprehension and critical analysis of historical people and events.

 Giroux & Simon (1989) warned that youth popular culture is sacred. Schools that usurp sacred culture can alter and taint youth’s views of their own culture. Schools should strive to preserve youth culture in its purest form as much as possible. Dimitriadi’s(2001) ethnographic studies found that hip-hop was a type of un-official curriculum that included text, pedagogy, and lived practice. Teachers should use these un-official curricula like hip-hop with care and respect to maintain the authenticity of youth culture. Otherwise, learners might resist the usurpation of their sacred cultural values, which could impede motivation to learn.

 Two of the four participants held steadfast reservations about recorded raps that his or her peers could listen to. They both stated that it might embarrass them. Friedel, Marachi, and Midgley(2002) claimed that classroom embarrassment led to the avoidance of help seeking by learners. When students perceived that their teachers took care not to embarrass them, they reported lower levels of maladaptive behaviors. Teachers must strive not to embarrass learners in classrooms. To mitigate this concern the researcher allowed the participants to rap their songs during lunch hours or after school. This issue of privacy emerged on several occasions. Participants requested privacy when rapping. Combining rap pedagogy and digital audio workstations in classrooms will be challenging for teachers given the whole-group instruction still prevalent in American classrooms.

 The final rap lyrics and recorded raps revealed that writing requires persistent practice. Observations revealed that participants were compelled to write and revise his or her historical rap lyrics many times to address rhyme and prosody factors. Otherwise, participants found that they could not stay on beat when rapping due to problems with his or her rhyme and meter. Parr & Cambell(2006) report that teachers and their students need to engage in active poetry writing, have fun with language and encourage word play to create motivated writers. Classroom teachers should utilize writing activities like rap writing that encourage creative word play to motivate literacy.

 Use of the Magix Studio recording software encouraged learners to practice the delivery of their poetic historical raps. The computers in the case study herein allowed participants to use the computer as a digital audio workstation to produce and share knowledge versus consuming knowledge. O’Neil(1995) posits that if computer technology is simply used to increase efficiency of old instructional design models, technology will have little impact on k-12 education. Results are also consistent with results from the Youth Hip Hop Digital Music Production Project that interrogated the cultivation and production of hip-hop in after school settings. Participants became cultivators and producers of youth culture rather than consumers of youth culture directed by the entertainment industry.


 The researchers have found early into the case study that the Forgotten American’s software theme was too limited. Participants sometimes strayed from the course content and composed songs that were heartfelt and personal. Two of the participants expressed concern about performing where others could hear them. Assuring learners minimum embarrassment was essential. Assuring learners minimum embarrassment was essential.

 Addressing cultural values is important for classroom teachers. Brown-Jeffy & Cooper (2011) claim that CRP theory maintains that teachers need to be non-judgmental and inclusive of the cultural backgrounds of their students in order to be effective facilitators of learning in the classroom. Stronger parent-school connections might result. Hip-hop culture and rap pedagogy can be used to encourage persistent writing and the development of 21st Century computer skills with certain populations of at-risk learners. Biggs (2011) posits that hip-hop can be used as a non-prescriptive pedagogy. Prier(2012) posits that hip-hop is postmodern pedagogy that needs interrogation in classrooms. Wise(2003) claims we must motivate at risk learners with meaningful work. However, using digital audio workstations for pedagogy will take creativity on the teachers’ part given the noise levels and the amount of time needed for learners to research, write, record, and produce his or her rap songs. In the current case study observations revealed that learners took pride in their creations rather than discarding them as many do with worksheet-based assignments.

 Finally, by reading, researching, and composing lyrics for a rap song students were forced to utilize their critical thinking and higher order thinking skills. Memory retention was also improved. Participant’s persistent inquiry when researching his or her historical event or person improved retention of historical knowledge. Goal setting, authentic assessment, and collaborative assignments can be leveraged by classroom teachers to effectively engage his or her learners. Teachers should strive to make learning fun and culturally meaningful. Increased classroom motivation might be the result.

Appendix 1: Semi-structured, open-ended interview protocol

Interview question 1:

 Do you feel like hip-hop culture, composing rap music lyrics, and recording raps as you were guided with the Forgotten American’s: Don’t Forget Us Rap Us software can improve student’s learning and motivation to read, explore, and study U.S. History? If so, please explain. If not, please explain why or why not.

Interview question 2:

 How might a sound engineering-based hip-hop approach support classroom motivation and learning in other courses besides United States History?

Interview question 3:

 What problems do you foresee when using hip-hop culture and historical rapping as a way to learn History and other school subjects?


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