Classroom Technology

Using Hip-Hop as an Educational Tool

By Marlena Chertock — March 20, 2014 1 min read

In my first year of college, one of my professors opened every class by having a student reading the lyrics of a song. Then we had to guess the artist or song title. My professor didn’t limit song genres, and many students read rap or hip-hop lyrics. These songs got us in the mindset of analysis and discussion.

Christopher Emdin, the co-creator of the education movement #HipHopEd, shares my former professor’s belief that hip-hop has a place in the classroom.

Emdin, an associate professor of science at Teachers College at Columbia University, started #HipHopEd on Twitter in 2010 with Brandon Frame, the director of business partnerships and program development at High School, Inc. The Twitter conversation began with a discussion between the two educators about Jay-Z’s memoir Decoded and has grown into an international professional-development and education movement.

The conversation transformed into a weekly Twitter chat on Tuesdays from 9 to 10 p.m. ET, focusing on the intersection of hip-hop music and culture with education. By 2011, the chats were engaging educators and hip-hop fans around the world.

The chat's goal is "to promote, preserve, and protect hip-hop and inspire, initiate, and intellectualize hip-hop as a means of sustained education and youth development," according to Emdin's website.

#HipHopEd chats have centered on album releases, the President’s State of the Union Addresses, hip-hop pedagogy, Civil Rights instruction, and more. Discussions are “archived” by @chirpstory. These Twitter chats offer techniques to incorporate hip-hop in the classroom, lesson ideas for covering diverse topics, and reflections on culture from hip-hop enthusiasts and educators.

Emdin, who has given a TEDx presentation on “reality pedagogy,” is this year’s Rosel Schewel Lecturer at Lynchburg College in Virginia. He will speak about tangible tools for teachers on March 20 at 7 p.m. in Lynchburg College’s Memorial Ballroom.

Here are some related Education Week stories dealing with hip-hop’s relevance in education:

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.