Education is a hot topic at the moment, as it appears to be always. For instance, Education Minister Mike Gove is planning to radically change the structure of schools across the country. But on the other side of the Atlantic, a group of two young rappers are changing the way students learn in a very innovative new way.
Smart Songs, an ‘educational rap’ duo fronted by long time friends Scott ‘Free’ and ‘Shoeless’ Jeff, create very catchy, very clever educational rap music. It is educational content presented in an entertaining way, or as Smart Songs calls it ‘edutainment’. They create songs about economics, history, and social science and hope to add more topics to their impressive repertoire, including maths and English.
Like I first was, you may be sceptical as whether learning through music really is anywhere as effective as reading a textbook. I posed this question to the Smart Songs duo. They say they were always confident in their abilities and their product, although they initially had some doubt as to whether schools would accept their ‘unique’ learning tool. But the massive positive feedback they’ve received has proven their doubts are unfounded. Furthermore, scientists have found when information is presented through rhythm and rhyme it stimulates more of the brain than if the info is read or presented verbally.
Smart Songs’ latest album, Trip to Wall Street is filled with catchy choruses, deep meaningful lyrics and well made production, but has the added bonus of explaining finance and economics topics in great detail. Jeff explains that it’s being used by people of all ages to better understand the reason for the recent financial crisis as well as to understand basic economic principles. University professors have even gotten in touch to say how useful there material has been to introduce topics to college students.
The biggest challenge in creating educational music is balancing melody with substance, says Jeff; “If it’s boring to listen too, no one will, like if it is has no real meaning behind it, and there’s no beneficial purpose to it” he continues. Other organisations are also pioneering this method of learning, for example educationalrap.com, but what distinguishes Smart Songs is there infectious, catchy lyrics, and their well produced music videos.
The group tells me about the ambitious ten year vision for Smart Songs. They want to improve the academic performance of students around the world, who are otherwise disengaged with traditional teaching methods. They aim to be a recognised brand in schools across the English speaking world and to be regarded as an accepted standard form of learning; so students will open a text book and listen to Smart Songs music with equal weight. They also plan to diversify their educational product range, including the possibility of creating an educational board game.
Perhaps Smart Songs is right, that new methods of teaching like educational music are the future of learning, and will be used to teach all sorts of things in the future. But don’t expect your microeconomics lecturer to bust out a freestyle rap on utility curves any time soon. Leave it to the pros for now.